Island Cooking: Now we’re talkin’ turkey – and stuffing

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! To me this is the official start of the holiday season – and that gives me total freedom to eat anything I want for at least a good two months without feeling guilty. Not that I don’t eat a lot through the year, but I try to be a little bit better about it sometimes.

At my house for Thanksgiving we always roast a turkey because that’s our favorite, but I’m definitely not very creative about it. I basically just oil it and season it, stuff it with our favorite stuffing and roast it in the oven. So this year I thought I would check out some different seasoning recipes for our roasted turkey, or possibly even brine it beforehand, since everyone I’ve talked to says it’s really great that way. I love deep-fried turkeys but that won’t be happening since I don’t have a fryer. So roasting again it is.

We also love stuffing, and I have always stuffed the bird but so many people say this isn’t good but I just can’t give it up. So I think I might make two types of stuffing this year – one in the bird and then try out a new recipe to be baked in a pan in the oven. These are the recipes I’ve narrowed my choices down to.

But as usual, before we start cooking it’s time for a Thanksgiving cocktail. It’s for the adults when you add alcohol, and for the kids without it.

Homemade Eggnog

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup white sugar plus 1 Tbsp.

1 pint whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

3 oz. bourbon

1 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg

4 egg whites

In a bowl in a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are light and creamy and lightened in color. Gradually add your sugar and continue to beat until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon (if using) and nutmeg and mix together.

In a separate bowl, whip your egg whites into soft peaks then add your tablespoon of sugar and mix until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture; chill and serve!

Citrus Brine for Turkey

(This makes a gallon of brine but you can double it if you need more)

1 gallon of water

1 cup salt (or 1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)

3/4 cup white sugar

1 lemon

1 orange

1 onion cut in thick slices

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 bay leaves

1 Tbsp. dried thyme

Bring four cups of the water to a low boil in a large saucepan. Add salt, sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Cut lemon and orange in to eighths.

Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer about 30 minutes. Pour into a large pot and add remaining cold water and refrigerate until completely cool. Place your turkey and brine into a large plastic container. Keep refrigerated. Brine turkey one hour per pound. Thoroughly rinse brine from turkey before cooking.

Rosemary Roasted Turkey

This recipe is for a 12-pound turkey, but you can double it for a much larger one.

3/4 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. each kosher salt and ground black pepper

In a bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, basil, Italian seasoning, pepper and salt. Set aside.

Wash and pat dry the turkey inside and out. Loosen the skin from the breast by slowly working your fingers between the breast and the skin and work it loose to the end of the drumstick.

Using your hand, spread generous amounts of the rosemary mixture under the breast skin and down the thigh and leg. Rub the remaining rosemary mixture over the outside of the breast. Use toothpicks to seal skin over any exposed breast meat.

Place your turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Add about one-fourth inch of water to bottom of pan. Roast in a preheated oven for 3 to 4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 180. Let the bird rest 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Enjoy.

For inside the turkey I’m going to make my usual chorizo stuffing. But for the stuffing that I’m baking in the pan I want to try a new recipe that I saw on TV.

Cornbread Stuffing with Pancetta, Apples and Mushrooms

(Pioneer Woman Recipe)

For a smaller batch, just cut ingredients in half.

4 cups cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 cups French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 cups crusty artisan bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

32 ounces of white button or crimini mushrooms

4 Tbsp. canola oil

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

2 cups diced onion

5 Granny Smith apples, cut into large dice

1/2 lb. pancetta, diced

5 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup wine

32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth

1 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, minced

Freshly ground pepper minced fresh parsley leaves

Allow all the cubes of bread to sit out for several hours or even overnight, until dried out.

When ready to make stuffing, preheat oven to 500.

Wash mushrooms and dry with paper towels. Toss in a bowl with canola oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt; mushrooms will be very coated. Divide mushrooms between two sheet pans and roast in upper half of the oven for at least 20 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting. Remove from oven when they are deep brown; set aside.

Reduce oven to 375.

In a large skillet, cook pancetta over medium high heat until fat is rendered and pancetta is golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add onions to rendered fat and brown for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add apples, brown sugar, and a half teaspoon of salt. Cook until deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Decrease heat back to medium and pour in the wine; stir and cook to reduce the liquid by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the apple/onion mixture into a bowl and set aside and return the skillet to medium heat again and add chicken broth, thyme, turmeric, rosemary, the remaining half teaspoon salt and pepper and heat for a few minutes then set aside.

Add the bread to a large bowl then add browned pancetta, mushrooms and apples and onion mixture. Next add the broth mixture gradually as you toss the ingredients. Use as much of the broth liquid to your taste. Check your seasonings and add the parsley. Pour into a large baking dish and bake until golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes.

And here’s a recipe for chorizo stuffing, too.

Moist and Savory Chorizo Stuffing

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

1 large onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

1 14-oz. package of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned stuffing

1 tsp. garlic powder

Pepper to taste

1 chorizo sausage crumbled and browned

Heat broth, black pepper, celery and onions in a 3-quart saucepan over medium high heat to a boil. Reduce to low and cover; cook for 5 minutes or until veggies are tender. Remove from heat and add stuffing and chorizo and mix lightly.

Note: if stuffing seems too dry, add more broth to moisten it. At this time you can put it in your turkey, or put it into a greased baking dish and bake covered at 350 for about 30 minutes until nice and hot. If you like a crunchier top, bake uncovered.

Feel free to add and change this recipe by adding mushrooms or sausages, cranberries whatever your preferences may be.

Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving with your favorite foods !

Send me all your favorite recipes at [email protected].

For more arts & entertainment news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.

Holly Simason

Columnist at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander cooking columnist Holly Simason is co-author of the mystery series “Death of a Kitchen Diva." Simason has collaborated with her screenwriter brother Rick Copp for the Bar Harbor-based series. The books are written under the pen name Lee Hollis.