Glazed Turkey – United States

My first Thanksgiving dinner was in 2009. I was an exchange student in Pennsylvania, and my roommate Lauren invited me to her home in New Jersey. Seeing her adorable family around the table, I couldn’t help but falling in love with the holiday, which doesn’t exist in Spain.

That’s why, in 2013, when I was teaching in Arkansas and the loveliest of all the people I have ever met abroad, Jane, invited me to her mother’s house in Oklahoma, I didn’t hesitate. Moreover, the day I was leaving the natural state, even though it was May, Jane and her daughter Leah cooked for me a second Thanksgiving, because they new how much I loved it.

This year it happened again. While working in New York, an old friend from Pennsylvania, Adam, told me to join him at his grandma’s house; I think it took me half a second to accept the invitation.

When I drove back to Syracuse, as if one Thanksgiving banquet was not enough to feed me for a whole month, two days later I prepared another whole meal, from scratch. I didn’t want my partner to miss out on my favorite American holiday. I actually think we should import it to my country.

I know, I know. There are some imperialistic implications to such a self-indulgent feast. I am not denying the cultural and political issues this day entails; a day chosen for mourning by many Native Americans, for the massacre of indigenous people that followed what would have been the first Thanksgiving dinner. After the arrival of the Mayflower, many Englishmen died in the merciless New England weather. The native peoples helped them and, in 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag celebrated together the first successful harvest of the colony, apparently with some turkey and bays.

Nevertheless, and again, not to minimize the historical memory, the concept with which Thanksgiving is sold nowadays is beautiful and, I believe, necessary. We tend to take for granted all that we have and I, for one, am an extremely lucky individual who cannot let a chance pass for expressing my gratitude.

When Lauren invited me to her home, I had just landed, so to speak, in a tiny university in the heart of the Poconos. I was new to the country and its culture, no matter how many movies I had watched. And not even three weeks went by when I was invited to this family celebration. Three weeks. They did not know me, but it didn’t matter, because Thanksgiving is about that: about sharing with the newcomer. I wasn’t going to starve like the pilgrims of Plymouth, but I felt as well as if I were saved, because never again did I feel a stranger in the United States. Not then, and not the other three times I’ve come to live here.

And it is not only that. I have incredible amounts of love and friendship in my life, all over the world. I have a job that never bores me, and thanks to which I can travel almost as much as I want. I have fulfilled almost all of my dreams by the age of 30 already, and I seem to be on track for achieving the remaining ones (even this year’s turkey wishbone said so). If I get a meal designed to enjoy and express how thankful I am for my people, and the food, and the traveling… I will feed you this orange, ginger and sage glazed turkey:

The brine

Ok, now it’s time to be honest: I am not great following recipes. I always forget something at the store, or become distracted and forget to add an ingredient or I add it twice just in case I was distracted and I forgot, and stuff like that. So I don’t always use my measuring cups. Sorry about that, although I guess going with your intuition might be more fun anyway.

And that’s the main procedure for this brine: intuition and whatever was on my fridge that day which, as it turned out, was pretty delicious:

  • Chicken broth, enough to cover the bird. I make my own, an onions, celery and chicken bouillon.
  • The juice of two oranges. Then I also threw in the oranges, it felt wasteful not to.
  • Half a cup of brown sugar.
  • Fresh sage.
  • Fresh ginger, grated.
  • Bay leafs.
  • Saffron.
  • Ground cinnamon.
  • A cup of red wine.

I brought it to boiling and left it (ok, forgot it) there for a while. I didn’t submerge the turkey until it was completely cooled down.

The glaze

  • Butter – 1 stick
  • Orange zest
  • Sage – 5 leaves, chopped
  • Garlic – four cloves, mashed
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • Salt

I just mixed it all up and, after rinsing the brine off the turkey, spread it all between the skin and the flesh, in the inside and over the skin as well. Not as easy as it sounds. Actually, the dark (ok, burnt) spots you see on the picture are the sage leaves that were not adequately spread.

An uncooked turkey covered in butter, orange zest and sage. Not a very appealing sight.

While the bird was in the oven, on a saucepan I mixed:

  • The juice of half an orange
  • Two tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • Some fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • Two garlic cloves, chopped
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • A splash of red wine

Over slow heat, I brought the mixture to simmering. It took about 15 minutes for it to be of a golden color and a caramel-like texture.

The cranberry sauce

While the turkey was cooking, I prepared the cranberry sauce.

  • Fresh cranberries, 12 oz (340 g)
  • The juice of one orange
  • A cup of water
  • A cup of white sugar
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Pumpkin spice
  • Black pepper
  • A splash of red wine

I just mixed it all and brought to simmer until I could puree the fruits with a fork.

The bird

It was a 12 pound (5.5 kilogram) young turkey, frozen.

I cleaned it up, removed the insides, yada, yada. Once my turkey was neat and defrosted, I plunged it in my brine for around 20 hours in a cool place, throwing ice cubes then and again.

I rinsed well, and I realized I had forgotten to get anything to stuff it with. I searched my fridge and found some more garlic, an apple and an onion. That should do, I told myself. I then spread the butter mixture and put it on a pre-heated oven. 450 ºF or 230 ºC for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I took it out of the oven and brushed my glaze all over the upper part. I covered the darkest parts with aluminum foil bits, in a desperate attempt for it to look pretty. I put it back in the oven for another 1 hour and 45 minutes, et voilà !

Iris Permuy holding the tray with the turkey ready to serve. She is smiling, she is wearing a floral orange dress, cowboy boots and teal oven gloves.

And, despite my sad attempt to decorate the try with celery sticks and corncobs, the result was delightful.

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