with all the trimmings.

spices for turkey brine

turkey pot pie, turkey breakfast hash, hot turkey sandwiches smothered in gravy...
we've been eating our christmas feast leftovers all week,
and they are delicious!
i guess that's one of the big perks of making a whole turkey with all the trimmings
for just two people (and of course we shared with our two sweetly begging kittens).

this year, when cooking my first christmas turkey,
i consulted the genius of my favourite domestic goddess
i received her christmas cookbook as a gift last year,
and she swears by a brining as the best way to make a flavourful turkey.
and yes, it most definitely was flavourful!
we served up our giant platter of turkey with
~all-spice gravy~
~maple-glazed carrots~
~garlic mashed potatoes~
~italian sausage stuffing~


everything was delicious,
although paul felt that sausage in the stuffing was a little excessive
(so next year i'll be going back to my mom's classic recipe,
which really is the best stuffing in the world...
my brothers and i used to fight over it at holiday dinners)

if you're interested in nigella's christmas method,
here's how the turkey is brined...
and i definitely suggest you pick up her christmas cookbook,
it's one of my favourites
(and is often on display on my cookbook stand throughout the holiday season)

spiced and superjuicy roast turkey
with allspice gravy
(recipes slightly adapted from nigella christmas)
the bird.

first, brine your defrosted turkey for at least a day, and leave it submerged for up to two days.
fill a large pot or clean bin (big enough for your turkey) with about 6 litres of water. add:

1 large orange or 2 smaller, quartered
(squeeze the juice in the water, then throw in the quarters)
125g table salt
3 tbsp black peppercorns
1 medium bunch of sage + rosemary
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp caraway seeds
4 cloves
2 tbsp allspice berries
4 star anise
2 tbsp white mustard seeds
200g caster sugar
2 onions (unpeeled), quartered
1 x 6cm piece ginger (unpeeled), cut into 6 slices
4 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp runny honey
stalks from medium bunch of parsley (optional)
1 10-12lb turkey

remove any string or trussing on your turkey
and remove the giblets (reserve them for the gravy).
stir everything up, then add your turkey to the brine. add more water to cover him if needed.
then cover the bin and keep in a very cold place for up to two days.
i kept him in my fridge, since he'd freeze out on the balcony!

make sure to take the turkey out of the brine about an hour
before you plan to put him in the oven.
wipe him dry with paper towel,
and remove any spices or herb bits that have gotten stuck
under his wings or inside his cavity.
i rinsed him a little to get the stubborn mustard seeds off.
let the turkey stand to come to room temperature.
preheat the oven to 400F, and paint the turkey with a glaze of
75g (about 5 tbsp) goose fat or butter,
plus 3 tbsp maple syrup
(melt together in a sauce pan,
and reserve extra to baste the turkey a few times throughout cooking).
roast for about 2 hrs for a 9-10lb turkey, or 2 1/2 hrs for an 11-12lb turkey.
when you think the turkey's about ready,
pierce him where the body meets the leg and check the juices: they should be clear.
i also checked him with a meat thermometer to be sure.
when he's done, take him out and let him sit under a loose tent of foil for up to 40 minutes.
i found this was just enough time to get the mashed potatoes done on the stovetop
and to bake the stuffing and the carrots in the primed 400F oven.

once everything is ready,
have your husband carve the turkey.
just kidding! you could most definitely do it yourself,
but it was fun to sit back and watch him try to figure out where to cut.

all-spice gravy

i started the gravy as soon as i put the turkey in the oven.
since the turkey was brined, the juices it gives off are too salty to use them exclusively
for gravy, which was great - every time i've tried to make gravy in the past,
i've found it very stressful because i've had to wait until the bird comes out of the oven
before even starting the gravy. i'll definitely be using this method from now on.

giblets from turkey (not including liver)
1 litre water
1 tbsp allspice berries
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 x 4cm stick of cinnamon
1 stick celery, halved
2 carrots, peeled and halved
1 onion (unpeeled), halved
1 tbsp maldon salt or 1/2 tsp table salt
juice of 1 clementine or satsuma (about 60ml), plus pulp from fruit*
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp honey

put all the ingredients, except the flour and honey, into a large pot and bring to a boil.
cover with a lid and simmer gently for 2 hours.
strain the gravy stock (to get all the bits out) into a large measuring jug;
you should have about a litre.
once you take the turkey out of the oven, take 2 tbsp of the turkey's juices
and whisk in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of flour.
put the saucepan on the heat and slowly whisk in the stock and the honey.
let the gravy simmer until it thickens a little
(stirring occasionally)
and the floury taste disappears.

