Monday, October 24, 2011

A BATF Thanksgiving: The Turkey Recipe

We decided to do something a little different with this blog for the holiday season and rather than posting our monthly recipe, we will post a series of Thanksgiving-worthy recipes leading up to the big day on November 24.

But of course we had to try these delicious dishes first -- so Thanksgiving came a little early for the Beauties this year. During our girls spa/foodie retreat earlier this month, we each brought a dish (or two) to the dinner table resulting in an all-too-filling-but-amazing Thanksgiving dinner. Emily and Amber photographed the whole thing and we all agreed to do a blog post about our findings.

Now I would never in a bazillion-gazillion years sign up to do the turkey. I really wouldn't. Alas, I came across a turkey recipe I have to make for work, if you can believe it. The short story is the recipe is going in a work newsletter sponsored by Butterball. So I thought if there's ever a time in my life to try a turkey, I should do it with my Beauties. There's nothing like having six girls around to help me figure it out.

I signed up to cook the turkey and was immediately struck with fear and regret. Thankfully, throughout the 1,386 emails that flew around between us, I discovered a couple of these girls have cooked a turkey! Oh happy day! And, without further ado, I have to give credit to Amber and Rachel who guided my virgin hand in the process of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.

Amber helped me clean the turkey which is what I dreaded most. Fortunately, this particular Costco bird was pretty clean already so we just pulled out the bagged gizzard, rinsed the inside, cut off some excess skin and we were good to go. 2 for 2.

Rachel and Emily then added a new word to my culinary language: brine. We brined that bird the night before in a Home Depot paint bucket with the word BRINE scribbled on it in permanent ink -- 'cause that's how we roll. In it we put a couple gallons of water, enough to immerse the bird. In the water mixture was about two cups of salt and whatever spices we had available: rosemary, oregano, basil, lemon wedges and whole garlic heads. It marinated overnight, soaking up that yummy salty juice to give us a tender and flavorful bird.

When the bird was ready to cook, Amber helped me load it onto her roasting pan and put it in the oven. I cooked it at 350 instead of 325 and watched it carefully to make sure it didn't brown too fast. Well, turns out I needn't worry about over-browning: As Amber and I were standing over our bird oohing and aahing at our pre-mature success halfway thru cooking time, Rachel happened to wander by with a questioning look and asked us if the bird was breast side up. With little but forced confidence, we both said yes only to learn we really don't know what breast side up looks like. 2 for 3.

The result of our mistake made for about an hour longer cooking time but I was still on track to serve it up before bed time. Okay well before bed time.

Now I have to back track a bit to my small part in this whole turkey process. The day before, I made the rub. I was excited because I picked the fresh herbs from my garden. Tho I have to admit, as I was chopping herbs and wondering what in the world is dry ground lemon peel, the thought crossed my mind, "I could just cheat and go buy a rub in a fancy, little jar." Once a cheater...

But I made that rub from scratch, taking no shortcuts whatsoever. And tho it is a small piece of this turkey cooking process, it makes for BIG results. This mediterranean rub recipe will not only fill your house with the smell of goodness on Thanksgiving day, it makes the bird pretty and oh OHHH so flavorful! I feel bad for you who has to slice this turkey as it tempts you for just another bite.... (I'm such a sucker.)

If you have not yet discovered your best turkey recipe or want to try something new, this is the one for you. Good luck -- tho I don't think you'll need it.


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Yield: 12 servings


1 Turkey (14 to 16 pounds), thawed if frozen
1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
¼ cup ground dry lemon peel (I messed this up and used chopped lemon zest instead -- totally worked)
4 tsp sugar, granulated
4 tsp sea salt
4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp dry oregano leaves
2 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes


1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Remove neck and giblets from turkey. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Turn wings back to hold neck skin against back of turkey. Place turkey breast side up on flat rack in shallow roasting pan.

3. Roast turkey approximately 1-1/2 hours. Then, cover breast loosely with Reynolds Wrap® Aluminum Foil to prevent overcooking.
4. While turkey is cooking, combine parsley, lemon peel, sugar, salt and spices to make rub. Set aside.
5. Roast turkey another 1-1/2 hours, or until meat thermometer reaches 180°F when inserted into the deepest part of the thigh muscle.

6. Let turkey stand 15 minutes before carving.

7. Sprinkle rub on sliced Butterball Turkey or rub over entire turkey when it is removed from the oven.

NOTE: Recommend using rub within 24 hours for best results. Amber poured orange juice in the roasting pan and stuffed a whole orange inside the turkey which I'm told contributes to its moist and awesome flavor. Since the turkey was awesome I have to agree! 

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Brine spices
Brine-master Emily
Oh baby...just how this turkey likes it.
Some of this turkey did make it to the dinner table.


  1. This was seriously one of the best turkeys I’ve ever tasted – Missy you rocked it! I’m already signed up to make the Mediterranean rub for our family Thanksgiving. And if you don’t like the idea of flying by the seat of your pants when it comes to a brine (some people just prefer exact ingredients and measurements!) the Pioneer Woman’s brine is always a success:

  2. Missy, this post made me laugh out loud several times. I agree with Emily, it really was the best Turkey ever! Plus, I think cooking it breast side down the first half made it more delicious ;)

  3. Brining is always a good call! I've tried many different brine recipes and they always turn out great. Looking forward to the rest of your recipes for Thanksgiving!

  4. I agree, the breast side down cooking was what made it so yummy!!!

  5. I have a question about stuffing the turkey with an orange for moisture. Do you peel it or not?

  6. Hi Jamie, The girls just tucked a whole, unpeeled, orange into the cavity. That was the easy way to do it, but I'm sure peeled would be delicious as well!

  7. Loved this recipe! I hope I get some turkey this good for real Thanksgiving.

  8. What a beautiful turkey! The rub sounds amazing! Great job on your first turkey!!