thanksgiving + turkey



to the tune of Adele’s “Hello”.  Click here and press play

Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to eat
To go over… everything
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much blogging

Hello, can you hear me
I’m in New Jersey dreaming about who I used to be
When I was younger and WP savvy
I’ve forgotten how it felt when I would share a recipe

There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles

Hello from the other side
I must have cooked a thousand times … (without a post)
(And I’m here) To tell you I’m sorry for the lack of blogging I’ve done
And when I post today, I hope you’ll be home

 So, Adele’s song is what came to mind when I was brainstorming about how to start this post.  A sort of virtual “hello” from afar and nod to an old partner after years of not talking.  How better to start a conversation than a simple, “hello”? [ Sidenote:  I decided to do everyone a favor and not post the accompanying audio file of me singing this à la cruising-solo-in-the-car style.  You’re welcome.]

The truth is, I didn’t really know how to come back to this blog after a four+ year hiatus.  How do I pick it up when so much (and so little) has happened without a magnanimous excuse for stopping KarmaCucina.  I thought about a fresh start – a new site; a new name; a new mission.  I thought about not coming back altogether.  Let’s be real – In 2017, the world doesn’t really need another food blogger.

But, I’m here.  I didn’t have the heart to take down the site and all the stories I documented within it.  And, I miss it.  I miss the photos, the recipes, and the journaling of that glorious intersection where life meets food.  In the medium term, my personal Instagram has kind of been the answer to sharing what’s going on in my kitchen.  Yet, it’s not as fun to limit myself to an iPhone snap and a brief description.

So, I’m here.  And I look forward to touching on how my life and cooking have evolved over the past few years in future posts.  Two kids in the mix – yes, a second one came along – and my approach has become a bit more sensible (‘…no reason to purchase the market bread anymore when she’s made it this easy and delicious…’  Queue the eyeroll.  Who is this childless food blogger?), yet remains rooted in my “home cooking-whole foods” philosophy.

Please bear with me as I get back into the swing of things…  And try not to judge the photos in this post as harshly as I am.  This comeback was not part of the plan when I haphazardly took these snaps with my iPhone.  Had I known KC was rising, the Nikon would have come out to play : )

Last, but not least, a huge shoutout to my friend and fellow blogger, Kate at A Happimess Life.  Your drive to begin your own blog was an inspiration for me to revive mine.   Thank you

Today’s post contains the answers to the questions you may have been asking yourself all week.  I had the opportunity to have a dry run earlier this month at our annual Friendsgiving get together.  Joe and I were up for hosting and I was tasked with answering these questions.  I spent several midnights sitting in bed doing dark web turkey research on my iPhone and feeling overwhelmed.  Fortunately, I was able to tap my mom and aunt for some general info along with what I found on food forums and sites such as Epicurious, Serious Eats, and Bon Appetit. Who knew there were so many ways to approach this curious looking bird?  There’s dry brining, wet brining, no brining, frying, spatch-cocking, make-ahead, and probably 100 other ways to prepare a turkey.  I had a hard time settling on one approach, so I put together my own sort of FrankenTurkey. I always find comfort and consistency in Ina Garten’s recipes, but I also know wet brining has worked well for my mom through the years.  SO, today I bring you, brIna Garten’s Thanksgiving Turkey.  I combined a brining recipe with Ina’s buttery-herby preparation and said a few prayers that this would work out.  Fortunately, it did and some even said it was the moistest turkey they ever had.  I cannot honestly say it was solely attributable to the butter rubdown I gave it or the brining bath it took beforehand.  Maybe there was some synergy in the two?  In any case, this is my turkey story and I’m sticking to it.  I hope that you and your loved ones have a beautiful and delicious holiday.  Wear some pants that give you an option for that second piece of pie and take a look at the faces around your table – these are among the greatest things to be thankful for.
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Those burning questions:

  • How am I going to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving when I’ve never done it before?  You’re going to follow the instructions below.  And, breathe.  That makes everything better.
  • What does the timeline look like?  Start your menu and shopping list a week and a half to two weeks out.   If buying a frozen bird, grab ASAP, so you’re not struggling to find what you want at the last minute.  If going for a freshy, buy it on Tuesday.  In either case, make and cool the brine Tuesday morning and plan to give that bird a brine bath Tuesday afternoon.  Remove somewhere between 24-36 hours later.
  • What size turkey is best for my crowd?  Word on the street, is 1lb of turkey per person, but ratchet that up to 1.5-2 lbs/person if you have big eaters or want plenty of leftovers.
    If the bird is frozen, when should I start thawing?  
    Fun little thawing calculator here
  • How do I make gravy? You can get fancy and use the neck and giblets to make homemade stock as a base, but keep it simple and enjoy your company.  Hold onto those precious pan drippings and follow the instructions below.  And, don’t you dare buy any powdered/jarred nonsense.  Blasphemy!
  • Should I just cater it?  No.  This is legit easy and most of the “work” is done in the days leading up to the holiday.  I actually was shocked at how much I was able to mingle and how little food prep needed to be done on “game day”.  Cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes, apple pie, and various other items could be prepared the day before, so turkey day was pretty much smooth sailing.
  • Why did we offer to host?  JK on this last one… kind of.