*this is really the most flavourful gravy i've ever tasted,
and i'm delighted with how it turned out.
my only adjustment for next time is to halve the oranges.
i found the gravy a little too orangey for my taste,
so next time i'll use only half an orange, to make about 30ml of juice.

and now, the trimmings:

i chose relatively easy side dishes since i didn't have the usual arsenal
of aunts, grandmas, and my momma bustling around in the kitchen
or bringing sides with them for dinner
(although i have to admit, when my momma told me that gramma was bringing
ambrosia salad to their christmas dinner,
i almost collapsed from jealousy, and nostalgia)
and planned out the prep during the time that the turkey was cooking,
so that i could easily pop everything into the oven or finish it easily on the stovetop
as the turkey was standing under his shiny foil tent.


first, i prepared the
italian sausage stuffing
italian sausage stuffing

2 onions, peeled
3 sticks celery
2 + 2 tbsp olive oil
800 grams italian sausage (i used mild, you could use hot)
4 eggs
500ml chicken stock
500 grams day-or-two old french bread, cut into small cubes
salt to taste
large handful of chopped parsley, to serve

bread for stuffing.

preheat the oven to 400F. toast the french bread cubes for about 10 minutes,
until they are crisp and golden at the edges
(i did this just before putting the turkey in to cook).
chop the onion + celery finely.
put 2 tbsp of oil into a large frying pan and cook the celery and onion
gently for 10-15 minutes until softened.
while they are cooking, squeeze the sausage out of its casings into a bowl.
add the remaining oil to the pan and add the sausage, squishing and stirring it
so that it separates as much as possible, and cook until no longer pink.
grease an ovenproof dish
(i used my pretty new kitchenaid enamelled cast iron dutch oven)
and throw the bread and the sausage mixture in;
mix well with your hands or some spoons.

stuffing, ready for the oven.

just before the turkey comes out of the oven,
whisk together the eggs and chicken stock,
seasoning to taste with salt,
and then pour over the stuffing, stirring well to mix.
let sit for five minutes, then bake for 45 minutes in the hot oven.
it should be crisp and dark golden brown on top.
sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.


maple-glazed carrots
maple-glazed carrots

1 kg carrots, washed well but not peeled
125 ml vegetable oil
80ml (about 5 over-running tbsp) maple syrup


halve the carrots, then slice them into halves or quarters lengthwise,
depending on their thickness...
you want all the carrot strips to be about the same thickness,
so they cook evenly.
throw the carrots into a roasting dish.
pour over the oil and toss to coat,
then drizzle them with the maple syrup.
roast in the oven alongside the stuffing for 20-30 minutes
(put them in after the turkey's been standing for about 15-20 minutes,
to get the timing right)
until the carrots are tender and the maple syrup glaze is sticky and browned.


garlic mashed potatoes
maple-glazed carrots + garlic mashed potatoes

i made these because they are paul's favourite type of potatoes,
and we almost never eat mashed potatoes except for the holidays.
nigella didn't have a recipe for me, so i got out my trusty stand-by, betty crocker.
but mashed potatoes are pretty fool-proof...
ask your potato guy which are the best for mashing, and he'll steer you in the right direction.
i'm lucky to have a guy who picks his own potatoes, and has about 20 varieties!
he sells them every wintry saturday morning at the st. lawrence farmer's market,
and i'm always happiest the weeks that i leave the market
with a bag of dirty, freshly-picked potatoes.
i wanted my potatoes to keep their skins,
because i like the texture that it adds to mashed potatoes,
so i also bought a special potato scrubber to get all that dirt safely off before-hand.

i prepped and boiled the potatoes while the turkey was cooking,
and then did the mashing once the turkey was standing
and the carrots + stuffing were safely in the oven.

2 lbs (about 6 medium) potatoes
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk (i used half almond milk + half lactose-free 1%)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
2 heads of garlic

potatoes, scrubbed.

cover cleaned potatoes with water in a large saucepan.
heat to boiling, then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes
until potatoes are tender. you could add the garlic to the potato pot
and let it boil away to cook,
but i'd rather have my garlic roasted, wouldn't you?
i kept my garlic heads intact, drizzled them lightly with olive oil,
and popped them into the turkey roasting pan for about 30-45 minutes
(the amount of time between two bastings).
then, once the garlic is soft, you can just squeeze it out of the casings
and add it to the mashed up potatoes.
drain potatoes, then shake them in the pot
over low heat to dry (which apparently helps them fluff up better).
mash the potatoes and garlic until no lumps remain.
add the milk in small amounts, until the consistency is to your liking.
add butter, salt and pepper and mash until potatoes
are light and fluffy.
season to taste with more salt and pepper.

christmas dinner

i had a great time spending the afternoon of christmas day
puttering around the kitchen,
and i've vowed to cook next year's christmas turkey
and give my lovely momma a rest for once!

the turkey turned out very flavourful and delightfully crispy,
and everything looked lovely all laid out on our table.
it was truly a christmas feast!

did you cook a turkey for the holidays?
if you did, what secrets do you have to share?

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