Chef Jess offers brining tips and more for your Thanksgiving bird

It's the day before Thanksgiving and many of you are busy researching recipes and cooking times for the turkey that is hopefully already thawed in your refrigerator. Tomorrow's big meal can bring a great deal of anxiety. Not only are you trying t...

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Brining your turkey ahead of time and a flavorful rub are sure to make this years turkey one to remember! (Photo by Jessica Karley, Accent contributor

It's the day before Thanksgiving and many of you are busy researching recipes and cooking times for the turkey that is hopefully already thawed in your refrigerator. Tomorrow's big meal can bring a great deal of anxiety. Not only are you trying to figure out what to do with 15 to 25 pounds of meat, but there is also usually a pretty elaborate assortment of salads, side dishes and desserts to go along with it.

Everyone has a favorite side, but there is one part of the meal that everyone will remember and is the center of a deep dark fear for most cooks. That, my friends, is the turkey.

I have finally perfected mine. In fact, I always cook an extra large turkey now to make sure I have plenty of "planned-overs." I love to eat cold turkey sandwiches with a little butter and celery salt the next day, but the one dish I look forward to making the most is my Planned-Over Turkey Pot Pie.

It's so rich and creamy that you could have a separate group of guests over for dinner and they will never know that is was leftovers! Because of the richness in the cream sauce, the pot pies pair perfectly with leftover cranberry sauce.

Perfected turkey recipe


The Thanksgiving turkey brings up a lot of memories for many people.

Some years, it's good and others it's so dry that you wish grandma would have made a second gallon of gravy to go with it. (I've even had a few of those turkey jerky birds under my Thanksgiving belt.) Those days have come to an end though. I now have a never-fail turkey recipe that ensures I have a stress-free day.

Several years ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and started brining my turkey the night before. I brine it in a brown sugar/salt solution that is seasoned with vegetable broth, allspice, black pepper corns and candied ginger. If you don't have candied ginger, don't fret. I've had to sub in a teaspoon or two of ground ginger, and it still works great.

I also make a rub that goes underneath the skin of my turkey. It consists of butter, orange zest, fresh sage, rosemary and garlic. By putting this mixture in between the skin and meat of the turkey, you ensure two things. The skin itself will crisp up from the fat in the butter and the delicious flavored butter will slowly seep into the tender turkey and make every bite -- not just the skin -- full of flavor.

I also start the bird out at a very high temperature to "sear" the outside.

I first place the turkey onto a roasting rack in a large pan. To keep the smoke detectors from going off and to get a flavorful start on the gravy, I also add 3/4 bottle of white wine and 2 cups of apple juice or turkey stock to the bottom of the roasting pan.

The apple juice will make the gravy slightly sweet, but I love it. Bake it at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, then remove the browned turkey from the oven and cover only the breast portion using a large piece of tinfoil shaped into a triangle.

Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the bird. Be sure to use one that can stay in the turkey while it is in the oven and drop the oven temperature to 350. I bake my turkey to 170 to ensure ALL areas have come up to the proper temperature.


When starting at the high temperature, my turkeys take anywhere from 10 to 12 minutes per pound. To help keep things stress-free, I always cover my bird with a thick layer of tinfoil and let it rest for 45 minutes before I even call "the carver" to the kitchen.

This will open up for oven space and allow time for all of your sides to bake or for you to finish your mashed potatoes and make the gravy.

Now, you have a guide to making a wonderfully juicy turkey in less than three hours, and no basting, sweating or nail-biting is required.

Karley can be reached at . Read her food blog at

Citrus and Brown Sugar Turkey


2 cups kosher salt

1 cup light brown sugar


2 gallons vegetable stock

3 tablespoons black peppercorns

4 teaspoons allspice berries

3 teaspoons chopped candied ginger

2 gallons heavily iced water

FOR HERB BUTTER (double for a 22- to 26-pound bird)

Butter (about 1 pound)

Garlic, minced (3 cloves)

Brown Sugar (I use 1½ cups dark brown)

Orange Zest and Juice (I use about 2 oranges and the zest and juice from 1)

Fresh Sage Leaves, chopped, about ½ to ¾ cup

Fresh Rosemary, chopped, just a little bit (2 tablespoons)

BUTTER DIRECTIONS: Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. (You can also use a fork -- it will just take more muscle and the time to get it combined evenly.) You can use any ratio you want, but I added my suggested amounts

JESSICA'S TURKEY DIRECTIONS: Combine vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Remove brine from heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

EARLY IN THE DAY OR THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU'D LIKE TO EAT: Combine brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket or cooler. In brine, place thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast-side down. If necessary, weigh down bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine. Place turkey on roasting rack inside a roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels. Trying carefully to not puncture the skin, gently place a thick layer of the herbed butter in between skin and meat of turkey. Get into as many sections as you can, including drumsticks. Pour a combination of apple juice and white wine in the bottom of the pan. I used 3 cups of white wine and 2 cups of apple juice or turkey stock. Roast turkey on lowest level of oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover only the breast portion of the bird with a foil triangle. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of bird (behind the thigh) and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place turkey back in the oven and set thermometer alarm (if available) to 170 degrees. A 14- to 16-pound turkey should require 2 to 2½ hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 30 to 45 minutes before carving. Turkey will still be plenty hot and will allow all of juices to come to rest, making sure that it stays inside of meat instead of running off onto carving board.

Planned-Over Turkey Pot Pie

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups yellow onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup carrots, diced (or the pre-shredded kind works great, too)

1 8-ounce package of sliced mushrooms

2 cups any vegetable you like (small, diced potatoes, corn, peas or broccoli)

2 cups white wine (wine you would drink, not cooking wine)

1 cup turkey broth (if you don't have it, use wine)

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

3 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves.

2 cups pulled turkey, white and dark meat

4 refrigerated pie crusts

3/4 cup cranberry sauce

In medium sauce pan, cook olive oil, onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms over medium heat until tender and cooked through. Add white wine, turkey broth and other vegetables and cover for 5 minutes. Remove cover and let liquid reduce until only ½ cup remains. Add flour. Stir until vegetables are well-coated. Reduce heat to low and let cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Mixture will be thick and want to clump together. Gradually add heavy cream and stir until smooth. Mixture should be the consistency of gravy. If it is not, add more wine, stock or water. Add sage leaves and turkey. Ladle mixture into ramekins. Fill to ½ inch of top. Lay pie crust over top and trim around edges with a knife. (There is no need to form the crust like you would on a dessert pie, but you can. I prefer a more rustic look.) Cut 3 small slits in crust for venting. Place ramekins on baking sheet to catch spills. Bake at 375 for 30 to 40 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Pies will be VERY hot. Be careful and enjoy. Serves 4.

Quick Cranberry Sauce

1 bag cranberries

2 cups water or apple juice

2 cups white sugar

¼ teaspoon each kosher salt, cinnamon, ginger

1/8 teaspoon cloves

Combine all ingredients in medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until berries start to burst and sauce begins to thicken. (About 30 minutes.) Press berries against side of pan with back of spoon. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pot pies
These pot pies might even be a bigger hit than your thanksgiving turkey! Photo by Jessica Karley, Accent contributor

Pot pies
These pot pies might even be a bigger hit than your thanksgiving turkey! Photo by Jessica Karley, Accent contributor

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