Posts Tagged ‘turkey’

We eat a lot of produce in our house, but I feel like we sometimes get in a rut with our veggie side dishes; our go-tos are usually steamed asparagus or broccoli with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. For whatever reason (probably laziness), I tend not to venture too far out of my side dish comfort zone, unless I take the time to find an actual recipe. The 125th episode of Good Eats forced me to try some different side dishes, as it included three recipes for different types of greens, the first being collard greens.

Pot O’ Greens

I can really only recall eating collard greens one time, which was in a Southern-themed wedding buffet. I remember liking them, so I had no qualms about prepping them with Alton’s recipe. Collard greens need to be trimmed and cleaned properly, as they have woody stems and they grow in sandy soil. To trim collard greens, fold a leaf in half along the stem line and use a sharp knife to cut out any stems thicker than 1/8″.

Stack the trimmed flat leaves on top of each other, fold them in half as you did before, and roll them from the bottom up.

Cut the roll of leaves in half the long way and then slice the greens perpendicularly.

Place your chopped greens in a sink full of cold water, swishing them around and allowing them to sit for several minutes; this will allow any sand/dirt to sink to the bottom.


Trimmed/chopped greens placed in a sink of cold water.

To drain his greens, Alton likes to put his greens in a large zip-up pillow case. He then places the pillow case in his washing machine for one minute on the spin cycle. I did not have a zip-up pillow case, so I opted to roll my greens in a stack of paper towels.


Cleaned greens on paper towels to dry.

To store trimmed/clean greens, place them in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator. For Alton’s collards, put a 1 1/2 pound smoked turkey leg in a large pot; I could only find a raw turkey leg, so I had to roast it in the oven first. Add a quart of water to your turkey leg, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the turkey simmer in the water for 10 minutes.

Next, add 1 t sugar and 1 t Kosher salt to the pot, along with 2 pounds of trimmed/cleaned/chopped collard or turnip greens.

Place the lid back on the pot and gently simmer the greens for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Be sure to keep the heat very low, as you only want a very gentle simmer.

Use tongs to place the greens in bowls and serve them with hot sauce. To be like a true Southerner, try sipping some of the cooking liquid, which is called “pot liquor.”


A bowl of Alton’s collard greens after cooking for 45 minutes.

You can also bag and freeze the cooked greens for later use. To thaw frozen collard greens, run the frozen bags under cold running water. I have to be honest that I didn’t enjoy this recipe as much as I expected to. The turkey gave the greens a meaty flavor and the greens were cooked well, so as to maintain a bit of texture instead of being mushy. I found that I needed to add a fair amount of salt to the cooked greens, as they were really lacking in seasoning. Hot sauce definitely gave the greens a needed punch of flavor, as they were otherwise not very exciting. I won’t go out of my way to make these again, but I do hope to encounter collard greens more often, as I hope to sample other preparations. Maybe I am just not as fond of collard greens as I thought I was!

Lemon Sesame Glazed Greens

Alton’s second greens recipe utilizes kale, and you will need 1 1/4 pounds of cleaned/trimmed kale. As with the collard greens above, remove thick stems from the kale leaves, chop the kale, and rinse the chopped greens in a sink of cold water.

While the kale soaks, place a roasting pan over two stove burners on medium heat. I chose to use a large skillet instead of a roasting pan because my burners are different sizes and the roasting pan does not heat evenly. Either way, brush your pan with 1 T olive oil and add 2 cloves of minced garlic and the zest of one lemon.


Oil, garlic, and lemon zest in the pan.

Next, add 2 t fresh lemon juice to the pan, along with 1 T honey. Follow the honey with 1 1/2 t Kosher salt and 1/4 t pepper, and add your just-washed greens; don’t worry about drying the greens here, as you want some water in the pan. If necessary, add up to 1/2 C additional water.

Use tongs to toss the greens until they have cooked down to resemble thawed frozen spinach. At this point, remove the greens from the heat and stir in 1/2 t red pepper flakes and 1 T sesame seeds.


Kale cooked down until very wilted. Sesame seeds and red pepper flakes stirred in.

Serve the kale immediately. We liked the flavors in this dish, as the lemon brightened up the greens, while the red pepper flakes gave subtle heat and the sesame seeds gave a bit of nuttiness. The honey served to lightly glaze the greens.


A bowl of Alton’s lemon sesame glazed greens.

I have never been a huge kale fan, as its chewy texture is just not my favorite, and I found that to be the case with this recipe as well. I think kale lovers would really like this recipe, however, and it comes together super easily with ingredients often on-hand.

Mustard Green Gratin

The third type of green Alton uses in this episode is the mustard green, which he uses to make this gratin. As soon as I saw Alton prepare this recipe, I recognized it from the beet episode. Sure enough, this mustard green gratin is nearly identical to the beet green gratin in episode 83. For the gratin, butter the bottom and sides of a 2 or 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Beat three eggs in a large bowl and add 10 ounces ricotta, 2 ounces grated Parmesan, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

Next, melt 1 T butter in a roasting pan placed over two burners on medium heat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan, along with 12 ounces of sliced mushrooms. Add a large pinch of Kosher salt and toss the mushrooms until they have browned.

Add a pound of stemmed/rinsed/chopped mustard greens and toss until the greens have wilted.

Remove the pan from the heat and use tongs to add the greens to the egg/ricotta mixture. Stir the mixture to combine.

Place the egg/mustard green mixture in your buttered baking dish, avoiding packing down the greens. Sprinkle the top of the greens with 1 C of crushed Ritz crackers.

Bake the gratin at 375 for 35-40 minutes and let cool slightly before serving.


Alton’s mustard green gratin.

We were not huge fans of Alton’s beet green gratin, but we both really liked the mustard green version. Mustard greens, if you didn’t know, truly do taste like mustard, so they bring a lot of flavor to the party. To me, I specifically tasted a Dijon mustard-like flavor in this gratin, which I found to pair very well with the creaminess of the egg/ricotta mixture. The cracker crust adds some crunchy texture and buttery flavor. This is really good and we both said we would like to eat it again. I’m surprised Alton didn’t make this addition, but I would personally add a little bit of ground nutmeg to the ricotta mixture. This was by far our favorite recipe of this episode, though it doesn’t look too pretty in the photo. Honestly, though, casseroles are just never pretty, right?

This January has given 2019 a little bit of a rough start for me. I had a short, nasty stomach bug for the first two days of the year, which was followed up with back pain for several days. After that, I traveled to be with my dad while he had cancer surgery. Two days after I returned home from my trip, I came down with a nasty flu-like bug that knocked me out for 10 days. Whew! Good riddance, January!

Turkey with Stuffing

Although the holidays are long gone, this recipe certainly has a holiday feel to it. While Alton’s other turkey recipes have really featured the turkey itself, this one is all about the stuffing. In the episode, Alton actually goes into very little detail about prepping/cooking the turkey, so I opted to brine my turkey, using the brine recipe from the original Good Eats Thanksgiving special. The premise of this recipe is that Alton can make a well-balanced stuffing that will cook inside the turkey, and that the turkey and stuffing will reach their desired temperatures at nearly the same time. To make the stuffing, chop 1 C each of onion, celery, and green bell pepper.


A cup each of celery, onion, and green bell pepper.

Toss the chopped vegetables with 1 T vegetable oil and 1 T Kosher salt. Spread the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast them for 25 minutes at 400.

