Here’s how I cooked my Thanksgiving turkey, and what I did with the leftovers

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We had guests in town for the holidays, so I was honored to cook the Thanksgiving turkey in our house this year. It’s not every year that I get to cook because we typically eat Thanksgiving lunch out with my family and then fill our bellies at night with Nadia’s family, but lucky me, this bird had my name on it.

I wanted to make something a little different this year, so I went with orange and orange juice, and a few Asian ingredients I had in the pantry. I guess we’ll call this one Asian Orange Turkey. Keep reading to see how I brined and cooked the bird, and what I made with the leftovers.

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I used a 13 lb. turkey and brined it in a big pot for 48 hours before I roasted it.

For the brine: Combine 8 cups water, 8 cups orange juice, 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 3 tablespoons sriracha, 2 tablespoons chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard, 1 teaspoon black peppercorn, 5-7 fresh thyme sprigs, 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, 3 bay leaves.

After brining for two days, I removed the bird and placed it in the roasting pan, adding brine to the pan until it went up the sides about 1 inch. Next I salted and peppered the flesh under the skin and the skin itself, and then rubbed down the flesh and the skin with a compound butter made of many of the same brine ingredients.

For the compound butter: 1 stick of butter, room temperature, combined with grated orange zest, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sriracha, chopped garlic, 1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard, a little more black pepper and salt, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary.

To cook the bird: Roast the turkey on 450 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and roast under foil for 3 additional hours. Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes once removed from the oven before carving.

Roasting the bird on high heat first will create a glossy brown skin kinda like Peking duck and the two-day brine will ensure the meat will be moist and flavorful. Unless you’re feeding an army, or the ’85 Chicago Bears, you’ll have leftovers. Feel free to Turkey Tetrazzini yourself into a coma, or try one of these leftovers dishes which I whipped up at home.

The Moistmaker

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We picked up cheddar shallot and rosemary lemon bread loaves from Blackmarket Bakery in Costa Mesa to make “Moistmaker” sandwiches with a little mac ‘n’ cheese on the side.

If you watch “Friends,” you already know what I’m talking about . If not, see below …

Basically, the Moistmaker is a sandwich of turkey, cranberry, mashed potato and stuffing, with an added piece of gravy-soaked bread right in the middle of the sandwich. Fairly gnarly, but I only eat one per year, if that.

Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich

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I did have more turkey and more bread leftover, so I also had a couple of meals eating open-faced turkey sandwiches, with slices of toast, a sprinkle of cheese, mounds of turkey and steaming hot gravy poured right on top. I was lucky enough to get some of Dee’s gravy at Break of Dawn, which was heavy on the mustard seed and had a deeply porcine richness because of the addition of Portuguese sausage. Quite the sauce.

I also rolled some of my cold mashed potatoes in flour, egg and panko, and pan seared them in a non-stick pan with a little butter to make some delicious potato patties on the side.

Turkey Parmesan Frittata

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As we neared the end of our turkey supply, we needed something lighter to keep us from feeling like our hearts were about to stop any second. I used the remainder of the meat to make turkey frittatas with a couple of eggs, a touch of parmesan, a mound of frisse (because frisse is f’n fancy) and a few drops of olive oil on top. One slice of buttered rosemary lemon bread was the perfect side for this lighter breakfast.

I’m all out of turkey now, but with Christmas approaching, this may not be the last time I have a big bird in my oven this year. The meat is lean and plentiful, and I’m already thinking of how to cook it again.

If I do, I’ll definitely make it different, and I’ll be sure to post it on the blog.

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