Thanksgiving Day is the official kick-off to the holiday season, which unofficially began as the first bags of Christmas-themed candies hit the shelves prior to Halloween. Unlike Christmas or New Year, however, there's no pressure to dress up, wrap up or put up a tree - but you'll probably have to cook something up. Hopefully, local chefs will be celebrating with their own friends and family on the big day, but before they temporarily hang up their toques, we've asked them to share some of their favorite recipes for side dishes, from classic to contemporary, as well as chef Doug Katz' recipe for a perfect holiday bird.
Turkey and Gravy
Chef Doug Katz / fire food & drink
If you're nervous about Thanksgiving's star bird, Katz' "can’t-fail technique for moist and flavorful white and dark meat" has you covered. This is one of his favorite family recipes. Brining the turkey adds incredible flavor and helps keep the turkey from drying. The dark meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and the white meat stays moist and juicy. This method also allows the host to enjoy their meal as there is no last minute carving.
20 lb turkey, giblets removed
2 c kosher salt
4 quarts apple juice
4 quarts water
½ cup canola oil
1 large onion, cut into 2-inch wedges
4 large ribs of celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 large parsnips, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small rutabaga, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
8 whole large garlic cloves
¼ c tomato paste
1 c seedless red grapes
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
3 c pinot noir or other light red
4 c low sodium chicken stock
¼ c olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
To brine the turkey :
In a large tote, plastic container (one that will fit in your refrigerator) or cooler, combine the kosher salt, granulated sugar, apple juice and water, and stir until salt and sugar is dissolved. (You may heat up the water to dissolve the sugar and salt in, then add ice cold apple juice, but make sure the liquid is cold before brining.)
Add turkey to container and make sure you have enough liquid to cover the turkey. You can use a napkin to keep the turkey moistened with liquid. Allow the turkey to brine for 12-24 hours.
To cook the turkey:
Remove the turkey from the brine (discard), and allow turkey to drain in a clean sink for 15 minutes. Place the turkey on a cookie sheet and pat dry. Allow to drain for 15 more minutes as this helps to create a crispy skin. Preheat oven to 325ºF. In a large heavy-bottomed roasting pan or pot (large enough to hold the turkey and all of the liquid, but small enough to fit in your oven), add canola oil and heat to smoke point over high heat. Add the onions, celery, parsnips, rutabagas and carrots, and allow to brown over high heat (about 10 minutes). After 5 minutes, add the garlic. Only stir occasionally as you want the vegetables to brown evenly. Add tomato paste and stir to coat all vegetables. Continue to cook for 3 minutes or until the paste looks oily and browned. Add the grapes, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorn and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the red wine and allow to reduce by three-fourths (about 5 or 10 minutes). Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season the turkey with salt and pepper to taste (inside and outside) and coat evenly with olive oil. Place the turkey in the roasting pan (breast side up) and carefully place the turkey into the oven. Roast the turkey, evenly basting every 1/2 hour. Cook the turkey until the center of the breast reaches 150ºF (approximately 3 hours). Note: The additional rest time and preparation will finish cooking the bird to 165ºF.
To carve the turkey:
Carefully remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Place the turkey on a large cutting board (preferably one designed for meat and poultry). All of the meat will be placed in one or two casseroles that can be served at the dinner table or on your buffet. Place the white meat and dark meat in separate casseroles to make it easier for your guests. Start by cutting away the two legs using kitchen shears to cut through the leg/thigh joint. Next, carve the breast meat to desired thickness (try to slice across the grain). Turn the turkey on one side and cut away the thigh meat and do the same to the other side. When all meat is removed, save the carcass for a great turkey-barley soup.
To prepare gravy:
Strain all of the cooking liquid into a sauce pot and reduce to sauce consistency. If preferred, you can dissolve 2-3 tbs of cornstarch in 1/2 cup of cold water and add to the liquid to create a pan gravy (creamier texture). When sauce is reduced to desired consistency, ladle over the sliced turkey. Reserve enough gravy to serve in a sauce-boat at your holiday table.
To serve the turkey:
Cover the casseroles with aluminum foil and heat the turkey until steaming hot. Garnish the turkey with freshly chopped herbs. Katz' favorite accompaniments include his mom’s challah stuffing, homemade applesauce, sweet potatoes with toasted meringue, sautéed Brussels sprouts, shallots, and bacon and cranberry-orange compote.
Note: The turkey can be prepared the day before or in the morning and then reheated.