Thanksgiving is almost here: How's your menu planning and wine shopping shaping up? Last week we covered side dishes and California Chardonnays; this week it's turkey, the main event. We've got a recipe for a brined, stuffed and roasted turkey that's both classic and delicious, and a new idea for the leftover-turkey sandwiches that will get you through the holiday weekend. And, because no holiday table is complete without both red and white wines, we've put together a list of outstanding and very good recently rated California Pinot Noirs, priced at $36 or less, with a balance of fruit, spice and herb to complement the holiday's traditional flavors.
Brining the holiday bird came into vogue in the past 10 years; far from a passing trend, it's a tried-and-true method for a moist, juicy and flavorful turkey. The hardest part is finding enough refrigerator space for a 5-gallon container the night before Thanksgiving.
For the brine:
• 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
• 3 cups dark brown sugar
• 2 cups honey
• 1/2 bunch parsley (about 20 sprigs)
• 1/2 bunch thyme (about 20 sprigs)
• 1/2 bunch sage (about 10 sprigs)
• 2 sprigs rosemary
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
• 2 bay leaves
• 3 lemons, cut in half
• 2 1/2 gallons boiling water
• 1 14-pound turkey
Combine all ingredients except the boiling water in a 5-gallon, heat-proof container that is large enough to hold the turkey. Pour the boiling water over the brine ingredients and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight.
For roasting the turkey:
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Basic bread stuffing (recipe below)
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
2. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with cold water. Season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper, lightly spoon the stuffing into both cavities, tie the legs together to hold in the stuffing, and brush the skin with the butter.
3. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 3 hours, turning once or twice during the cooking process to ensure even cooking. Serves 8 to 10.For the stuffing:
1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Increase the heat to high and add the onion. Sauté about 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until onions just start to turn brown. Lower the heat, if needed, to prevent burning. Scrape the onions into a large mixing bowl. Put another 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan, add the celery and cook, stirring periodically, until it just starts to turn brown. Add to the onions.
2. Meanwhile, put the chicken broth in a small bowl. Lightly dip slices of bread into the broth. Squeeze out the excess moisture, then crumble the bread into the large mixing bowl with the cooked celery and onion. Season with the sage, parsley, salt and pepper, and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Place the pan used for cooking the celery and onions back over medium-high heat. Add half of the remaining butter. When the butter stops sizzling, add half of the stuffing. Cook, turning every few minutes with a spatula, until the bread stuffing is lightly toasted. Lower the heat if needed to prevent burning. Remove to a bowl, and then repeat with the second batch. Allow stuffing to cool.
Leftovers are an inevitable part of Thanksgiving. Turkey sandwiches on toasted white bread with mayo, lettuce and tomato can be nice, but if you're in the mood for something a bit spicier, try a barbecue pulled-turkey sandwich. You can use any barbecue sauce you prefer, be it bottled or homemade. We like the following recipe for its smoky, meaty taste, courtesy of a bit of bacon. Zinfandel is a classic match with barbecue, though full-bodied Pinot Noirs will also work, if you have any leftovers from the main event.
• 1 cup ketchup
• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon molasses
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoons Tabasco sauce, or to taste
• 1/2 tablespoon chile powder, or to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1/3 pound bacon, diced
• 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
• 3 pounds cooked turkey, white and dark meat, shredded with a fork
• Sliced pickles, for garnish (optional)
• 10 soft white hamburger buns or brioche or potato rolls
1. In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, molasses, mustard, Tabasco, chile powder and black pepper. Set aside.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the bacon over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the meat is crisp. Add the shallots and cook over medium-high heat until soft and golden brown.
3. Add the ketchup mixture to the bacon and shallots in the pan, pouring carefully to avoid splattering. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is dark, thick and rich. Adjust sweetness, sourness and hot pepper to taste.
4. Add the turkey to the sauce and fold to evenly distribute sauce. Heat through for a few minutes, then serve the meat on your chosen bread, with pickles if desired. Makes 10 sandwiches.
RECOMMENDED CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More California Pinot Noirs can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
Steve Balmuth — San Clemente, CA — November 19, 2011 3:45pm ET
Martin Johnson — Walnut Creek, CA — November 22, 2011 1:50am ET
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