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Thanksgiving from the past

I was looking through my pictures and found the origins of my big Thanksgiving extravaganza. I've basically become the Turkey master in my family. Every year, my family comes over to my house to get a taste of my awesomeness.

My first turkey was in 2005. Look how happy I look that I didn't burn the apartment down. As you can see, the turkey was the traditional type, and needless to say, it wasn't that popular.

As soon as this Thanksgiving was over, my family members came forward to tell me how dry the turkey tasted. I did some research and found that stuffing a turkey takes away all the juice, plus it's not that sanitary.

So I vowed that the following year, I'd make the juiciest turkey ever. This got me started on a quest. The internet was full of tips from all over the world to make the most tender, juicy turkey. Everyone thought their idea was the best. So, I combined everything I read into my own special "Juicy turkey" recipe.

For Thanksgiving 2006, I decided to brine the turkey in a zinfandel cranberry apple cider mixture, and cook it in champagne.

First, On Wednesday night, I brined the turkey and set it in a gigantic pot inside the fridge overnight.

On Thursday morning, I got two sticks of butter and sliced little bits of it off and rolled it into balls to stuff it between the skin and the muscle. I then added two cored and halved apples inside the cavity to add more juice. Then I put the entire turkey inside an oven bag and poured a bottle of champagne inside the turkey and inside the bag. I tied up the bag and poked holes at the top because the liquid will boil. You're allowed to put some veggies inside the bag if you'd like. I put some carrots in there but then realized no one ate them.

This is how it came out. if you look closely, you can see the champagne gravy inside the bag. Check out the video below to see how tender the meat turned out!

I can't say much for my brother's carving skills but to his defense, it's pretty difficult to carve a turkey when the meat is falling off the bones.

As for sides, I never forget the basics for our family: garlic cheesy mashed potatoes, bacon pecan stuffing, stir-fried green beans with almonds, bacon wrapped asparagus, coleslaw, corn bread, sherry caramel yams, etc. The stuffing below is one I've been making since 2006 and has been a hit every year.

I also make sure to make a lot of Bolivian side dishes, like empanada de queso (cheese empanadas), sopa de mani (peanut soup), cunape (cheeseballs), and my favorite, the sonso (cheese and yucca casserole, pictured below).

I love cooking but I hate cleaning up. This is how one side of the counter looked last year. The other side was just as bad.

This year, since the economy isn't that great and food prices are freaking high, I've decided to try the dry-brining technique instead of the cranberry zinfandel apple cider brine. I just can't bear to buy all those ingredients for the brine only to throw it all away after the turkey's been chilling in it overnight. I'd rather buy those zinfandels to drink.

On Monday night, I went and got a free-range 15 pound turkey and decided to try the "Judy Bird" technique, which is perfect for this economy as it consists of just kosher salt, turkey, and a bag. I will upload a short video of how I prepared it. Every night, I'll be massaging the salt into the turkey until all the salt disappears and basically the turkey will be brining itself with its own juices. I'm not entirely sure how it works but I'm hoping for the best. I will still be cooking it in champagne though, just in case the brining doesn't work.

If you're a big spender and want to try my compilation for the best juiciest turkey ever, try the following recipe that I found on An awesome recipe!

The Juiciest Turkey Ever.
Brining Ingredients:
    • BRINE:
    • 2 (750 ml) bottles zinfandel
    • 4 cups apple cider
    • 1 pound fresh cranberries
    • 1 cup honey
    • 1 cup kosher salt
    • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
    • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    • 4 sprigs fresh sage
    • 2 sticks cinnamon
Cooking Ingredients:
    • 1 (18-pound) turkey, preferably free-range and hormone free, neck and giblets removed
    • 3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
    • 6 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
    • 3 onions, coarsely chopped
    • 1 stick of butter, cubed
    • 2 apples, cored and halved
    • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 2/3 (750 milliliter) bottle champagne
    To prepare the brine:
    Combine the wine, cider, cranberries, honey, salt, rosemary, peppercorns, sage and cinnamon in a large pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Let the brine boil for about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool and refrigerate until it reaches about 40 degrees.
    Place the turkey in a very large container, then pour the chilled brine over to cover. Refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.
    To roast the turkey:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Remove turkey from the brine and drain well; discard brine.
    Rinse turkey, and pat dry. Gently loosen turkey breast skin, and insert pieces of butter between the skin and breast. Place apples inside the turkey's cavity. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Combine carrots, celery and onions in a roasting pan inside roasting bag. Set turkey on top of the vegetables (do not season turkey with salt and pepper, as the brine has seasoned it).Place turkey on top of the vegetables in a roasting bag, and pour champagne over the inside and outside of the bird. Close bag, and place turkey in a roasting pan. it's best to situate the turkey with the legs up, not breast up, as it takes longer for dark meat to cook than light meat. put foil around the legs though so it doesn't dry up or burn. you can take the foil off in the latter process of the cooking.
    Roast turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees, when measured in the meatiest part of the thigh. tenting it with aluminum foil if it starts to brown too much, about 4 hours.
    Let the turkey rest 5-10 minutes before carving. Carve and serve warm.
Adapted from "Caprial and John's Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking Together," by Caprial and John Pence (Ten Speed Press),


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