Thanksgiving, part 1: Brining the turkey, baking bread and making pie

I cooked a turkey for the first time in my last year of university. I had 2 roommates, and one of them received a frozen turkey from his employer for Thanksgiving. I was the only one of the three who cooked, so either I cook that turkey or it would stay frozen, taking up room in the freezer. That’s how I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal, and I’ve been doing so every year since.

With Keith and I living in Montreal and our families in southwestern Ontario, Thanksgiving is typically shared with friends. From year to year, it varies from a small dinner party to a 10-person event.

Last year was the 10-person Thanksgiving, and while it was a huge success, it was a lot of work. So this year, we decided we would scale it down to 2 other couples, making 6 of us in total–a manageable number.

My original plan was to skip the turkey and cook a different meat. But for our guests, Thanksgiving means turkey, so I conceded. I reserved a small 12 lb turkey from my butcher and got the meal planning underway.

The menu ended up being a collection of holiday favourites, with only 1 new recipe variation. On the menu we have:

  • Herb-butter roasted turkey with red wine gravy
  • Italian bread and sausage dressing
  • Classic potato gratin
  • Sautéed butternut squash with lemon, walnuts and parsley
  • Pan-browned brussel sprouts
  • Cranberry sauce with orange and rosemary
  • Chocolate espresso pecan pie

And so the Saturday prep begins for the Sunday feast. Today I’m brining the turkey and baking the pie.

This is at least the fourth time I’ve made this chocolate espresso pecan pie from Fine Cooking. It’s definitely one of my favourite pies, but I make it no more than once or twice a year, because it’s very rich. The presentation is fantastic with the ring of pecan halves around the border of the pie, and it’s a huge hit with guests. They never have to know it’s actually quite simple and nearly foolproof to make.

Give it a try! (Here’s a preview… the final result will be unveiled tomorrow.)

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