After 25 minutes, add 3 C cubed Challah bread (I made my own) to the vegetables, give everything a toss, and continue roasting for 10 more minutes.


My Challah bread, ready to be cubed.

Next, place two ounces of dried mushrooms (porcini, morels, or shiitakes) in a bowl and pour a quart of boiling chicken stock over them. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for about 30 minutes.


Shiitake mushrooms, soaking in boiling chicken broth.

When the mushrooms have finished their soak, drain them (reserving their liquid), chop them, and place them in a large bowl, along with 4 ounces dried cherries, 2 ounces chopped pecans, 2 beaten eggs, 2 t dry rubbed sage, 2 t dry parsley, the roasted vegetables and bread, and 1/2 t pepper.


Dried cherries and chopped pecans.


Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans.


Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans, along with eggs, rubbed sage, and dry parsley.

Add enough of the reserved mushroom liquid to moisten, but not saturate, the mixture; I used about a cup, though Alton was vague about this in the episode and it actually appeared as if he added all of the reserved liquid.


Challah, vegetables, pepper, and mushroom liquid added to mixture.

Place the stuffing in a cotton produce bag, or use cheesecloth to make one – you can seal it with butcher’s twine. Place the bag of stuffing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for six minutes. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To put the stuffing in the turkey, prop the open end of the turkey up on the side of a bowl and use tongs to plunge the bag of stuffing into the bird. If you have a plastic cutting board, you can form it into a tube shape, insert the tube-shaped cutting board into the cavity, and push the bag through the tube.


Microwaved stuffing placed inside turkey.

For this recipe, you will ideally want two thermometers – one inserted in the thigh and one inserted into the center of the stuffing; I only have one oven-safe thermometer, so I placed that in the thigh and checked the stuffing periodically with an instant read thermometer. Place the bird in a roasting pan and roast it for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. After 45 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 and cook until both the stuffing and the thigh meat are about 170 degrees. When done cooking, remove the stuffing bag with tongs and place the stuffing in a serving bowl.


Turkey after cooking to thigh temperature of 170.


Alton’s stuffing.

Tent the turkey with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Okay, so there were some good things about this recipe and some bad things. This stuffing has a wide variety of both flavors and textures, with flavors ranging from sweet/tart to umami, and textures that range from slightly crunchy to moist and soft. I will say that the stuffing would have been too wet, and probably overpowered with mushroom flavor, if I had added all of the mushroom liquid as Alton appeared to do in the show. My biggest problem with this recipe was that it didn’t achieve the goal of having the stuffing and turkey finish cooking at the same time. For me, the stuffing was done cooking long before the turkey was, so I ended up pulling the stuffing out early while I had to continue cooking the bird for a good 20 minutes. In my mind, that makes this recipe a failure. Also, I think the bird could have done with a little less cooking. While I would consider making the stuffing again, I would not attempt to cook it in the bird again. Instead, I would opt for either the original Good Eats roast turkey or the butterflied, dry brined turkey.

Stuffed Squash

Since the tendency with stuffing is to stuff vegetables into meat, Alton decided to formulate a recipe where a meat filling is stuffed into squash. Acorn squash are the squash of choice for this recipe, as they are perfect for individual servings. To make four servings (I only made two), cut the lids off of four acorn squash and scoop out their seeds; be very careful when doing this, as I discovered it is very easy to poke a hole in the bottom of the squash! Be sure to save the lids for later. If your squash will not sit flat, you can also cut off part of the bottoms to make them level.


My two acorn squash, ready to be prepped.


Lids off and scooping out seeds.

Set the prepared squash on a parchment-lined sheet pan. To make the filling, cook 1/2 pound ground pork in a large skillet over medium heat until the pork is no longer pink. Transfer the pork to a small bowl and set it aside.

Return the pan to the burner, but decrease the heat slightly. Add 1 T olive oil to the pan, along with 1/4 C chopped carrots, 1/4 C chopped celery, 1/4 C chopped onion, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Cook the vegetables until they have softened a bit.


Celery, onion, and carrot added to hot oil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt.

Deglaze the pan by adding 1/2 C white wine and scraping up any browned bits.


Wine added to deglaze the pan.

Follow the wine with 10 ounces of thawed/drained/chopped frozen spinach, 1 1/2 C cooked rice, 1 1/2 t dried oregano, the cooked pork, and 1/2 C toasted pine nuts.


Spinach, rice, oregano, pork, and pine nuts added to the skillet.

Stir the filling until it is heated through and add a few grinds of black pepper. Remove the filling from the heat and place 1/2 T butter in the bottom of each prepared squash.

Spoon the stuffing into the squash, avoiding tightly packing the stuffing.


Filling spooned into prepped squash and lids placed on top.

Place the lids on the squash and cook them for one hour at 400 degrees, or until the squash are just fork tender.


Alton’s stuffed squash.

We ate these squash as our dinner entrée and were pretty happy with them. Ted really does not care for squash, in general, but he agreed that the sweetness of the squash paired well with the very savory pork filling. This is a an easy meal that really gives you both your protein and veggies in one, and the individual squash “serving dishes” are sort of fun. The squash also did not become mushy, as some squash are wont to do. I could see making the filling ahead of time for these, and on a busy weeknight you would only have to fill the squash and put them in the oven. Super easy!


Alton Brown fans probably know that he is going to back on our TVs starting Monday. He is going to revisit Good Eats, revamping the old recipes he is unhappy with, and adding new methods, techniques, and information. I am anxious to see which recipes he chooses to alter, as there have certainly been some less than perfect recipes along the way. Of course, there have also been some fantastic recipes that have become mainstays in our house. Now, back to my personal assessments of Alton’s original Good Eats.

Beef Paillard

Alton’s beef paillard calls for a good cut of meat, namely beef tenderloin. To serve four people, he calls for a pound of beef. Since it was just the two of us, I had the butcher cut us a couple steaks from the tenderloin, rather than buying a larger cut of tenderloin. Prior to cooking, place your meat in the freezer for two to three hours, as this will make it easier to cut thin slices. When your meat has chilled, remove it from the freezer and slice it into thin slices; Alton used an electric knife for this, but I used a sharp chef’s knife.


Beef tenderloin, after freezing for two hours.

Place the slices of beef between sheets of plastic wrap, spritzing the beef and the plastic with water (this decreases friction and prevents tearing of the meat and plastic). Pound the meat until it is very thin – probably about 1/8-inch thick.

When all of your meat slices have been pounded, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.

While the skillet heats, brush both sides of the meat slices with vegetable oil and sprinkle them with pepper and Kosher salt.


Paillards of beef tenderloin, brushed with vegetable oil and seasoned with pepper and Kosher salt.

Once the skillet is hot, invert the pan and brush the back of the skillet with vegetable oil. Place the beef paillards on the inverted skillet and they should begin sizzling immediately. Alton said his beef took about 10 seconds per side, but I would say that mine took about 30 seconds per side. I would err on the side of caution here, as you really do not want to overcook the beef.


Inverted cast iron skillet.


Paillards added to oiled skillet.


Paillards, flipped after cooking on one side.

Transfer the beef slices to plates, drizzle them with olive oil, and garnish them with some capers, shaved Parmesan, and greens.


Alton’s beef paillards with olive oil, capers, greens, and shaved Parmesan.

