she's not martha

the not-so-perfect adventures of a wife, twin mommy (times 2), and general spaz in the kitchen and craft room

The Perfect Turkey, Homemade Crackers, Cheese Ball, and Thanksgiving Art

on November 20, 2012

Only TWO more days until Thanksgiving! The excitement is palpable around here. Oh, I love Thanksgiving so much! It’s the perfect holiday…it’s all about family, food, and slowing down for a bit to give thanks for all the blessings around us.

The star of any Thanksgiving table is the turkey. It should really be something to be excited about, not this culinary enigma that seems to strike fear in so many. By prepping the bird with tastiness before it even goes into the oven, you can be almost guaranteed a winning outcome. Our perfect turkey begins with giving the birdie a brine bath overnight in a brine (salt) solution, rub a compound butter under the skin and on top, toss it in the oven with a few veggies to flavor the gravy later, and that’s basically it. It’s not complicated or scary, and the end result is a moist and flavor-full turkey. Here’s our roast turkey with citrus pan gravy:

Turkey Brine - This mixture is good for turkeys up to 25 pounds Ingredients

2 cups Kosher salt

1 cup sugar

2 oz. (about 3/4 cup) dried orange rind

1 oz. (about 1/4 cup) dried lemon peel

1/4 cup dried rosemary

1/4 cup mixed peppercorns (black, green, white, pink)

1/4 cup dried thyme

1/4 cup dried sage

3 T. chicken stock granules (I had granules, but you could use 3 chicken bouillon cubes)

10 dried bay leaves, torn into smaller pieces

Directions

Mix all ingredients together well. Boil 1 gallon of water and brine mixture over high heat. Allow mixture to cool completely. Place turkey in a large brining bag (if you don’t have one, you can use a clean, “kitchen”-sized trash bag). I picked mine up at Williams-Sonoma. The large bag measures 23 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches.

Pour in cooled brine mixture and add an additional 1 1/2 gallons of cold water. Seal bag very well and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Before roasting, remove turkey and rinse with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

Compound Butter - there’s that sneaky Charlotte hand again :) Ingredients - this amount will work for a bird around 20 pounds

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

zest of two oranges (after zesting, save the oranges for the gravy – wrap them in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the fridge)

5-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves minced

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, or in the bowl of a mixer, combine all ingredients and mix well.

Prepare the turkey.

Make sure to remove the giblet bag from the turkey’s cavity. Place the neck in a saucepan with 6 cups of water and simmer while the turkey is roasting in the oven.

Working from the tail end of the turkey, gently slide your fingers between the skin and flesh on the breast, legs and as much of the thighs as you can. Next, slide your fingers between the skin and breast of the turkey rom the neck end. Spread about half of the butter mixture under the skin and over the meat on the turkey breast, legs, and thighs. Spread remaining butter all over the outside of the skin.

To roast your turkey, it will depend on the size of the bird and your oven. I roast mine in a roasting pan at 325 degrees using a convection feature and a meat thermometer. (Last year’s turkey (unstuffed) weighed 22 pounds and roasted for 2 1/2 hours. Again, the cooking time will depend on your oven and size of the bird. The best way to know when it’s ready is to watch it’s temperature.) I take the bird out when the temperature in the thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees. Let it rest on a platter or a pan, covered in foil, for about 30 minutes before you carve it. Halfway through the roasting time, add a couple of yellow onions, quartered, the two oranges, quartered, and 6 carrots, chopped into large chunks to the roasting pan.

Citrus Pan Gravy

Ingredients

Turkey “stock” made from simmering the turkey neck

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup cornstarch

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Pour the contents of the roasting pan into a fat separator or a strainer set over a large bowl, pressing hard on the vegetables with the back of a large spoon to extract all the liquid. Spoon off as much fat as possible from the liquid, or if in a fat separator, just pour off the liquid. Transfer liquid to a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat and simmer briskly for 5 minutes. Add turkey stock (you may not need all of the stock, start with half and add more if needed).

In a small bowl or a container with a tight-fitting lid, stir (or shake) together the orange juice and cornstarch to make a slurry. Gradually add the slurry into the simmering gravy. Cook until the gravy thickens, 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Place turkey on a large platter and garnish with sprigs of rosemary and sage, and orange slices.

Homemade Crackers

What?! Homemade crackers, you say? Yes! Make them in small batches, they’re quick and easy, tastier than those store-bought ones, and they make a great hostess gift if you are going to enjoy dinner as a guest. I’ve adapted these recipes from an article in an old Martha Stewart Living magazine from November 1997. Nerd alert: yep, I’ve kept them all this time, arranged by month in a bookcase in my basement. There. It’s out in the open now. I feel better.

