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Gobble it up

There are meals when only turkey with all the trimmings will do

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Photo: Dennis Evans

Recipes Featured In This Article

Clare’s Turkey

Sometimes Clare only wraps a bit of bacon around the end of the legs so they don’t dry o...

Spanish Green Beans

These beans are a colourful addition to any turkey dinner. Add a bit of crisped pancetta o...

Cranberries in Port

Everyone has a favourite cranberry recipe. A generous amount of Port adds a unique dimensi...

Turnip Puff

Turnip Puff pairs well with turkey and is a sure crowd-pleaser. Plus this local crop is av...

Turkey dinner is as much an event as a meal—the planning, the preparation, the aroma, all leading to that moment when you triumphantly carry the large, golden turkey from the oven.

Clare Costello, general manager of Victoria’s Historic Inn in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, is known among family, friends, and colleagues for making an impressive turkey at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and sometimes Easter. “It brings people together, with good thoughts of family and gratitude,” says Costello.

Her preferred method is to wrap the turkey in an entire package of bacon, especially over boney parts like the end of the legs. The bacon gives the gravy a smoked flavour and you can eat the turkey-flavoured bacon. Although the skin gets stuck to the bacon, the meat will be tender and moist.

It also provides additional flavour for basting. Costello bastes every 40 minutes. “I set a timer,” she says. “I take my turkeys seriously.”

Before roasting, she sprinkles the turkey with rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper (see recipe on page 52). “I talk to my turkey,” she confesses with a chuckle. “’You’re such a beauty. Look at you.’ I think that encourages it on the way in.”

Summer savoury is the essential ingredient in her Potato, Bread, and Sausage Stuffing (see recipe on page 53). She usually cooks it separately from the turkey, adding in turkey juices. And brown sugar is the ideal finishing touch on Oven-Roasted Carrots in Brown-Sugar Glaze (see recipe on page 53).

Halifax home-chef Sharon Fraser has her favourite dishes too. She enjoys “tarting up” her mashed potatoes with fresh herbs or chives. A delicious Turnip Puff (see recipe on page 54) highlights local root vegetables, while Cranberries in Port (also on page 54) is a novel twist on an essential accompaniment.

“You want [the meal] to be the way it’s always been,” says Fraser. “I stick to tradition, but I branch out a bit.” She barbecued pork and beef regularly, and thought, “Why not do a turkey?”

She sears it on the hot side of the barbecue to brown it, and then moves it to the unheated side. She brushes on melted butter, lemon juice, and summer savoury, and sometimes slides lemon slices and garlic under the turkey skin. The most effective barbecue for turkey is one with room for a pan under the rack to catch drippings.

Overcooked turkey is a common sin, and the worst. Fraser says she thinks the turkey cooks faster on the barbecue, but she relies on her meat thermometer for the final verdict. “Because I’m in and out so often I can tell how it’s doing,” she says.

“It’s kind of fun to put my oven mitts on and go outside to make the turkey,” she says. “It adds a little bit of excitement to the turkey and maybe it tastes better.”

Plus, she says, adding wood chips to the barbecue lends the turkey a smokey flavour.

Her husband, Dan O’Connor, brines their turkey first. O’Connor advises using a bucket, picnic cooler, or canning pot. Determine how much water you’ll need to cover the turkey. In a measuring cup stir together about 15 ml (1 Tbsp) each of salt and brown sugar for each litre (4 cups) of water.

“I go by sight; I want it to be brown, not pale, but not a deep brown either,” advises O’Connor. “I keep adding brine until the bird is covered with just enough room for gentle rocking as we place it in a cool spot to sit overnight.”

Brining is certainly more work, but believers say it ensures a moist turkey.

Whatever your preference, turkey dinner is worth the effort. For Costello it’s that sense of togetherness that matters most. She recalls the time she cooked two turkeys for a large gathering.

“I was overwhelmed,” she says. “I looked up and thought of all the reasons why these people came into my life. It was time to reflect and realize how grateful we are to be one more year round the table.”