With this recipe, my biggest concern was that I would overcook my beef, but it turned out perfectly. The meat was amazingly tender and seemed to melt in your mouth. And, Alton’s garnishes of olive oil, Parmesan, capers, and greens were spot-on, complimenting the flavor of the beef without overpowering it. The salty nuttiness of the Parmesan, along with the tang of the capers was just perfect with the fruitiness of the olive oil. The best part of this recipe is that it is worthy of a special occasion, yet you can put it together in a very short period of time. This is a recipe that, in my opinion, needs no revamping.

Turkey Piccata

While I had previously eaten chicken piccata (piccata means “sharp”), I had never before had a version with turkey. Alton’s recipe calls for a whole turkey breast, which, surprisingly, was just impossible for me to find. I had to settle for some pre-sliced turkey breast, as that was all I could find after going to numerous stores. If you are able to find a whole turkey breast, slice it into half-inch slices. Place the slices between sheets of plastic wrap, spritz them with water, and pound them until they are twice their original size.


Slice of turkey placed between sheets of plastic wrap.

Season the top sides of your pounded slices of turkey with Kosher salt and pepper, and place them, seasoned sides down, in a pie plate of flour. Season the second sides of your slices of turkey and coat them also with flour, shaking off any excess.

Next, heat 4 T unsalted butter and 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

When the butter has melted, add the floured turkey slices to the pan, cooking them until golden (about two minutes per side).

Move the cooked turkey slices to a foil packet and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you make the sauce.


Cooked turkey transferred to foil packet.

To the pan in which you cooked your turkey, add 2 T chopped shallots, cooking for about a minute.


Shallots added to the pan.

Add 1/2 C white wine and 1/3 C fresh lemon juice to the pan, allowing it to simmer for two to three minutes.


Wine and lemon juice added to the pan.

Finally, whisk 2 T butter into the sauce.


Butter, stirred into the sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the warm turkey slices, garnishing with parsley, capers, and peppercorns, if desired.


Capers added to finish the sauce.


Turkey piccata.

I had mixed feelings about this recipe because I found the sauce to be tangy and delightful, but my turkey was tough. I see that Alton tells you to cook the turkey for only one minute per side in the online recipe, but he cooked his turkey for two minutes per side in the episode, which seemed to be too long. I also think my turkey piccata would likely have been better if I could have found a whole turkey breast and sliced it just prior to cooking. I’m tempted to give this one another try because the sauce was smooth, buttery, and full of lemon tang. I would recommend opting for chicken if a whole turkey breast is unavailable.

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is something I remember my mom making once or twice. She viewed it as a special occasion dish, as her mother served it to her father’s business clients who came to dinner. Chicken Kiev is actually of French, rather than Russian, origin, but was brought to Russia by the French in the 18th century. I remember my mom sometimes being frustrated with her Chicken Kiev because the filling would leak out during cooking. Having never made it before, I was hoping Alton’s recipe would keep my filling intact. This is a recipe that you will want to start at least two hours prior to serving, or even the night prior. The first step of this recipe is making a compound butter by combining a stick of softened unsalted butter, 1 t dried parsley (I used fresh, so I used twice as much), 1 t dried tarragon, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper in a stand mixer.


Butter, parsley, dried tarragon, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Place the compound butter on wax paper, roll it into a log, and place it in the refrigerator to firm.

After the butter has firmed up, place a chicken breast between pieces of plastic wrap, spritzing the chicken and plastic with water.


Chicken breast in spritzed plastic.

Pound the chicken until it is thin enough to roll. Chicken breasts are fairly thick, so it is tedious to get the chicken thin. Place a couple slices of compound butter in the center of the pounded chicken, along with 1 T panko bread crumbs.


Pounded chicken topped with compound butter and panko bread crumbs.

Roll the chicken over the butter and bread crumbs by folding the longest edge of chicken over the filling and then folding in the ends. Continue rolling the chicken, using the plastic to help you roll and keeping the ends tucked inside. Wrap the rolled chicken tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.


Rolled chicken.

When ready to cook your chicken, roll the chicken in a pie plate containing two eggs beaten with 1 t water.


Chilled chicken being rolled in egg wash.

Next, roll the chicken in a plate of panko bread crumbs.

Put a half-inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet and heat it to 375 degrees. Once hot, add the breaded chicken rolls to the pan, cooking for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a rack, letting it rest for five minutes.


Chicken resting after cooking.

I found that my chicken took considerably longer than 10 minutes to reach 165 degrees inside. You do get some carryover cooking, so I think it is best to pull the chicken from the oil when the internal temperature hits 158-160. Otherwise, your chicken may be slightly overcooked by the time you cut into it.


Alton’s Chicken Kiev.

We were pretty happy with Alton’s Chicken Kiev. His method for rolling the chicken worked well, and kept the filling intact for the most part (my one roll split a little bit). It is easier to roll the chicken if you get it really thin, so try to get it as thin as possible before filling/rolling. Also, don’t skimp on the chilling time for the rolled chicken, as the chicken really needs that time to maintain its shape. The panko bread crumbs gave Alton’s chicken a really great crispy crust, and the filling of the chicken had lots of anise-like flavor from the tarragon. I do wish that the compound butter would have melted a bit more, though. I just wouldn’t cook the chicken all the way to 165, as my chicken was just a tad overcooked. My mom can’t really cook anymore because of her Parkinson’s, but I think she likely would have adopted Alton’s Chicken Kiev recipe as her go-to.

I am taking some liberties here and doing this special out of order, as this special episode was really the 7th one to air, but I’m writing it up as my third special. We wound up hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, and the recipes from this episode composed a large portion of our Thanksgiving menu. Yes, I know Thanksgiving was quite a while ago, but it seems we’ve had non-stop things going on for the last several weeks. The premise of this special is that Alton intends to give you a solid, stress-free Thanksgiving menu, much of which can be prepared in advance. In the episode, he breaks down exactly when you need to complete each step of each recipe, so everything winds up on the table at the same time. I was slightly skeptical as to how well his schedule would actually work when put to the test. Without further ado, here are the recipes from Alton’s second Thanksgiving-specific special, along with his Thanksgiving schedule.

Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey 

In the online recipe, the turkey and panzanella are written as one, but really you will begin prepping the turkey and two other menu items before you begin the panzanella, which I will write up separately below. Note that, for this recipe, you will need to have your bird thawed four days in advance. The ideal bird for this recipe is a 14-pound frozen turkey, which you can thaw, wrapped, in the refrigerator; allow one day for every four pounds.


My 14-ish pound bird.

If you really want to get fast/fancy, you can purchase a pump and thaw your turkey in a cooler next to your sink, placing the pump in the sink and covering it with cold water. Run the pump tube up into the cooler with the bird. Meanwhile, open the drain spout on the cooler, allowing it to drain into the sink. Make sure you reach equilibrium if you try this method, or you could end up with water all over the floor. If the cooler is draining too quickly, you can partially plug the hole with some foil. I opted for a third method and thawed my bird in a bucket of cold water, changing the water every couple hours, which took about eight hours. Four days prior to serving, make a dry brine by grinding 3 1/2 T Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t dry thyme, 1 1/2 t rubbed sage, 1 1/4 t black peppercorns, and 1 1/2 t allspice berries in a spice grinder.

Remove the neck and giblets from the bird, reserving them if you plan to make Alton’s gravy. Placing your turkey breast side down, use kitchen shears to cut up one side of the turkey’s backbone. Flip the bird 180-degrees and cut up the other side of the backbone, holding onto the neck. Save the bones for Alton’s gravy.

