Thanksgiving has never been one of my favorite holidays. Maybe it’s partly because it was never made to be that big of a deal in my family – the focus was always more on Christmas and Easter (probably due to our religious background). It’s a day I wouldn’t mind curling up in front of a fire with a bowl of stew, enjoying a quiet day off with my family. But that’s probably partly because of how introverted I am, and how much I love my solitude.
My husband, on the other hand, loves Thanksgiving. It’s a day when his family always wants to get together for a big, traditional meal, and spend the entire day together. It’s almost more of a precursor to the Christmas season than anything – as the day after Thanksgiving is when they all put up their Christmas decorations.
Now that I’m home schooling our two school age daughters, I’m looking more into the history of these celebrations. I’m having discussions with them about what we’re remembering and celebrating on these holidays, we’re reading books and doing crafts to prepare. And so it’s become a bigger focus for me, and while I still want to sit down at the table with just our little family and reflect on our blessings together, I’m more inclined to do a traditional (ish) meal. Routine and tradition are so important in our lives – it makes things much easier for our deaf daughter as she knows what to expect. So I’m starting to pick what I want to be our family’s Thanksgiving traditions,
I’m using Nigella Lawson’s book Feast: Food to celebrate life as my inspiration this year. I’ve done only one traditional meal before for Thanksgiving, and I used Alton Brown’s roast turkey recipe (with a few variations) I was told it was probably the best my in-laws had ever had (probably because turkey so easily turns out dry, and brining is a great way to prevent that). And while I’m often lecturing my mother about not messing with a good thing and sticking with the recipes you know are good, I wanted to try a different version (because I am a Nigella devotee, and because her description of it sounds so wonderful).
Nigella’s Spiced Roast Turkey
“…this is the perfect recipe for those who have no confidence whatsoever in the quality of the turkey they’re having to cook … it means you can cook a turkey of undistinguished provenance so that not only does it NOT dry out but it remains so gloriously juicy and oozing with seasonally-spiced flavor that even those … turkey-phobes will weep with greedy gratitude.”
I mean, who could resist that description?!
This recipe makes enough for up to a 12 pound turkey.
For the brine:
12 cups water
3 boxes vegetable stock
1/2 cup table salt
3 T peppercorns
1 bouquet garni
2 T. white mustard seeds
1 cup sugar
2 onions, quartered
2-3 inch piece of ginger, cut into slices
1 cinnamon stick
1 T. caraway seeds
4 whole cloves
2 T. allspice berries
4 star anise
1 orange, quartered or sliced
1/4 cup each maple syrup and honey
Mix this all together in a giant pot (squeezing the juice out of the oranges before you bung them in), and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
Remove the ties from your turkey and add the bird to the brine, making sure it is completely submerged. Brine it at least overnight, or up to a couple of days before hand.
When ready to bake, remove it from the liquid and wipe dry, letting it sit out a good 40-50 minutes before putting into the oven.
The oven should be heated to 425 to start, and roast the bird for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 (for a 10-12 lb. turkey, it will probably take about 2-2 1/2 hours total cooking time).
You will baste the turkey with 3/4 stick butter melted with 3 T. maple syrup before placing in the oven and periodically throughout the cooking process.
Tent the bird with foil once it’s done cooking, and let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
Serve with your chosen holiday sides.