Here we go everybody…

Pimiento Cheese Ball

Chilled Pineapple Apple Cider

Balsamic-Browned Butter Asparagus

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Big Fat Crescent Rolls

Reesy Rolls (One Hour Yeast Rolls)

The Best and Easiest Cranberry Sauce I’ve Ever Had. (Come back on Monday for the recipe!)

Mashed Potatoes

Parmesan Potato Gratin

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Blackberry Pie

Chocolate Honey Chiffon Pie

and last but certainly not least…

Here she is! My first-ever turkey! Specifically Apple-Cider Brined Turkey. It’s gooooooood. It’s not sweet, like you might think the apple cider would make it. Just awesome. We won’t talk about the fact that I thought the neck was the giblets and consequently found the whole bag of them as I was carving the cooked turkey. Or that I ripped the skin on the breast in a huge way while trying to flip the turkey with tongs. (Don’t try that. It doesn’t work.)

See? You barely notice the tear if you dress it up a little!

Or that my probe thermometer was broken so when I took my “finished” turkey out the first time it was only at 135˚ (i.e. completely raw) when my friend arrived 10 minutes later with a working thermometer. Or that I said to Eric at one point, after some tense turkey moments, “I am probably the worst person in the world to cook with huh?” to which he responded, “Definitely not. I haven’t cooked with everyone in the world.”

Apple-Cider Brined Turkey with Savory Herb Gravy

Source: Cooking Light

8 cups apple cider
2/3 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon whole allspice, coarsely crushed (I used 1 Tbs pre-ground)
8 (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled fresh ginger
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves

1 (12-pound) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
2 oranges, quartered
6 cups ice

Remaining ingredients:
4 garlic cloves
4 sage leaves
4 thyme sprigs
4 parsley sprigs
1 onion, quartered
1 or 2 (14-ounce) can chicken broth (fat free works great)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

Note: You will also need kitchen twine, several twist ties, 2 turkey-size oven bags, a decent oven thermometer, and a roasting pan with a rack. I don’t have a roasting pan and don’t have the space to store one, so I bought a disposable pan. Since I didn’t have a rack, I used this awesome trick of crumpling up several 12 inch squares of aluminum foil and placing the turkey on that. If you don’t raise your turkey up on something, it will get soggy in the juices. One more thing, this is important: Step 1 of the gravy recipe can be completed ahead of time. Do it at the same time you prepare the brine (the day before you cook the turkey), you will thank yourself later!

1. To prepare brine, combine first 8 ingredients (through bay leaves) in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

Eric and I could not stop laughing at this picture. “Help me!!! I’m just an innocent little orange-eating Star Wars monster!”

2. Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve for Savory Herb Gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters.

Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag. Add cider mixture and ice. (I couldn’t fit that much ice. Didn’t seem to matter). Secure bags with several twist ties, or kitchen twine works too. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Important: This is a good time to do step 1 on the gravy below.

3. When you are ready to cook your turkey the next day, preheat oven to 500º.

4. Remove turkey from bags, and discard brine, orange quarters, and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. With the turkey breast side up, lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. (I read this 12 times and it still meant nothing to me. This is a good video that shows you how to tuck wings.) Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, onion, and broth in the bottom of a roasting pan.

Here’s my “roasting rack.”

Place roasting rack in pan (or arrange aluminum). Arrange turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack. Brush turkey back with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500º for 30 minutes. Should be nice and brown on top.

5. Reduce oven temperature to 350º.

6. Remove turkey from oven. Carefully turn turkey over (breast side up) using tongs. (Tongs?? Good luck. I just used oven mitts and threw them in the wash.) Brush turkey breast with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Check the juice level in the pan; you want to have plenty. I added another half can of broth at this point.

7. Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 170º (make sure not to touch bone). (Shield the turkey with foil if it browns too quickly.) Remove turkey from oven; let stand 20 minutes. Reserve pan drippings for Savory Herb Gravy. Serve turkey with gravy. (If you have never carved a turkey, Alton Brown has a great tutorial.)