Flip your bird over, so it is breast side up and press the keel bone with the heels of your hands until it cracks and the bird flattens.

Sprinkle half of the dry brine on each side of the bird, patting it into the turkey. I know this sounds odd, but place your flattened bird, breast side up, on a parchment-lined sheet pan and let it age in your refrigerator for four days, uncovered.

The day you plan to serve your turkey, remove it from the refrigerator 3:40:00 ahead of meal time. Place the turkey in a 425-degree oven 2:05:00 ahead of serving; if you are also making Alton’s panzanella, you will place the bird directly on an upper oven rack without a pan, allowing the turkey’s juices to drip into the panzanella below. Otherwise, yeah, you will probably want to use a pan! When you have 1:35:00 to dinner, decrease the oven temperature to 350. You will want to continue cooking your turkey until it reaches 155-degrees in the deepest part of the breast. I will confess that I cooked my turkey until it was ~160 degrees.


My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest under foil. My bird was done pretty much on schedule, so it had plenty of time to rest while we finished up other things.


My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees… and a desperate dog.

Honestly, this is the easiest turkey you will ever make and it takes so little time. Also, we could not believe how much the spices from the dry brine (isn’t that really a cure?) had permeated the meat – so much flavor! This will be the turkey I make the next time I prep one. Yes, your oven does get slightly messy, but that is worth it. This is my new favorite turkey recipe.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Okay, so this pecan pie recipe is awesome because you can make it up to two weeks ahead of time. I actually made this for us to eat the week after Thanksgiving, as we already had enough dessert contributions for our Thanksgiving meal (including a pecan pie!). The first step for Alton’s pie is to make his spiced pecans. Oddly, he did not actually demonstrate this recipe in the episode, though he did mention that you need the spiced pecans in your pie. So, I simply followed the online recipe for the spiced pecans, making a half pound of them.


Ingredients for spiced pecans: pecan halves, light and dark brown sugar, butter, water, and spice blend.

To make a half pound of spiced pecans, combine in a bowl 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t cumin, 1/4 t cayenne, 1/4 t cinnamon, and 1/4 t dried orange peel (I didn’t have this, so left it out).

Toast the pecan halves in a pan over medium heat until they smell toasted, and stir in 2 T butter.

Once the butter has melted, stir in the spice mixture.


Spice mix added to buttered pecans.

Finally, add 1 T water, 1 T dark brown sugar, and 1/8 C light brown sugar. Stir until the nuts are coated evenly and spread them on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool, breaking up any clusters.

Once your spiced pecans are complete, you are ready to make the rest of your pie, beginning, of course, with the crust. In a food processor, pulse 3 1/2 ounces plain pecan halves until fine. To your pecans add 6 oz flour, 4 T cold butter, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 2 T ice water, and 2 T bourbon, pulsing after each ingredient is added, and avoiding over-processing.

Flatten the dough into a disc and place it in a ziplock bag, refrigerating for 30 minutes.


Dough flattened in a disc, and placed in a ziplock bag to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the filling by melting 4 T butter. In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 t Kosher salt, 1 t vanilla, 1 T bourbon, the 4 T of butter you melted before, and 6 ounces (by weight) of golden syrup; golden syrup can be tricky to find, so I ordered it online.

When your dough has chilled, cut the two opposing side seams of your ziplock with scissors. Open the bag and sprinkle both sides of the dough disk with flour. Cover the dough with the bag again and roll it into an 11-inch circle.

Alton recommends using a 9.5-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, as you can simply place your dough circle onto the bottom of the pan, folding up the excess dough. When you place the bottom of the pan into the edges, you can simply unfold the excess dough, pressing it into the flutes. I, however, do not have a tart pan of that size, so I opted for a regular pie plate, transferring my dough circle by rolling it around a rolling pin. This dough is slightly sticky, so you do need to use flour.


Crust, transferred to pie plate.

Regardless of which pan you use, press the dough into the pan before adding 6 ounces of your spiced pecans, chopped. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans and jiggle the pan to evenly distribute the nuts.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes. At this time, remove your pie from the oven, placing it on a rack. Decorate the top of your pie by placing spiced pecan halves around the edge of your pie – you will need about two ounces of spiced pecans for this.

Stick your pie back in the oven and bake it until the internal temperature is 200 degrees, which Alton says should take about 10 more minutes. If your oven is like mine, however, it will take 15-20 minutes of additional baking. Remove your pie from the oven and let it cool.


Pie after baking to internal temp of 200.

If you are making it in advance, cover your cooled pie with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for eight hours to two weeks. When you are approaching your serving time, remove your frozen pie from its pan and slice it; you can place it back in the pan. Refrigerate your pie until ready to serve. Alton guarantees that this pie will not seep or weep, and I can vouch for that. I never froze my pie, as we simply ate it once it had cooled down. Still, unlike many pecan pies, this one had a filling that maintained its shape and form.


A slice of Alton’s pecan pie.

To boot, we really liked the bourbon flavor in this pie, which paired well with the spices from the pecans. The golden syrup also seemed to give more of a caramelized flavor versus using corn syrup. The crust in this recipe is crispy, light, and pretty savory, which we thought contrasted greatly with the super sweet filling. I will make this pecan pie again for sure, as it is probably the best pecan pie I have had.

Whipped Potatoes

Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without some form of potato, right? This special episode featured Alton’s recipe for whipped potatoes. Like the other recipes in this episode, this is one for which much of the prep can be completed in advance. A full 24 hours ahead of serving time, you will want to peel four pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, and slice them as thinly as possible; a mandolin makes this much faster, if you have one.

Place the potato slices in an 8-quart container, covering them with a gallon of cold water. Let the potato slices sit overnight, allowing the water to remove any excess starch.

You will not need to touch your potatoes again until 1:30:00 before serving time, which is when you will place your potatoes into a strainer (resist the urge to dump the potatoes into the strainer, as you want to avoid transferring all of that starchy water). Rinse your potato slices with clean water and spin them in a salad spinner to dry.

Transfer the potatoes to a large pot, covering them with a gallon of whole milk, and placing them on a burner over medium-high heat.


Potatoes and a gallon of whole milk, placed on the stove.

Twenty-five minutes before your meal, drain your potatoes, reserving the milk. Press the potatoes through a ricer into your serving bowl, adding 4 ounces butter, 1 C of the reserved milk (you can use the rest of the milk for something like potato soup), and 1 T Kosher salt. Whip the potatoes with a hand mixer for 15 seconds. Yes, seriously, 15 seconds will do it. Resist the urge to blend the potatoes further, as they will become gummy. Sadly, because I was scrambling around on Thanksgiving, I forgot to take photos of my potatoes as I riced/whipped them, so I have no photos of my finished product. These potatoes seemed to be very popular around our Thanksgiving table, and I have to say that this is now my favorite mashed potato recipe. The potatoes were super light and fluffy, and had just the right amounts of butter and salt. Cooking the potatoes in milk gave them a very creamy mouthfeel and flavor. I highly recommend this recipe, and it will be the one I use when I next make mashed potatoes.

Roasted Root Vegetable Panzanella

As I mentioned above, this panzanella is designed to go along with (and cook with) Alton’s dry brined roasted turkey. While you begin prepping the turkey four days in advance, this panzanella only needs to be prepped 24 hours ahead of your dinner, so Alton covered this as the fourth recipe in the episode. So, 24 hours ahead, cut eight ounces of hearty multigrain or sourdough bread into 1/2″ cubes, leaving them on a sheet pan in a cold oven to dry out overnight.

