Not Quite Zen

{But Working On It}

Just a modern day momma trying to find the balance between life's craziness and zen, with a little bit of fun along the way.

Finding What's Right For You

Remarkable. That's Me.

Many people look at me, I wonder what they see. Do they see a woman, a wife, Or a simple mother of three? A remarkable being, Is what I hope to be. I’m not built like a model, Or as tall as a tree. But I am as rare as a gem As sweet as a honey bee. I am a remarkable woman, My loved ones would agree. It’s the love that I give, The hugs they receive. The food that I cook. And the goals I help them achieve. I am classy, intelligent, Ambitious and sexy. I am charismatic, creative, Selfless, and sometimes cheeky. When people look at me, I already know what they see They see a remarkable woman, a dutiful wife, And a wonderful mother of three.

The Center of Your Own Universe

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey...Meet the Levy family (Caribbean culture meets American tradition)

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I turn there is some cooking special about Thanksgiving.  So here is my contribution...

For the past few years, we have spent Thanksgiving with my husbands family. Being that he is Jamaican, and I am Puerto Rican, our dinners are usually very different from your traditional Thanksgiving dinners.  In our cultures, we really don’t fuss over a turkey.  

Hispanics usually cook a roast pork butt.  Come to think of it, no matter what the holiday or celebration, there will be a roast pork butt cooking in the oven. The closest we get to a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas meal is a baked honey ham. Sometimes you get the classic turkey. Growing up I remember looking forward more for the pernil than the turkey. From what I understand, my husbands family never cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving.  They just cooked a variety of their island food and that was that.  

Since I have a family of my own now, I wanted to start a tradition. We will cook our traditional ethnic foods, but the TURKEY will be the center piece. So, ever since then, I have been in charge of the Thanksgiving turkey, in addition to my famous rice and stuffing.  

Ok, now for the main event. The turkey. It is by far the best turkey I have had. EVER. Now, I know what you must be thinking. I am only saying this because I cook it. But no, seriously. This turkey is so delicious. My secret...BRINING.  Yep, you read correctly. I can’t believe I just let it out. If you haven’t tried brining your turkey before cooking, you are seriously missing out on the juiciest, most flavorful turkey you would have ever eaten in your life. I always thought that basting was the secret to a succulent turkey. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Now, I will tell you that this process does take some time. But trust me when I say, it is well worth the effort.

Here is a recipe from Alton Brown Good Eats (This is what I used with some tweaks here and there):

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil


If using a frozen turkey, make sure to thaw it out in time.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

The night before you are cooking the turkey, combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the cleaned, thawed turkey (don’t forget to take the innards out) breast side down in brine. Make sure the bird is fully immersed.  If you have a cooler that is big enough, place the bucket inside until you are ready to cook.  I usually just set it aside somewhere making sure it will be undisturbed.  I add extra ice throughout the night so that the bird remains cool.  Don’t worry about any bacteria breeding.  The brine has enough salt to kill all that nasty stuff. Half way through the brining process, I turn the bird so that the legs are at the bottom and the breast is now at the top.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (yes, I know this sounds high, just do it). Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes has passed, take the bird out the oven (it should look nice and brown) and place a piece of oiled aluminum foil over the breast leaving it covered for the remainder of the cooking time.  This will ensure that the breast does not overcook and dry out (I told you this is a long process). Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. For a 14 to 16 pound bird, it should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving.

Note: the turkey drippings may be a little salty due to brining.  So keep that in mind if you want to use it to make gravy.

Original recipe courtesy Alton Brown, also featured in Food Network Magazine

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