Thanksgiving has always been a very special holiday in my family. Our celebrations, always wonderful, still left my sisters and I yearning for the day we could go into Manhattan to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade. When my niece was just 4 years old, we decided this was the year to start going to the parade and that I should prepare the Thanksgiving meal in my city apartment. I was frightened at the thought of cooking this meal. So, I decided to buy a semi prepared meal from a great caterer. The turkey still needed to be cooked in the oven. Unfortunately, I didn’t really think the logistics through. The caterer was in midtown Manhattan and my apartment was in Queens. The caterer was not delivering , it was pick up only. I did not think about the boxes or how big they might be, or what if there was bad weather, or how much space I might need to actually need to cook or heat up the entire meal. So when Thanksgiving morning arrived, it was snowing- hard. In fact, I think it was the most snow I had ever seen for Thanksgiving. My family was coming into Queens from Long Island, we quickly ditched our plan to see the Thanksgiving Day parade. Now we just hoped that the roads would be clear later in the day to travel. I went to the caterer with a friend ( at least I had the presence of mind to not go to the caterer alone) to pick up the meal. It was three enormous cartons of food. We somehow got the boxes out onto the street slipping and sliding in the snow trying to hail a cab. If you are not from New York, let me share with you that cab drivers are not very happy with a fare to Queens, especially in the snow. Finally, I was able to plea with a driver to take me and the boxes to Queens. Naively, I thought the worse part of my day was over. It was just beginning. The directions to complete the meal were long and needed a much bigger kitchen than my little narrow gallery kitchen. I did, finally, manage to complete the meal but not all at the same time. The final vote from the family was the meal was ok, but I could make a much better one on my own. Lesson learned. I have been making the Thanksgiving meal ever since, whether it was in my Manhattan apartment or by the bay. Either way, I want to share my easy recipes for making a successful Thanksgiving meal – starting with my roasted honey herb turkey, always tender because it’s brined the night before! This turkey has big fresh and bright flavor from the lemons and herbs. It’s simple to prepare and delicious and moist. Give it a try!
From by the bay, wishing you the happiest Thanksgiving and fond food memories!
Check in for more Thanksgiving blogs on gravy, side dishes, desserts and leftovers!
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Honey Herb Roasted Turkey
1 16-18 lb. turkey, preferably organic
16 cups cold water , or more to cover turkey
8 cups chicken stock
1 cup fine sea salt
1 cup fine granulated sugar
3 lemons , quartered
3 sprigs fresh thyme
6 springs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 bouquet garni
1 cup honey
2 onions , peeled and quartered
3 sprigs sage leaves
To roast turkey
1 lemon, quartered
1 bunch fresh sage leaves
1 bunch fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fine grey sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
8 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup honey
Prepare brine by combining water, sea salt, honey, sugar, onions, rosemary, thyme, bouquet garni and peppercorns. Cut 2 lemons into wedges, squeezing juice of lemons into the brine along with the wedges and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Clean turkey with cold water removing any giblets and or neck. Keep giblets and neck in the refrigerator to use later for gravy base. Place turkey and brine into a resealable plastic bag or into a large non reactive bowl covered with plastic wrap. The turkey should be covered with the brine, if not add more water. Refrigerate over night. The next day remove turkey 40 minutes before planning to place into the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degress F. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels inside and out. Season the turkey cavity with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice into the cavity and add the quarters along with rosemary and sage. Tie turkey legs together and place into roasting pan. In a small sauce pan melt butter and honey together on a low heat. Use this to baste turkey once before placing into the oven. Roast the turkey at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes then lower the oven to 350 degrees F. For an 18 lb. turkey cooking time will be approximately 3 hours. Use a meat thermometer to check that the meat registers 175 degrees F at its thickest part of the thigh. Baste the turkey about every 30 minutes with the butter and honey mixture. If the turkey browns too quickly tent that part with aluminum foil. When ready, remove from the oven. Take turkey from the roasting pan and place on a cutting board to rest before carving, at least 20 minutes. If you are serving later then 20 minutes from removing from oven tent turkey with aluminum foil until ready to serve.