Thanksgiving recipes that combine favorite preparations and ingredients with some healthier substitutions.
The countdown to Thanksgiving is on, and while the day is the country’s greatest culinary celebration, ending the afternoon in a sofa-ridden food coma shouldn’t be the only outcome of a festive feast. To keep things satisfying and celebratory without overdosing on decadence, I’ve created recipes that combine favorite preparations and ingredients with some healthier substitutions. Use all of the recipes in this and upcoming installments of this series to create a healthier yet delicious holiday meal, choose one dish to bring to a potluck, or swap a few dishes for your usual butter- and cream-filled traditional recipes.
While the following turkey takes some time to prepare—make sure you have a defrosted turkey ready to go into a brine bath one to two days before Thanksgiving—it’s well worth the extra planning time. The sweet and savory blend of apple cider, onions, herbs and fall root vegetables, and super easy cooking method make this turkey a welcome—and butter free!—addition to a holiday spread.
Apple Cider Turkey
For the turkey:
1 (12 to 14-pound) turkey
2 quarts apple cider
1 box store-bought turkey stock, or 1 quart homemade stock
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and cut in quarters
2 large apples, cut in quarters
4 large carrots
4 large celery stalks
For the brine:
8 quarts water
3/4 cup salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large onion, cut in quarters
2 large carrots, sliced in 1-inch pieces
4 celery stalks, sliced in 1-inch pieces
8 peeled garlic cloves, cut in half
1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
1/2 bunch fresh sage
5 bay leaves
In a very large container, combine all ingredients for brine. Clean out insides of turkey and rinse insides and outside thoroughly. Place turkey in brine and place in refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Take care to reserve a special place in the refrigerator for this large container and make sure not to knock it or place it near any raw food to avoid cross-contamination.
After 24-48 hours, remove container from refrigerator and take the turkey out. Pour out any brining liquid that’s inside the bird and pat the outside dry with paper towels. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the turkey on a poultry-reserved cutting board and fill cavity with quartered onions and apples. Drizzle exterior with olive oil, salt and pepper, and massage oil and seasonings into the skin.
In the bottom of a large roasting pan, plunk in 4 carrots and 4 celery stalks and pour in 2 cups of turkey stock and 1 cup of apple cider. Place turkey on top to vegetables and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the skin starts to brown. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F for the remainder of the cook time; average cook time is about 17 minutes per pound. Baste the bird with apple cider every 30 minutes. Once the turkey reaches your desired shade of brown, tent with aluminum foil and continue roasting. The bird is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey—be careful not to touch a bone—reads 160 degrees F. Remove cooked turkey from the roasting pan to rest on a carving board; tent the bird loosely with fresh aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.