Turkey day resources:

Epicurious Turkey Recipes and Tips
Love everything about this page, but my favorite part is the table that goes over the various cooking times based upon temperature and weight.  If you look at Ina’s recipe, you may notice it calls for a relatively small bird.  This helped me recalibrate for a bigger bird and crowd.
Serious Eats – The Food Lab’s Definitive Guide to Buying, Prepping, Cooking, and Carving Your Holiday Turkey
USDA Turkey Basics

brina garten’s turkey
Based on Bon Appetit’s Simple Turkey Brine and Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Turkey*

for up to 16 lb bird

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 carrot, peeled, diced
1 large onion, peeled, diced
1/4 cup diced celery
2 large sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
Brine bag

Bring salt, sugar, and 4 cups water to a boil in a very large (16-qt.) pot, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Turn off heat. Add remaining ingredients to brine base. Refrigerate, uncovered, until cold.  Add 6 quarts cold water to pot*. Add turkey. Place a plate on top of turkey to keep submerged. Cover; chill for up to 36 hours** 72 hours.

Remove turkey from brine bath.  Rinse it well with cold water and pat it very dry with towels on the inside and out.  Position it on a roasting rack and loosely cover with plastic wrap in the fridge to dry it out overnight.  Dry poultry skin makes crispy poultry skin.

*I used a brine bag inside of the large pot to be safe and protect my fridge from potentially harmful bacteria-laden turkey brine/juice drippings   At this point, I transferred the brine concentrate to the brine bag and then added the 6 quarts of cold water.
**The recipe called for 72 hours, but nearly everywhere else I looked in my wet brining research, I found warnings not to brine a bird for more than 24 hours, lest it could become too salty and spongy.   I decided to take a chance and pull it out early, knowing that the bird was headed for butter Shangri-La under Ina’s approach.

Thanksgiving Day
1 16lb brined turkey (see above)
2 sticks of salted butter, softened at room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
One lemon, zested and quartered
2 onions, quartered
2 garlic bulbs, halved crosswise
Several thyme sprigs
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Extra lite olive oil

1-2 quarts of turkey stock
6 oz white wine
Extra light olive oil for basting


***Watch Inas video and follow her lead.  Be sure not to use/reference the instructions as written on the Food Network website for this particular recipe because they do not correspond with the correct ones in the video.  Thank goodness for a slew of people noting this in their reviews.  It saved me a major embarrassment on the big day.

Take out the turkey one hour before you plan to pop into the oven.  Remember to allow 20-30 minutes of resting/gravy making post oven when you back into your timing calculation.

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine softened butter, fresh chopped thyme leaves and lemon zest in a medium bowl.  Massage half of the herbed butter in between the skin and breast as shown in video.  Rub other half all over the outside of chicken.  I was able to get half of the softened butter on the outside skin but it didn’t spread well like in the video, so I melted the remaining herbed butter and brushed it on.  Stuff the cavity with the garlic, onions, lemon quarters, and a few sprigs of thyme.  Truss as shown in the video.  Sprinkle the outside lightly with kosher salt and pepper.  Put the bird on a roasting rack and pan and place it in the oven.  Keep the oven door shut!

Baste with light olive oil after an hour.  At this point, insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast to monitor doneness.  Add stock to drippings as you go to keep them from burning checking about once an hour.  Cook until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F.  My turkey was perfectly done in 3 hours and 25 minutes, but we all know every oven runs differently and those moments when you open the oven door can make a difference.

Remove the turkey from the oven and transfer it to a wooden cutting board.  Promptly cover the turkey with foil and a couple of layers of kitchen towels to lock in the heat.   Let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put roasting pan sans rack on the stove.  All that should remain in here is your glorious drippings.  Add any remaining turkey stock and white wine to the drippings in the roasting pan.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain solids out and return remaining liquid to small saucepan.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Take out 1/2 cup of liquid and mix with a few tablespoons of cornstarch.  Add cornstarch mixture back to gravy and simmer until thickened.  If thicker consistency is desired, repeat cornstarch mixture process.

Carve turkey and serve with gravy.  Pat yourself on the back.



6 Responses to “thanksgiving + turkey”

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  1. Melissa says:

    Well hello to you! Welcome back! So excited for you and to hear all that you have to share with us!!

  2. Millie Baldasare says:

    Hi Alyssa!!
    Welcome back 🙂

  3. Samantha says:

    HI! So nice to see you back in my inbox – I just wanted to tell you I saw this right before thanksgiving and decided to do my turkey this way – it came out AMAZING, my turkey was a hit! i will always use this recipe from now on. Thanks for posting! <3 I always enjoy your blog.


    • KarmaCucina says:

      Samantha – That is so great to hear! I’m glad you enjoyed your turkey and holiday. Thank you so much for following along and letting me in your kitchen : )

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