At this time you will also want to mince two cloves of garlic, chop a red onion, and shred eight ounces of Brussels sprouts (this is super fast with the shredding blade in a food processor).

Place these prepped items into separate containers and refrigerate. Finally, peel 1 1/2 pounds each of parsnips and rutabagas, cutting them into chunks. Combine the parsnips and rutabagas in a container and place them in the refrigerator.

The following day, you will begin your panzanella when you pull your turkey out of the refrigerator, which will be 3:40:00 ahead of dinner. At this time, dump your rutabaga/parsnip combo into a large roasting pan, along with 2 t vegetable oil.


Rutabagas and parsnips placed in roasting pan with vegetable oil.

When you place your turkey in the 425-degree oven (2:05:00 ahead), also place your roasting pan into the oven, directly beneath your turkey; this will allow the turkey’s juices to drip into the vegetables. Once you have 1:35:00 to your planned dinner time, add the diced red onion to your roasting pan, tossing, and decrease the oven to 350 degrees.


Red onion added to roasting pan.

Forty-five minutes ahead, add your bread cubes, shredded Brussels sprouts, and garlic to your panzanella, tossing.


Bread, sprouts, and garlic added to panzanella.

Thirty minutes before dinner, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add 1/4 C cider vinegar, 2 t fresh thyme, a pinch of Kosher salt, and some black pepper to the roasting pan.


Cider vinegar, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper added to finish panzanella.

Toss everything around and transfer the panzanella to a serving bowl. The flavors in this panzanella were fantastic, but I was highly disappointed in the texture of the bread cubes. To me, a panzanella should have super crunchy bread cubes, but this bread was kind of soggy. I do intend to make this again, but I plan to toast my bread cubes in advance, and I will add them to the salad right before serving. Aside from the bread, the sweetness of the root vegetables was great with the slight tang of vinegar and bite of garlic/onion. I’m sure the turkey juices didn’t hurt the flavor at all either! Again, this is a delicious recipe, but it does need some help in the texture department. Cooking this with the turkey makes everything super easy, which is a huge bonus.

Turkey Giblet Gravy

Last, but not least, Alton had to include a recipe for gravy in his second Thanksgiving special, no? Remember the turkey neck and backbone that we saved from prepping Alton’s turkey four days before Thanksgiving? Well, we’re going to use them here, along with the giblets. Four hours before dinner heat 1 T canola oil in a pot over medium heat, adding the turkey neck and backbone.


Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil.

Brown the bones, turning them often for about 5-6 minutes.


Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil, turning often.

Once the bones are browned, add the giblets, a small onion, a carrot, a stalk of celery, and a heavy pinch of Kosher salt to the pan.


Onion, carrot, giblets, celery, and Kosher salt added to bones.

Cook all of the vegetables until they are tender, which should take about five minutes. Next, add 1 t black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 6 C of water.


Peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and water added to make stock.

Cover the pot, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and decrease the heat, leaving the pot to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.


Stock, after being brought to a boil.

Two hours prior to dinner, strain the stock, saving the giblets. You can discard the rest of the solids.

Once the giblets are cool, chop them finely. When you have 1:30:00 to dinner, pour 2 C of your stock into a saucier over medium heat. At this same time, pour 1/2 C of additional stock into a lidded container, along with 1 T flour, shaking to make a slurry.

Slowly whisk this slurry into the warm stock in the saucier.

Again, in your shaking container, combine another 1/2 C of cooled stock with 1 T potato starch, shaking.

Turn the burner off under your pan and allow your gravy to cool to below 190 degrees. Once below 190 degrees (which should be about 1:20:00 before your meal), turn the heat to low and whisk in the potato slurry. I had some trouble with this, as my slurry appeared to be quite lumpy, so I had to add some additional hot stock and re-shake my slurry. Once your slurry is incorporated, also add 1 t chopped fresh sage, 1 t fresh thyme, 1 t fresh rosemary, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.


Fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage to finish gravy, along with chopped giblets.

When your gravy has reached a simmer, stir in the chopped giblets and turn off the heat. When heated through, you can transfer your gravy to a thermos to keep it warm until you are ready to serve. I failed to get a final photo of my gravy, unfortunately. I am not a huge gravy person, but this one got some rave reviews at our house. The gravy seemed like it was going to be way too thin, but it did thicken up some. Flavor-wise, the gravy fans here really seemed to enjoy it.

So, to sum up Alton’s second Thanksgiving special, I have to say that I was quite pleased with all of the recipes, how they worked together, and his timeline was pretty spot on. If you follow his directions, you can have a pretty stress-free, well-timed Thanksgiving dinner with his five recipes here. While all of the recipes were honestly very good, I would absolutely not skip the turkey, potatoes, or pie. Below is a breakdown of my Thanksgiving Day Alton-based schedule, aiming for a 5:00 pm dinner. Honestly, it worked pretty darn well, and we were seated right around 5 o’clock.

1:00 PM – Start gravy stock.

1:20 PM – 1) Bird out of refrigerator. 2) Rutabagas and parsnips in roasting pan.

2:55 PM – Bird and vegetables in oven at 425 degrees.

3:00 PM – Strain gravy stock and cool giblets.

3:25 PM – 1) Add red onion to vegetables. 2) Decrease oven temp to 350.

3:30 PM – 1) Strain/spin potatoes. 2) Put potatoes in pot with milk. 3) Make gravy and transfer to thermos.

4:15 PM – 1) Add bread, sprouts, and garlic to vegetables. 2) Remove bird when it hits 160.

4:30 PM – 1) Add cider vinegar and seasonings to vegetables. 2) Rice potatoes and whip.

Seeing as I am putting myself through (what I call) the Alton Brown Culinary School of Good Eats, I would be remiss if I did not write a little bit about the day I had yesterday. I was awoken at 5:07 am by my adorable Coonhound, Hitcher, who was suffering from one of his occasional fits of morning sickness. While I stood in the dark kitchen, waiting for him to finish grazing in the back yard, I decided to make a quick check of Facebook, or Twitter, or one of the other online giants. Staring back at me from the feed of none other than Alton Brown was a pair of latitude and longitude coordinates for the location of an autograph signing he would be having in Spokane at noon. The coordinates were for the Spokane Convention Center.

After a few more hours of sleep, I had to decide whether to do my planned 15 mile run, or to try to meet Alton; I split the difference, ran 8.5 miles, and dragged Ted to the Convention Center with me, along with our giant metal spoon and my Alton Brown cookbook. Somehow, I don’t think Ted looked too out-of-place on Spokane’s downtown streets with his spoon, as I think of the gentleman I used to always see, riding a bicycle with a huge Finding Nemo hat. We ended up waiting in line for about 45 minutes, briefly met Alton, had our photo taken with him, and got a few autographs. I will somewhat shamelessly admit how stoked I was about this. Secretly, I think Ted thought it was pretty cool too.

Ted and me with Alton.

Ted and me with Alton.

My custom Alton post-it.

My custom Alton post-it.

To cap off the day, we took my parents to see Alton perform his Edible Inevitable show. Though I did not know what to expect, I knew I would enjoy the show, but it far exceeded my expectations. I cannot remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did last night. Seriously, if you have the chance to see Alton perform live, you really should take that opportunity.

