My Thanksgiving wish? A better photograph of the magnificent turkey that I've been making for the past six years.
If I posted the one that I snapped from my (not-so-great) Android smartphone from Thanksgiving 2012, no one would continue reading this post. Not pretty. And I'm usually so busy getting dinner ready that it doesn't occur to me to stop for a moment and snap a food-porn image for Facebook posterity.
Instead, I'll run the image from the cover of Saveur magazine, November 2007, which featured a you-can't-believe-how-amazing-this-is recipe for the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey. Wait, doesn't that sound like a food magazine cover blurb: "THE ULTIMATE THANKSGIVING TURKEY'?
Truth to tell, that's exactly what it is. Naturally, it's the handiwork of Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the gilded-voiced center of The Splendid Table universe. Her recipe (find it here) goes to considerable pains to insert flavor -- in this case, the tail end of apple season -- into turkey, which, if we are honest with ourselves, is not exactly the most flavorful of animal proteins.
Most of that autumn apple goodness materializes via an overnight brine, one that's composed of pureed apples and apple cider. Rossetto Kasper balances the fruit's sweetness with plenty of garlic and chile powder, then finishes with fragrant basil. A third nod to apples comes in the form of apple brandy, a building block for a remarkably robust gravy.
Prior to embracing the Lynne Rossetto Kasper Path to Thanksgiving Enlightenment, I'd never brined a turkey. Now I can't imagine our Thanksgiving turkey any other way. This is one sublimely juicy bird, and the various complementary notes sneak into each bite in a nuanced chorus of whispers rather than shouts.
Another bonus: This is one great-looking Thanksgiving table centerpiece, glowing with a crisp, deeply browned, caramelized skin (photo, above, from Saveur and photographer Landon Nordeman). My suggestion is that you show it off to your guests (what cook doesn't like to hear oohs and aahs?) before carving it, if a tableside knife show isn't part of your itinerary.
The multi-step recipe may seem daunting at first. But persevere. It's detailed, yes. But complicated? No. Just make sure you read it carefully, several times, and several days before starting. After going through it once, first-hand, you'll understand its inherent logic and simplicity.
I'll admit that I cheat with the gravy (don't tell Lynne) by dispensing with the whole making-the-broth routine. Although it's not a terribly time consuming step in the process, I prefer to channel my limited time into other cooking tasks.
I buy it. Not from the supermarket, but from Clancey's Meats & Fish in Linden Hills. Not only Clancey's version a far more convenient alternative than preparing it myself, but the deeply flavorful results are better than anything I could hope to make, not only for gravy, but for basting the stuffing.
Another Thanksgiving tradition? Buying our turkey at Clancey's, which owner Kristen Tombers imports from Wild Acres Game Farm in Pequot Lakes, Minn. It's a superior-quality product, and since the turkey is the sun around which the Thanksgiving solar system revolves, the splurge, price-wise, is more than worth the investment.
One last suggestion: While you're preparing this awe-inspiring turkey on Thursday, tune into "Turkey Confidential," Rossetto Kasper's annual live (and entertaining) Thanksgiving Q&A, with guests Michael Pollan, Mario Batali, Ted Allen, Alexandra Guarnaschelli and Pati Jinich. Catch it from 10 a.m. to noon on Minnesota Public Radio. In the Twin Cities, find it on KNOW, 91.1 FM, or listen to the program's live-stream.