Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. You may have guessed Christmas just because of the influx of glitter and Andy Williams songs, but alas it is Turkey Day that has my heart. I have such fond memories of days spent in the kitchen with several generations of family preparing a meal for guests with thankful hearts. In the past, this holiday has been celebrated on the blog with DIY decor, a game plan for beginner hosts, and even a Charlie Brown style spread. But this year, we’re doing something extra special!
I’m calling this series Stories from the Kitchen, and I’ve asked friends from around the country (& the interwebs) to share a favorite Thanksgiving recipe as well as the story behind it. The food we serve, especially around the holidays, always seems to have a little history–why not share!
To kick things off: this lovely lady! Meet Jess Marcum, a kindred spirit who currently resides in California with her handsome husband and two little girls. (Go look at their Halloween costumes right now; we’ll wait.) I have read Jess’s blog for long enough now that I have no idea when I started, but I feel like we were destined to be friends. Jess helped me discover the magic of apples & brie on crusty bread, shared the hot fudge recipe that has saved more than one Saturday night, and, like me, believes fresh flowers on bookshelves can brighten even the gloomiest day. The picture above was taken at the Marcums’ annual Fall Feast, which I confess has occupied my Pinterest boards (and brain) ever since–isn’t it just lovely? When I sent her an email about this little project, I was so thrilled when she said Yes! So without further ado, here’s Jess’ story…
My father in law is famous for his hazing tactics. Hazing that is, for new members of the family. The stories my brothers in law could tell! My oldest brother in law once had to hand squeeze orange juice for the whole family (10 people in total). Needless to say I was nervous about entering the family, but as it turned out he was really quite civil to me. There were jokes made about his son marrying up, I even got a few hugs, it was quite a comfortable experience.
Then came my first Thanksgiving with the in laws….less than a year after we were married. The dish assignments went out and I was landed with the turkey. THE TURKEY. It was in this moment that I realized he hadn’t let me off the hook, he was just biding his time for something good.
Let me just back up and say that first, my father in law is a top notch chef in his own right and second, I had never cooked any kind of whole bird in my life. The pressure was on. To say I was stressed would be an understatement, but luckily my dear old father in law did provide me with a recipe to go off of, bless him. I soaked the bird in Pioneer Woman’s turkey brine the night before and did a buttery maple syrup glaze to roast (I can’t remember where this recipe came from, I’ve done it so many times since I’ve probably completely changed it anyway).
I really have to thank my father in law for this experience (I can only say that because the bird turned out beautifully), being in charge of the turkey completely cured me of my fear of cooking whole birds and gave me my go-to turkey recipe for years to come! I make this at least twice a year, I’m one of those people who have to have “leftover” turkey sandwiches more often than the week after Thanksgiving, they’re kind of my jam. So without further adieu…the recipe.
Crisp Maple Glazed Roast Turkey
1 whole turkey
1 stick of salted butter softened
1 1/2 cups grade B pure maple syrup (I love the Trader Joe’s brand)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. Wash your bird and remove the gizzard and any fun packages your butcher left in the cavity for you. (Set aside if you want to make gravy.)
Set the bird out at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pat her dry with paper towels then set in your roasting pan. While she’s sitting melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the maple syrup, cook on medium heat and let it come to a simmer. Reduce heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Baste the bird in the syrup reduction and salt and pepper liberally (make sure to get the syrup in all the crevices). Make a tin foil tent over her and stick her in the pre heated oven.
Continue to baste every 30 minutes until her internal temperature reads 155 degrees. (If your syrup solidifies just heat it up again.) Then remove the tin foil and cook on the middle rack until her breast temperature reaches 165 degrees.
A viola! A very yummy turkey! I should mention that I only do the brine on special occasions….like Thanksgiving. Normally I leave out the brine entirely and I’ve found it tastes just fine, so that’s your call!
some bonus recipes…
maple turkey gravy:
fill a pot with water and boil down the gizzard of the turkey
put the turkey drippings in a sauce pan (first, skim off the fat) and add the gizzard water and flour until it reaches your desired consistency (whisking constantly)
salt and pepper to taste
left over turkey sandwiches:
toasted whole wheat bread
apples slices sprinkled with cinnamon