Ok, so crackers. Arrange them artfully on a platter with a cheese ball or assortment of cheeses, or package them in a beautiful container, thoughtfully wrapped as a gift. Either way, they’re fun to make and even more fun to eat! Here we go…

Simple White Crackers

Ingredients

1 cup flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 t. table salt

1 t. sugar

1 T. unsalted butter, cut up

1/3 cup plus 1 T. milk

Kosher salt for sprinkling

Directions

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse flour, table salt, and sugar. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, gradually add the milk; process until the dough comes together.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a sheet 1/16 of an inch thick. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, roll to gently press the salt into the dough. Cut dough into 2 1/2-inch squares; carefully transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Liberally pierce with a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until just brown and firm to the touch. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Mixed-Herb Swatches

Ingredients

1 cup flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 t. table salt

1/4 t. ground pepper

2 T. fresh chives, coarsely chopped

1 T. fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (or 1 t. dried)

1 T. fresh oregano, coarsely chopped (or 1 t. dried)

4 T. cold, unsalted butter cut up

1/4 cup sour cream

Kosher salt for sprinkling

Directions

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse flour, table salt, pepper, and herbs. Add butter, pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, add sour cream, process until the dough comes together.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 2 equal parts. Roll out into 10 x 12-inch sheets, 1/8-inch thick. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, roll to gently press salt into dough. Using a crimping wheel or fluted square cookie cutter, cut dough into 2 1/2-inch swatches. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pierce swatches liberally with a fork. Bake 12-14 minutes, until swatches are just brown and feel firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Cheddar-Pecan Flowers

Ingredients

1/2 cup flour, plus more for dusting

3/4 cup (2 1/2 oz.) finely ground pecans

1/2 t. table salt

1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

1/4 t. cayenne (or less if you’re feelin’ less feisty)

2 T. cold, unsalted butter, cut up

1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Kosher salt for sprinkling

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor pulse flour, pecans, table salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add butter, pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese and pulse until pieces are no longer visible. With machine running, gradually add 2 T. of cold water, process until dough comes together.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 2 equal parts. Roll out each into a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Cut dough into 2 1/2-inch flower shapes. Bake for 15 minutes, until centers are firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Sesame Rounds

Ingredients

1 cup flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 t. table salt

1/8 t. ground pepper

1 t. freshly grated lemon zest

pinch cayenne

2 T. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 t. dried)

3 T. sesame seeds, divided

2 T. unsalted butter, cut up

1 egg white

Kosher salt for sprinkling

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse flour, table salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, thyme, and 2 T. of the sesame seeds. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, add 1/4 cup cold water. Process until the dough comes together.

Transfer to a floured surface, divide dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2-inch circles and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush egg white over rounds and sprinkle with remaining T. of sesame seeds and Kosher salt. Bake 20-25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Let cool on wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Cranberry Chutney Cheese Ball

With all of those tasty crackers you just created, you need something to bring it all together. Try this on for size: a cranberry chutney cheese ball. It’s a great way to enjoy some of that cranberry chutney.  This is a great appetizer for Thanksgiving and fits well right into all those Christmas parties, too.

Ingredients

16 oz. (2 packages) cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup cranberry chutney

1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, white and green parts

1 medium clove garlic, minced

8 oz. Colby/Jack cheese, shredded

salt and pepper, to taste

1-1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Directions

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the cream cheese, chutney, scallions, and garlic. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Add shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture in half and form each into a ball. Roll balls in pecans. Garnish with crackers and sliced Granny Smith apples.

Thanksgiving Art

Of course, as you know, I have a penchant for artwork made from our kids’ little hands and feet. This week we made Mayflower pictures. Their little paws make just the perfect Mayflower. Add some scenery and sails and you’re in business. Easy breezy with Tempera paint, cotton balls, construction paper, and glue.

Next up, we made pinecone turkeys for placecard holders.

I don’t have a finished picture of these yet (we still need to add the faces and the placecards, of course). But the turkey body part is a cinch. Pour white glue into the crevices towards the back of the pinecone, add feathers to your liking. Allow to dry on waxed or parchment paper. Add a head with tiny googly eyes and beak towards the front and add the placecard in the middle of the pinecone.

Finally, here are two of my favorite turkeys modeling their turkey shirts and Thanksgiving can-can skirts.

I downloaded the pattern from a fabulous site called danamadeit.com. The girls love their new twirly skirts and I will definitely be making more.

From our gang of turkeys to yours, we wish you the very happiest of Thanksgivings. There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. May your holiday be filled with the warmth and fellowship of family and friends, the fruits of a bountiful harvest, and a grateful heart. Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble Gobble! :)

Tara


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SouleMama

the not-so-perfect adventures of a wife, twin mommy (times 2), and general spaz in the kitchen and craft room

the not-so-perfect adventures of a wife, twin mommy (times 2), and general spaz in the kitchen and craft room

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the not-so-perfect adventures of a wife, twin mommy (times 2), and general spaz in the kitchen and craft room

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the not-so-perfect adventures of a wife, twin mommy (times 2), and general spaz in the kitchen and craft room

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