Savory Herb Gravy

Source: Cooking Light

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Reserved turkey neck and giblets
4 cups water
6 black peppercorns
4 parsley sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 yellow onion, unpeeled and quartered
1 carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 bay leaf

Reserved turkey drippings
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
cornstarch, maybe

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add turkey neck and giblets; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Add water and next 7 ingredients (through bay leaf); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups (about 1 hour). Strain through a colander over a bowl, reserving cooking liquid and turkey neck. Discard remaining solids. Chill cooking liquid completely. Skim fat from surface, and discard. Remove meat from neck; finely chop meat. Discard neck bone. Add neck meat to cooking liquid.

2. After you have cooked the turkey, strain the reserved turkey drippings through a colander over a shallow bowl; discard solids. Place strained drippings in freezer for 20 minutes. Skim fat from surface; discard.

3. Place flour in a medium saucepan; add 1/4 cup cooking liquid, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add remaining cooking liquid, turkey drippings, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. (This makes a pretty thin gravy. I added 1 teaspoon of cornstarch: in a small bowl whisk together however much cornstarch you want, along with some of your too-thin gravy. Whisk it up real good, then return to the gravy pot. Bring to a boil again, then let simmer til it’s thick. Add more as needed.)

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  1. I love apple cider and I love turkey too! It’s nice to know that I can combine two of my favorites in one recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I made your cranberry sauce, blackberry pie, turkey and gravy – everyone loved all of them! I heard extra good things about the turkey and gravy, really moist and flavorful. I think I have to acknowledge the superiority of brining! One thing I’d suggest is to make the brine the day before – or at least a few hours before you need it. I failed to notice the ‘completely cool before using’ instruction and had to use the freezer & delay sticking the bird in the brine – tho I cheated and put in in when it was lukewarm :) Thanks for posting awesome recipes!

    1. Good tip! I’m always bad about reading recipes all the way through. I’m so glad everything turned out!!

  3. Be jealous fellow blog readers! I got to eat dinner with Karen, and we used many of the yummy recipes above. A truly memorable meal! I’m sure I’ll lose the weight soon….

  4. Just so you know, I’ve forgotten the giblet bag more than once. I’m not telling you how many times more than once, because I still want you to respect me.

    1. I cook a lot and everything, but raw meat still gives me the heebie jeebies, especially when I can identify the shape of the animal, like a turkey. (I’m just grateful I will never have any overly-identifiable beef in my kitchen. I don’t think I could handle it.) So I try to get it done as quickly as possible, with my eyes closed when necessary. This might not be the last time I miss the giblet bag.

  5. This is the Moreno family turkey. I just counted- we have been making it for eight years and I will never make any other turkey.

  6. I forgot to mention when I was there: I throw caution (or health) to the wind when I roast my turkey. I soften one stick (8 tablespoons, 1/2 Cup, 1/4 pound, whatever measurement you want to go by) and add fresh or dried parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage, as well as some crushed (or minced, if I don’t crush it) garlic or garlic powder. I don’t measure, just until it smells herb-y and delicious. You can also zest an orange or lemon into this if you’re feeling frisky. Half of this I carefully rub under the skin, directly on the turkey breast meat (sometimes the butter re-solidifies on my hands which is kind of gross), then take the other half and rub all over the turkey. I would suggest doing this after you’ve placed your turkey in your pan, as carrying a large, buttered turkey across a room is not recommended, as I quickly learned the first time I did this. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of bleach involved in the kitchen that Thanksgiving. It stays moist, you get the crispy skin from cooking liberally with butter, and there is plenty of fat–er, I mean, juices– in the bottom of the pan when it’s done. But if you like having clear arteries, or actually pay attention to that thing called “cholesterol levels,” that probably isn’t the choice for you.

    That being said, we have enjoyed the turkey pieces I stole from you. They were delicious with my hazelnut-sausage-sage stuffing and spicy cranberry sauce. It’s like having Thanksgiving a week early!

    1. I really wish I could see you carrying a buttered up raw turkey across your kitchen. Rather, I wish I could see you drop it.

      1. Turkey Skittering Across the Kitchen- am I the only one who hears a song when I say that? We had a close variation of this turkey for T-day, and it was awesome :)

  7. Karen, your turkey is beautiful! (inspite of the little mishap with the giblet bag – everyone’s done that at least once I’m sure.) I’m so impressed. I know, for sure, that my first turkey was not hear as delicious looking and trimmed out as yours, and probably not hear as delicious either. I can smell it just looking at it! Way to go!

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