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Chef Biju Thomas is co-author of the Feed Zone trio of cookbooks and a lifelong cyclist. VeloNews and Outside+ members get full access to not only his recipes, but to ask the chef himself for a personal recipe. Submit a cooking challenge to Chef Biju on Instagram.
Once again Thanksgiving has snuck up on us, and is here in just a few hours. I hope you’re ready. I hope you have all the sides and desserts and stories you promised to bring this year, but just in case you aren’t ready… here are a few last-minute cooking tips for a delicious turkey and stuffing.
How to brine a frozen turkey
If you are less than 12 hours from turkey time, and suddenly at the grocery holding a frozen, rock hard bird in a bag, then you must get home and brine this soon-to-be-legendary turkey.
Basically, you will make a sugar and salt solution with some whole dried bay leaves and peppercorns, and anything else that sounds good. Submerge the frozen turkey into a large pot or bucket with just enough cold solution to cover, set in the fridge and let it thaw overnight. Then, thoroughly shake off the water, pat dry the skin, let it sit out for an hour before going into the oven (follow your favorite roasting recipe) and you will have a lovely, delicious, not frozen turkey for your dinner. You are welcome!
Brining works best when using a fresh, not frozen turkey or chicken, but if you’re reading this today then most likely that ship has sailed and we will brine to safely and quickly thaw your turkey. Check the package as most frozen turkeys will have some salt solution added which means the drippin’s will be a bit on the salty side. Just sample a bit before making gravy or using for any other dishes. Finally, brined turkeys tend to cook a bit faster, so make sure to check the internal temperature about 30 minutes sooner than you normally would. Brined turkeys are great just above 150 degrees when checked at the thickest part of meat.
Brine: buy packaged brine mixes in the spice aisle, follow directions
Homemade Brine Recipe: 1 gallon water to 1 cup coarse salt, dissolve over low heat.
- Add in a few sprigs of any fresh herbs you like; Bay leaves, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Parsley, or a tablespoon of poultry seasoning. About a tablespoon each if using dry
- Add in a tablespoon of peppercorns
- 2 cups of pineapple, orange or apple juice
- Place turkey in large bowl or pot, pour salt solution and enough cold water to cover. Set into fridge for at least 12 hours, or til thawed
How to make delicious stuffing
You can do better than the store-bought stuff in a box. For instance, here’s a delicious cheesy cauliflower recipe from our friends at Better Nutrition. But go nuts, make your own, as this is the best way to start a holiday tradition that is very much your own.
Stuffings, dressings, bread puddings, and bread salads (panzanella) are filling and delicious last-minute meals throughout the year. So why not practice on your family this holiday season? It’s Thanksgiving and they have to say nice things; it’s the law.
Classic stuffing starts with dry bread cubes. Save up bread scraps and pieces each week, and use on the weekends throughout the year. Add in sauteed onions, garlic, celery and some poultry seasoning, drizzle some olive oil or butter and just enough stock to wet the bread mixture, scrape some cheese over, and put it into the oven until it sets.
Poultry seasoning is vegan, and depending on the blend will have a mix of sage, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper along with a good amount of ground celery seeds. It can make any dish feel warm and homey, especially if you’re stuck in a cold and wet hostel somewhere in Belgium.
Fun-fact: leftover stuffing slightly warmed up can make any post-training meal just a bit warmer. And who doesn’t want that over the winter months ahead?
- 4 cups dry bread cubes
- 1 large onion minced
- 1 cup celery minced
- 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (vegan)
- ¼ cup fresh minced parsley
- veg or chicken stock
- 2 eggs beaten (optional)
- Olive Oil or butter to saute
- Begin by sautéing celery and onions until soft in just enough oil or butter to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Fold in poultry seasoning and minced parsley along with any dried herbs you like. Marjoram and Thyme are great.
- Remove from heat, let cool and add in beaten eggs, or skip if keeping vegan. Adding will give a nice creamy finish and hold it all together. But it will taste great without.
- Blend this mixture into dry bread cubes, then layer into an oven safe dish, slowly drizzle just enough stock to wet the bread.
- Bake at 350 degrees, til the top is golden brown, and inside has setup to how you like, about 45 minutes.