Thanksgiving in the Dunn household looks like this: My mother is the head chef, I am the sous chef. That is how it has always been and the two of us have Thanksgiving down to an art. If we are hosting, my mother plans and preps the ingredients for every dish out in advance (something I strongly recommend), orders the right sized turkey for the amount of people coming, and knows exactly when each dish should be assembled and cooked. When it is time to get cooking, I show up with my knives and do whatever my mother deems necessary. While I am the head chef in my own home, I personally love taking the back seat on this holiday because it gives me an opportunity to continue to learn from my mother.
Well, imagine my surprise last year when my mother came down with the flu 4 days before Thanksgiving and I was then expected to execute Thanksgiving dinner for 16 people. Having never cooked a meal this intricate by myself, I was certainly overwhelmed! However, having been thrown into the thick of it last year as the new head chef, I learned a considerable amount that has prepared me to once again take on Thanksgiving dinner this year. It is official. I am now the Thanksgiving head chef, my mother is now the sous chef (much to her delight I might add). While I will only be cooking for 3 people this year, the following two tips can make your Thanksgiving dinner preparation that much easier.
Brining a Turkey
Turkey is a relatively lean bird and certain parts of the bird can easily overcook if you’re not careful. By wet brining your turkey in water and salt for 12 hours, you are essentially guaranteeing that your bird won’t dry out. Brining a turkey keeps it well seasoned inside and out, helps it absorb moisture, and makes it more tender. To learn more about the importance of brining, click here. Just remember, if you choose to brine your turkey, the weight of the bird will change, thus changing your cooking time.
While I am certainly a fan of a water and salt brined turkey, this year I will be trying something completely different. Not only will I be spatchcocking my turkey, I will be brining it in buttermilk and salt!
Three years ago Samin Nosrat, one of my favorite chefs, came out with a recipe that totally changed my perspective on brining and roasting poultry all together: buttermilk-brined chicken. While this is common for fried chicken, it is not something typically used for a whole bird. I will never not prepare a chicken any other way as it produces the most delicious, moist, and perfect roasted chicken you will ever taste. Thus, imagine my delight when she finally released the recipe for buttermilk-brined turkey! By using buttermilk instead of water, you are getting two bigger advantages:
- The sugars in the buttermilk caramelize as you roast the bird, which produces perfectly roasted skin.
- The buttermilk and salt combo generate a richer and deeper flavor profile.
To read more about the history of Samin’s buttermilk-brine, click HERE!
For the buttermilk-brined turkey recipe, click HERE!
I am really excited to attempt this method and I hope you do too! If you also brine your turkey in buttermilk, please send me a picture! A picture of my turkey may just sneak into next month’s newsletter…
Having grown up in the wine world, food and wine pairings have always been an important component of any meal in my household. However, picking the right wine for the right meal is not always an easy task! Thanksgiving is no exception.
Personally, my favorite Thanksgiving wine pairing is a full-bodied Pinot noir, as Pinot and turkey are certainly a match made in heaven. However, I have to remind myself that Thanksgiving dinner is composed of several other dishes, and not just turkey. This is why I turn to to Madeline Puckett of Wine Folly. For years, she and her team have been a great resource for me whenever I need guidance on wine pairings. For Thanksgiving this year, I am once again turning to Madeline so I can provide more of a variety of wine options at my table. To see what delicious wines the Wine Folly team recommends for Thanksgiving, click HERE!
Lastly, you can’t forget the kids or the non-wine drinkers at your table! When in doubt, always have a few bottles of Sparking Martinelli’s on hand. Regardless of the occasion, sometimes sparkling apple juice just hits the spot.