In a Cranberry Jam

Last November, I cooked an early Good Eats Thanksgiving dinner for my parents and us, following it up with a Thanksgiving dinner with Ted’s parents on Thanksgiving day; that meant we had two Good Eats turkeys in a matter of days. I wrote about the early Thanksgiving dinner here. When I wrote about the Thanksgiving special, I failed to realize that the 32nd episode of the show would entail making recipes with the leftovers from the Thanksgiving special. So… we had Thanksgiving dinner again in February. Last Thursday, I again made Alton’s Tart Cranberry Dipping Sauce, Sweet Corn Bread Pudding, and the Good Eats Roast Turkey.

A February Good Eats turkey.

A February Good Eats turkey.

Sweet corn bread pudding.

Sweet corn bread pudding.

After a Thanksgiving-like dinner Thursday, I made Alton’s recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday, the first of which was for his cranberry jam. This recipe is really simple. To make it, you combine 2 C of leftover cranberry dipping sauce with a cup of sugar and a half cup of ginger ale.

Ingredients for cranberry jam:  leftover cranberry dipping sauce, ginger ale, and sugar.

Ingredients for cranberry jam: leftover cranberry dipping sauce, ginger ale, and sugar.

The mixture is cooked over low heat until it reduces to the consistency of loose jam, which took a couple of hours for mine.

Dipping sauce, ginger ale, and sugar in a saucepan.

Dipping sauce, ginger ale, and sugar in a saucepan.

Reduced cranberry dipping sauce.

Reduced cranberry dipping sauce.

Finished cranberry jam.

Finished cranberry jam.

The resulting jam was really delicious, and we have since used it for turkey sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and our morning toast.

Sandwich made with leftover turkey and cranberry jam.

Sandwich made with leftover turkey and cranberry jam.

The jam is tart-sweet, has a rich red color, and is easily spreadable. I liked the cranberry dipping sauce the first time around, and being able to make this jam from the leftovers makes it even more worthwhile. I will be making this one again.

Turkey Re-Hash

What better thing to eat for breakfast than Alton’s turkey hash? This recipe utilizes both the leftover turkey meat and the leftover corn bread pudding.

Ingredients for turkey hash:  breakfast sausage, onion, jalapeno, bell pepper, cooked red potatoes, black beans, leftover corn bread pudding, leftover turkey, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

Ingredients for turkey hash: breakfast sausage, onion, jalapeno, bell pepper, cooked red potatoes, black beans, leftover corn bread pudding, leftover turkey, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

To start, Alton tells you to heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Since we have a brand new smooth top range, I opted not to use cast iron, as I have heard that it can scratch a smooth top range. Instead, I used a heavy non-stick skillet. Once the pan is hot, add a half pound of breakfast sausage and cook it until it renders some of its fat; I used a spicy Italian sausage.

Sausage rendering fat.

Sausage rendering fat.

To the sausage, add half an onion and half a jalapeno, chopped.

Onion and jalapeno added to pan.

Onion and jalapeno added to pan.

When the onion is translucent, add a half cup of chopped red bell pepper and cook for a minute or two.

Bell pepper added.

Bell pepper added.

Next, add 1.5 C of cooked, cubed red potatoes (Note: I cooked my potatoes the night before by simmering them in salted water until tender). To get some good brown color on the potatoes, increase the heat to high.

Potatoes added to hash.

Potatoes added to hash.

Then, add a can of black beans, drained and rinsed, followed by a couple cups of the leftover corn bread pudding, cubed.

Black beans in the pan.

Black beans in the pan.

The addition of leftover corn bread pudding.

The addition of leftover corn bread pudding.

Stir everything and add a cup of cubed turkey meat.

Leftover cubed turkey added.

Leftover cubed turkey added.

Season the hash with some cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.

Seasonings added to the hash.

Seasonings added to the hash.

The completed hash.

The completed hash.

Turkey Re-Hash.

Turkey Re-Hash.

Serve hot. This hash was good, but not mind-blowing. It really was a perfect leftover recipe, as you could easily make this your own, adding whatever you have in the house. We rarely eat hot breakfasts during the week, so that was a treat in itself. The hash had a nice medley of textures and a pretty good level of heat, which we really like. This is a recipe I wouldn’t seek out, but I will not be surprised if I end up making a version of this again in the future with the leftovers we have on hand. Next time, though, I will likely make Alton’s mentioned additions of a couple of eggs and some cheese. Even better!

Bird to the Last Drop

Alton’s last Thanksgiving leftover recipe is for turkey soup. Allow a few hours for making this soup, as it will be better if it has longer to cook.

Ingredients for turkey soup:  vegetable broth, turkey carcass, frozen vegetables, rice, cubed turkey, Old Bay, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Ingredients for turkey soup: vegetable broth, turkey carcass, frozen vegetables, rice, cubed turkey, Old Bay, thyme, salt, and pepper.

To make it, combine two quarts of vegetable broth with the remains of your turkey carcass.

Broken down turkey carcass.

Broken down turkey carcass.

Turkey carcass and vegetable broth.

Turkey carcass and vegetable broth.

Cover this and simmer it over low heat. While the online recipe tells you to cook this for an hour, it will only be better if you can cook it longer. I simmered my bones for 2.5 hours.

Turkey carcass after simmering for 2.5 hours.

Turkey carcass after simmering for 2.5 hours.

After a good simmer, add 10 ounces of frozen vegetables (I added 12 oz), 1/2 C of rice, 2 C of cubed turkey meat, 1 t of Old Bay Seasoning, 2 t of dried thyme, salt, and pepper.

Addition of frozen vegetables.

Addition of frozen vegetables.

3-2-15 038

Addition of rice.

Addition of rice.

Addition of leftover turkey meat.

Addition of leftover turkey meat.

Salt, pepper, and thyme added to soup.

Salt, pepper, and thyme added to soup.

Simmer the soup for an additional 20 minutes, remove the bones, and serve.

Turkey soup after final 20 minute simmer.

Turkey soup after final 20 minute simmer.

Turkey soup after fishing bones out.

Turkey soup after fishing bones out.

I made the soup a day prior to serving it. We returned home Saturday, after doing a mountain bike race in Oregon, and this turkey soup was the perfect meal to come home to. It was the epitome of comfort food, with a super rich mouthfeel, a variety of textures, and the flavor of a slow-cooked stock with lots of thyme.

Finished turkey soup.

Finished turkey soup.

We thought this turkey soup was great, and I will surely be making this with our future turkey leftovers. Delicious and easy! The richness of the soup makes it a meal in itself. Keep this one in mind for Thanksgiving this year, or should you need an excuse to make a Good Eats turkey at any time in the year!


When Alton Brown was filming Good Eats, he and his crew produced eight special episodes, in addition to the regular seasonal episodes. Seeing as Ted and I will be having our Thanksgiving dinner with his parents this year, we decided we would have my parents over to our house for an early Thanksgiving dinner, which we had yesterday. It just so happens that the first of the Good Eats special episodes has a Thanksgiving theme, so, of course, I used the recipes from this special episode to fill our (first – lucky us!) Thanksgiving table this year.

