Thanksgiving: A Dickens tale

Kysha Harris | 11/21/2012, 2:20 p.m.

'Twas the week before Thanksgiving and all through the kitchen,

Not a recipe was stirring and the family was kvetchin' (Yiddish for complaining).

So you tuck into sleep 'cause you can't stop your stressin',

But you are soon awakened by the clatter of the ghosts of recipes past, future and present.

First up: The Ghost of Recipes Past.

For the past couple of years, I have offered a recipe for brining your turkey for 24 hours before you cook it. The results are an aromatic and moist bird on your table. For an 18-20 pound bird (giblets removed), you will need the following:

7 quarts (28 cups) water

1 1/2 cups coarse salt

6 bay leaves

3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds

1 bottle dry white wine

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 bunch fresh rosemary

You can adjust the quantities for the size of your bird. Just take care that it is submerged in the brine and refrigerated for 24 hours. Remove bird from the brine; pat dry and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before cooking. Season liberally inside and out with kosher salt and fresh, cracked black pepper.

Now, you can cook your turkey as you normally would (times vary depending on size the of the bird, but I start with the oven preheated at 450 degrees for 30 minutes and reduce to 350 degrees for the remainder). If you are interested in the cheesecloth method with the butter and wine basting liquid, please e-mail me at my address below.

Next, to disturb your dreams is the Ghost of Recipes Present:

This year, I will take all of the aromatics from the brine and the butter from the basting liquid from the Ghost of Recipes Past and put them under the skin and in the bird. The great thing about this recipe from Ina Garten is that it uses compound butter--simply take softened, unsalted butter and flavor it with the herbs, spices or aromatics of your choosing. Ina's is truffle butter! How decadent!

1 (12 to 14-pound) fresh turkey, with giblets removed

3 ounces white truffle butter (or your compound butter), at room temperature

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large bunch fresh thyme

1 large onion, unpeeled and cut in eighths

1 whole head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise

Good olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Drain juices from the turkey and place it on a flat rack in a large, shallow roasting pan. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Working from the large cavity end, gently run your fingers between the skin and the meat to loosen the skin, taking care not to tear the skin. (Be careful not to do this with rings on your fingers!) Place the softened compound butter under the skin and gently massage the skin to spread the butter evenly over the whole breast.

Sprinkle the cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place half of the thyme sprigs in the cavity, along with the onion and garlic. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tie one length of string around the bird and the wings to keep the wings close to the body.