As it’s that time of year where summer is going to rest and we celebrate the bounty of harvest with Thanksgiving. The history of Thanksgiving was celebrated long before Europeans settled in North America. With festivals of thanks and celebrations of harvest, the month of October was chosen as the harvest was completed for the year. The very first Thanksgiving celebration in North America took place in Canada when Martin Frobisher, an explorer from England, arrived in Newfoundland in 1578 in his quest for the Northwest Passage. He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival in the New World. Today we celebrate this day to bring friends and family from near and far together. Let’s not forget about the menu as it’s the most comforting meal of the year!
This day does not need to be stressful with some planning ahead. Make your way to the local farmer’s market, grocery store or local farm to see what catches your eye. Garlic, potatoes, squash, carrots, fresh herbs and pumpkins are abundant in our Valley. As for the turkey, this is the highlight of your meal so make it a good one. Local butchers work hard to find free range turkey to bring to their customers and they are worth the few extra dollars you spend for this quality meat. Having your turkey smoked ahead of time is a different taste your guests are sure to love, or brining your turkey ahead of time will save you cooking time.
Your ideal menu will include a drink upon arrival like a Cranberry Apple Sangria or punch, along with some nibbles to keep your guests going while you are finishing up in the kitchen. Keep it simple; a cheese platter, a bowl of spiced roasted nuts, your favourite pate with crackers. For your menu, plan a good balance of vegetables and protein with complimentary flavors. A fabulous salad of fresh greens will add a nice punch of colour to your table filled with roast vegetables like carrots, parsnips, squash, a tasty stuffing, fresh baked bread, gravy. For dessert, I am a fan of apple and pumpkin pie. You can change up your offering to include a cheesecake, flan or tart as opposed to the traditional pie. A fruit plate is a nice addition to help with digestion at the end of the meal along with a smooth port or sherry as you and your guests relax savoring the last flavors of the meal.
The following recipe is a favorite as I love tarragon. It will save you cooking time and will introduce your guests to some new flavours that are beyond delicious!
Tarragon Brined Roast Turkey
• 2 cups (500 g) table salt
• 1 cup (175 g) brown sugar
• 2 bulbs garlic, halved
• 2 Tbsp crushed fennel seeds
• 1/4 cup (20 g) juniper berries
• 1 Tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
• 2 lemons, sliced
• 1 bunch tarragon, plus 1 brunch extra
• 8 bay leaves
• 8 litres water, plus 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) extra
• 1 x 5.5kg turkey
• 150 grams unsalted butter, chopped and softened
• 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. To make the brine, place the salt, sugar, garlic, fennel, juniper, peppercorns, half the lemon slices, tarragon, bay and 1 litre of the water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil.
2. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brining liquid into a large (10-litre-capacity) non-reactive container*. Add the remaining 7 litres of water and stir to combine.
3. Using your hands, carefully loosen the skin of the turkey at the breasts. Tie the legs with kitchen string and tuck the wings underneath.
4. Place the turkey, breast-side down, in the brining liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours (but no longer).
5. Remove the turkey from the container, discarding the brining liquid, and place on a lightly greased wire rack over a deep-sided oven dish.
6. Place the butter, lemon rind and crushed garlic in a small bowl and mix to combine. Carefully spread the butter under the loosened skin of the turkey. Place the remaining lemon and extra tarragon inside the cavity.
7. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Pat the turkey dry with paper towel and brush with the oil. Pour the extra water into the base of the dish. Cover with lightly greased aluminum foil and roast for 1 hour.
8. Uncover and roast for a further 45 minutes or until the skin is golden and the juices run clear when tested with a skewer. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.
* Non-reactive materials include glass, plastic or stainless steel.
Recipe copyright from Donna Hay.