Ted and I have only hosted Thanksgiving once at our house. In 2010, we hosted both sets of our parents, along with Ted’s aunt and uncle. It was particularly cold and snowy that year, and Ted was in charge of cooking the turkey. My dad contributed our family’s favorite stuffing with blue cornbread and chorizo sausage, and everyone else brought a side dish or two to share. Ted chose to follow Alton’s turkey recipe from this episode of Good Eats. He’ll tell you it turned out dry, but the rest of us thought it was very good. The highlight of the day was when Ted and my dad were carving the turkey. As we did not have a carving board, they were carving the bird on a pull-out cutting board under the kitchen counter. The bird was quite hefty, causing the cutting board to slant toward the kitchen floor, and all of the turkey’s juices began running off the edge of the board. We all saw a huge mess about to form, but Hitcher, the hound, stepped in to save the day, positioning himself perfectly so the juices would run straight into his open, waiting mouth. Ellie, my now mother-in-law, was laughing so hard that I thought she was going to fall over.

Good Eats Roast Turkey

I was nervous yesterday, as I was cooking my first turkey. While I have always contributed something to Thanksgiving dinner, I have never before had the responsibility of cooking the almighty bird. I carefully watched Alton’s preparation of the recipe. For this recipe, he recommends a 14-16 pound turkey, but we purchased a 13 pound turkey since we would only have four people eating. To begin, you want to thaw your turkey for two-three days prior to Thanksgiving. I started thawing my turkey Monday evening. To thaw, Alton recommends putting your turkey (in a pan) inside a Styrofoam cooler with ice packs. Since we have two hounds, my turkey thawed safely in the guest bathroom shower.To monitor the temperature, he suggests sticking a probe thermometer through the top of the cooler, with an alarm set to go off at 38 degrees. We did not have a probe thermometer, but after watching the episode, I realized it would really be a necessity to properly prepare a turkey the Alton way. I purchased this thermometer at Amazon, which happens to be the same one Alton uses in the episode.

Turkey thawing in cooler.

Turkey thawing in cooler.

As an alternative, if you need to thaw your turkey very quickly, you can put your turkey in a five-gallon bucket of cool water, changing the water every three to four hours; it should take ~six to eight hours. Note:  Always thaw your turkey in its original wrapping. Did you know that turkeys are only technically considered frozen if they are below zero degrees? A refrigerated turkey is one between one and 24 degrees, while a fresh turkey is at, or above, 26 degrees. My probe thermometer went above 40 degrees, but the turkey still felt quite frozen, so I left it in the cooler until late Wednesday night. Sometime while your turkey is thawing, you want to make your brine. You can make the brine up to two days ahead, and you will want to make it early since it needs to chill. For the brine, combine vegetable stock, Kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a pot. I ended up adding my ginger later, as I did not have any in the house.

Brine ingredients:  vegetable broth, brown sugar, allspice berries, Kosher salt, and peppercorns. Not pictured:  candied ginger.

Brine ingredients: vegetable broth, brown sugar, allspice berries, Kosher salt, and peppercorns. Not pictured: candied ginger.

Brine on the stove, minus the candied ginger.

Brine on the stove, minus the candied ginger.

Bring this mixture to a boil, and then allow it to cool to room temperature with a lid on the pot. Once cool, you want to thoroughly chill the brine in the refrigerator.

Candied ginger. I added this after my brine had cooled, as I did not have any.

Candied ginger. I added this after my brine had cooled, as I did not have any.

Cooled brine with candied ginger added.

Cooled brine with candied ginger added.

Thanksgiving morning, or late the night before (this is what I did), combine your brine with a gallon of heavily iced water in a five-gallon bucket.

Brine plus ice water in a bucket.

Brine plus ice water in a bucket.

Remove the turkey’s guts, give him a rinse, and place him into the brine, breast down. You want to put the breast down since it tends to dry out the fastest. Alton tells you to leave your turkey in the brine for six to eight hours, though the online recipe says you can leave the bird in the brine for up to 16 hours. Since Alton tells you in the episode that you can begin the brining process late in the evening prior to your cooking day, I went with that. Regardless of how long you choose to brine your turkey, you want to flip it over once in the middle of the brining period. What about stuffing? Alton calls stuffing “evil” in this episode. Why? Not only is it potentially unsafe to cook stuffing in the bird because of possible foodborne illness, but it also causes your turkey to take longer to cook, which can result in a dry bird. Now, I grew up with parents who always stuffed the bird, and none of us have ever gotten sick because of it, so I am not overly frightened of stuffing. But, since the goal of my blog project is to cook all of the Good Eats recipes as closely to how Alton does them on the show, there was no stuffing in my bird yesterday. Instead, once I was ready to cook my turkey, I removed it from the brine, rinsed it off, and patted it dry, placing it on a rack over a sheet pan.

My 13 pounder.

My 13 pounder.

I microwaved a sliced onion and a sliced red apple in some water for a minute on high. When you remove the apple and onion from the microwave, throw a cinnamon stick into the liquid to steep for a couple of minutes also.

Sliced apple and onion, microwaved with some water, and steeped with a cinnamon stick.

Sliced apple and onion, microwaved with some water, and steeped with a cinnamon stick.

While this is steeping, put some fresh rosemary and sage into the cavity of the bird; I did two big sprigs of rosemary and one bunch of sage.

Sage and rosemary to go in turkey's cavity.

Sage and rosemary to go in turkey’s cavity.

Rosemary and sage in the bird.

Rosemary and sage in the bird.

You want to tuck the turkey’s wings up under its body to prevent them from burning. If your bird has its legs tied, leave this on. My turkey did not have its legs tied, but I tucked them inside its skin, which held them in place nicely. After a few minutes of steeping, add the apple, onion, and cinnamon stick to the cavity of the bird. It is easiest to use tongs to do this. I crammed as much of these aromatics into the bird as I could fit.

Apple, onion, and cinnamon stick placed in the bird.

Apple, onion, and cinnamon stick placed in the bird.

Leave the turkey popper thermometer in the bird, but ignore it. Here is where one of the biggest tricks of Alton’s recipe comes in, and this is not mentioned in the online recipe. You want to take a large piece of foil and fold it into a large triangle.

Turkey triangle.

Turkey triangle.

Oil this “turkey triangle” and mold it so it covers the breast of the bird, and then set it aside for later.

Oiled turkey triangle.

Oiled turkey triangle.

Molding the turkey triangle to the breast.

Molding the turkey triangle to the breast.

What is the purpose of the turkey triangle? Dark meat is perfectly cooked at 180 degrees, while white meat is ready at 161 degrees. Since there is this discrepancy in temperature, you will use the triangle to protect the breast meat, while allowing the dark meat to cook more quickly. This will result in a bird that has perfectly cooked white AND dark meat. Now, coat the outside of your turkey with oil and insert your probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, ensuring that you do not hit any bones, as that can result in a false temperature reading.

Turkey, filled with aromatics and oiled up.

Turkey, filled with aromatics and oiled up.

Probe inserted into deepest part of breast.

Probe inserted into deepest part of breast.

Set your alarm to go off when your turkey’s temperature hits 161 degrees.

Starting temperature of my turkey (42), and end goal temperature (161).

Starting temperature of my turkey (42), and end goal temperature (161).

Now, the turkey is ready for the oven. Place it in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, place the previously molded turkey triangle onto the bird, protecting the breast. I did not get a picture when I did this. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees and wait for your alarm to sound. How easy is that? Alton recommends that you place the turkey in the oven legs first, but my turkey would only fit sideways. According to Alton, a 14 pound bird will take about two hours to cook, but my 13 pound bird took two hours and 45 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the starting temperature of your bird (mine was at 42 degrees), the size of your turkey, and your oven. When your bird is done cooking, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Turkey, photo bombed by the hound.

Turkey, photo bombed by the hound.

