Oh he’s thankful, alright… for PIE!!
Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  This story is proof positive that you can throw a dinner party 18 hours after confirming the date/time and still get a decent night’s rest.  I loved that part… the whole in-bed-before-1030 part.  I was tired.  I was still tired the next day, so there are photos missing from our adventure that which bothers me, but I guess I’ll survive.  I’m going to give you a little run down of how I did our day, our menu and then share the recipes throughout the week.  I realized that I don’t cook turkey’s nearly often enough so at some point I’ll do another so I can have a cooked bird photo for you!
Swoon… I just love my turkey: bacon, rum and Ohio maple syrup… it doesn’t get much better!
Maple-Rum Glazed Turkey (recipe below)
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Brussel sprouts
Roasted sweet potato slices (made for Sylvia so she could participate)
Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie (Recipe from here.  Go there right now and make it.  You’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.  I promise.)
I purchased our turkey on Thursday night.  I knew I wasn’t scheduled to entertain this week, but I really, really wanted to cook a turkey because people like the Pioneer Woman were posting these recipes for the turkey leftovers that motivated me enough to go to the store at 830 at night to find a turkey.  It was the smallest of the turkeys that didn’t have anything extra (preservatives, colorants, etc.) and it still weighed 17.33 pounds.  And it was frozen solid.  
The pretty brine, pre-turkey
Friday afternoon, we confirmed our lunch date for noon on Saturday.  I had the turkey in the fridge, but didn’t get a chance to actually start thawing it until around 5.  I followed instructions I found online to “emergency” thawing a turkey.  Every time I changed the water over the next 5 hours, I reminded myself that this is why I like to plan ahead: so I’m not wrestling a giant, half-frozen bird to drain the sink and washing my hands up to my elbows 27 times.  Once the turkey was almost completely thawed, we put it in for a last soak in the sink and I set up the brine.  I’ve made 3 turkeys and brined all 3.  I will probably never do one without one.  My brine consists of: 1 cup coarse salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. ginger, 2 tsp. whole peppercorns, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 gallon chicken stock and water.  We have a small cooler that is the perfect size to put a turkey on it’s side and fill with the brine.  First, I put in the chicken broth and then the bird.  Then, I sprinkle in the salt, sugar and spices.  Finally, I put in enough water to cover the whole bird, shifting it around so that the whole cavity is filled with the mixture.  We put the lid on and then stored it in the garage.  It was below freezing out over night, but since everything was in the cooler, I wasn’t worried.  Alton Brown did an episode on brining and just left his on the “back porch”.  I don’t.  There are too many wild animals around here to risk something like that the night before we have company.  I should also note that I made the pumpkin pie and the mashed potatoes the night before while I was waiting for the turkey to thaw and had a tart pan prepped with crust for the Maple Cream pie.  And I was in bed at 1015.
The pretty brine, with turkey
The next morning, I got up and made the Cream Pie and prepped the turkey while the pie was cooking.  My turkey is a little different that other people’s in that I swaddle it in bacon.   I know.  I’m all about the healthy foods and then I go and do something like that?!  Just stay with me for a minute.  I put the bacon slices on the body of the bird and then also on the legs.  I then throw some onions, parsley, salt, pepper and any extra bacon I feel like into the cavity of the bird.  The next step is to heave a roaster with the bacon covered turkey into the oven and cook it at 500 degrees for 45 minutes.  Then, I take it out (rather, Matt takes it out), cover it in foil and lower the heat to 350.  I put the bird in the oven at about 945, lowered the temperature around 1030 and went to take a shower.
The bacon swaddle
Around 11, I returned to the kitchen, showered, relaxed, hair and makeup done.  I got the mashed potatoes out of the fridge and diced up a loaf of French bread for my stuffing.  Once the bread was diced, I spread it on a baking sheet and popped it into the oven on the rack below the turkey.  I spent the next 15 minutes, getting the rest of my stuffing ready (recipe tomorrow), cleaning up what I could, setting the table and prepping the glaze for the turkey.  We took the turkey out of the oven at 1130 (temperature reading 168 degrees).  I removed the foil and the bacon.  The bacon gets set aside for the dogs… they should get to celebrate too!  The turkey is almost fully cooked, but has no color.  To remedy this, I spread on my glaze which consists of equal parts dark rum and maple syrup.  I usually start with 1/3 a cup of each and see where that gets me.  I covered the turkey with the glaze and then popped it back in the oven for 10 minutes.  I glazed it again and returned it for another 10 minutes.  By then the temperature was 175 degrees and considering that the internal temperature would continue to rise, I skipped the 3rd glazing in favor of not having a dry bird and took it out to rest.  It was about 1150, so I put the stuffing, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese in the oven.  
My little half pint post mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes and stuffing.  We’re big into the tactile experiences in this kitchen.
I fed Sylvia and was ready to carve the turkey by the time my in-laws got to the house.  We served lunch officially around 1, but only because it took forever to carve the giant bird and get the kids set up.  The turkey was amazing.  The bacon and tin foil serve to keep the meat moist while flavoring it.  The turkey wasn’t as dark as it has been in the past, but only because it cooked a little faster than I had anticipated.  We all ate until we were stuffed and yet I wasn’t tired enough of the turkey a few hours later when I made myself a turkey sandwich on some leftover French bread.  We had a wonderful day and was able to relax and enjoy the time with our children and my in-laws.  Of course, my kitchen still looks like a bomb went off in it, but it was well worth the mess.  After, it is our family and these moments we are most grateful for, isn’t it?

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