Turkey, fresh from the oven.

Turkey, fresh from the oven.

If you have a classic round charcoal grill, you can use the lid of your grill to cover your turkey while it rests. If not, foil will suffice.

Turkey resting under foil.

Turkey resting under foil.

When ready to carve, use an electric knife. To best carve your turkey, carve between the legs and the body first, going down until you hit the joint. Press on the leg with your hand until it pops, and then use the knife to cut the rest of the way through. Next, to carve the breast, cut horizontally toward the center of the bird at the wing line, and then make slices perpendicularly down to the initial cut. This will result in perfect slices of white meat. My turkey could not have turned out any better. It was golden brown on the outside, while incredibly juicy and moist on the inside. The white meat, in particular, shocked everyone with how moist it was.

Moist, flavorful, perfectly cooked white AND dark meat.

Moist, flavorful, perfectly cooked white AND dark meat.

The turkey was loaded with flavor, without being salty. We all agreed that it was great, including the Coonhounds, who howled while the turkey was carved and were all too willing to clean up the turkey juice trail that led from the kitchen to the garage; when you live with hounds, and an always-hungry cat, you must hide your Turkey in the garage while you eat your Thanksgiving dinner. Though this was my first turkey, I cannot imagine that I will ever prepare a turkey another way, but I do have to say that my dad has cooked some amazing turkeys with his basted, grilled method too. Oh, and if you have leftover turkey, Alton says it freezes very well – just be sure to wrap it in both foil and plastic before freezing. Seeing as Ted and I both just finished delectable leftover turkey sandwiches, I do not think our leftovers will need to be frozen! Long story short, if you do not yet have a turkey plan for Thanksgiving, try Alton’s turkey. It is wonderful.

Here is a synopsis of my turkey timeline to give you an idea of how this recipe plays out:

  • Sunday afternoon – purchased turkey.
  • Monday, 5:30 pm – began thawing turkey in cooler.
  • Wednesday morning – made and chilled brine.
  • Wednesday, 11:45 pm – put bird in brine.
  • Thursday, 4:00 pm – took bird out of brine.
  • Thursday, 4:30 pm – put bird in oven.
  • Thursday, 7:15 pm – bird done when temperature reached 161 degrees.
  • Thursday, 7:30 pm – carved bird.


Tart Cranberry Dipping Sauce

To go along with your perfect turkey, in the Thanksgiving special, Alton shows you how to make a cranberry dipping sauce. The recipe for this sauce can be found here, which for some reason shows up as under a different Good Eats episode. I happen to like the gelatinous cranberry sauce you can buy in a can, but it truly does not compare to a dish made with fresh cranberries. For Alton’s cranberry concoction, combine 12 ounces of frozen cranberries (the online recipe calls for a pound), orange juice, ginger ale, maple syrup, light brown sugar, the zest of an orange, and a pinch of Kosher salt in a saucepan. I could not find frozen cranberries, so I used fresh cranberries.

Sauce ingredients: cranberries, OJ, ginger ale, maple syrup, brown sugar, Kosher salt, and the zest of an orange.

Sauce ingredients: cranberries, OJ, ginger ale, maple syrup, brown sugar, Kosher salt, and the zest of an orange.

All of the ingredients in a saucepan.

All of the ingredients in a saucepan.

Bring this mixture to a boil, decrease the heat to medium, and cook it for 30 minutes. A skin will form on the surface of the sauce, so skim that off.

A skin formed after 30 minutes on the stove.

A skin formed after 30 minutes on the stove.

After skimming off the skin.

After skimming off the skin.

If you have an immersion blender, you can use that to blend the sauce. Our immersion blender is incapacitated, so I used a traditional blender to blend my sauce.

Into the blender.

Into the blender.

Completed cranberry sauce.

Completed cranberry sauce.

Tart cranberry dipping sauce.

Tart cranberry dipping sauce.

Serve this sauce in individual ramekins for each diner to dip their turkey in. This sauce really does pair nicely with turkey, as it is quite tart and contrasts nicely with the meat. It is loaded with cranberry and orange flavor, and is a brilliant cranberry red, which also adds a lot of color to the Thanksgiving table. Also, you can make this sauce ahead of time and reheat it while your turkey is resting. I would definitely make this again to pair with turkey. It does make quite a large volume of sauce, so I am already thinking of other ways to use it. Perhaps we will have to have this with some homemade pound cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert one night! If you are looking for a new way to incorporate cranberries into your Thanksgiving dinner, or an alternative to gravy, this is a fun (and easy!) one to try.

Sweet Corn Bread Pudding

The final recipe Alton prepares in “Romancing the Bird” is for his Sweet Corn Bread Pudding. I happen to love stuffing, especially my dad’s, at Thanksgiving, so I was happy to see that Alton made this bread pudding, as it is along the lines of stuffing. Again, this is a nice recipe for Thanksgiving, as you can make it early in the day and reheat it in the oven while your turkey is resting, which means you are not scrambling to make a bunch of things at the last second.

Ingredients for bread pudding:  pepper, Kosher salt, onion, creamed corn, butter, cream, eggs, baking powder, cornmeal, rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan.

Ingredients for bread pudding: pepper, Kosher salt, onion, creamed corn, butter, cream, eggs, baking powder, cornmeal, rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan.

To begin, heat an iron skillet and melt some butter.

Preheating iron skillet.

Preheating iron skillet.

Melting butter.

Melting butter.

Add a diced onion (the online recipe calls for half an onion, but Alton uses a whole onion in the show) and some chopped, fresh rosemary and thyme.

Onion sweating in butter.

Onion sweating in butter.

Onion, butter, rosemary, and thyme.

Onion, butter, rosemary, and thyme.

In the meantime, mix together, in a bowl, a can of creamed corn, heavy cream, two eggs, cornmeal, baking powder, Kosher salt, and some pepper.

Creamed corn, cream, eggs, cornmeal, baking powder,  Kosher salt, and pepper.

Creamed corn, cream, eggs, cornmeal, baking powder, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Once this is combined, fold in some shredded Parmesan cheese and cubed bread; the recipe calls for French bread and Alton uses Italian bread in the show.

Whisked mixture.

Whisked mixture.

Folding in Parmesan.

Folding in Parmesan.

Folding in bread cubes.

Folding in bread cubes.

11-21-14 023 Pour this over the onion, butter, and herbs in the iron skillet and put it in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Bread mixture added to skillet.

Bread mixture added to skillet.

Corn bread pudding straight from the oven.

Corn bread pudding straight from the oven.

I have kind of a negative perception of bread pudding in general, as I have had some very soggy, wet bread puddings. This recipe, however, produced a pudding with the texture of a moist cornbread, which reminded me of the texture of my dad’s stuffing when it is cooked inside the turkey. The flavor of the herbs, especially the rosemary, really came through, along with the onion. You could also taste the Parmesan cheese, yet the pudding was hardly cheesy. I thought this was great, especially as a stuffing stand-in. And, again, it was super easy! I could see making this to serve with chili too. We all liked this too, and I foresee making it again in the future, though I would opt for Dad’s stuffing, if given the choice.

All in all, our Thanksgiving dinner was quite successful and delicious. We all liked all of the dishes and they will likely appear on our table again, especially the turkey. You cannot go wrong with any of Alton’s Thanksgiving recipes.

A decent Thanksgiving dinner, if I say so myself.

A decent Thanksgiving dinner, if I say so myself.