Easy Poultry Brine

Ok, so while I was writing this recipe I kept humming Grandma Forgot To Brine The Bird by Alton Brown. Those two times on stage (2015 and 2017) still make me smile. This brine is simple and straight forward. Please dispose of properly, as the quantity of salt in the brine will kill plants if you dump it on the lawn.

3 pints water
1 cup salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, quartered
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons mustard
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (you can add more or less)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about three cloves)

In a large pot, heat the water until almost boiling. Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat until cool. To prevent food spoilage issues, don’t add the poultry until the brine is cool.

Variations: substitute orange for the lemon; add 1/4 cup soy sauce to the liquid; add rosemary.

Roasted Turkey Leg

I love roasted turkey for dinner. One turkey can provide several meals, and it is a very versatile ingredient. With a smaller household, though, it can fell like too large of an undertaking. By roasting two turkey legs, you can have a manageable amount of protein but still have leftovers the next day.

2 turkey legs, thawed
6 cups brine (see recipe here)
3 stalks celery, large diced
1 cup diced carrots (or 1 cup baby carrots)
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
2 large potatoes, large diced
1 sweet potato, large diced
1/2 medium onion, cut into eighths
2 clove of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
4 cups water or broth
1 teaspoon ground sage or poultry seasoning
fresh sage leaves (optional)
olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter
salt and pepper to taste

At least 24 hours ahead:
Place thawed turkey legs in large zip bags or other sealable container and add the brine. Put in the lowest area of your refrigerator for 14-48 hours.

Heat oven to 375F.

On the day of:
Remove the turkey legs and brine from the refrigerator. Take the legs out of the liquid and rinse in fresh water. Discard brine.

In a large, heavy baking dish or roaster place the turkey legs and all of the vegetables. Add the water or broth, ground sage or poultry stuffing, and salt and pepper. Lay sage leave across the top of the legs, and drizzle with olive oil.

Cover and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 45 minutes, or until the legs register 175F on a thermometer (measure at the thickest part, not hitting the bone). During the last 30 minutes of cooking, baste with the melted butter every 10 minutes.

When the legs are done, remove from the pan. You can serve at the table, or shred the meat from the bone and gristle. Unless someone calls dibs on a whole leg, I prefer to cut the meat off before serving.

You can serve with the roasted vegetables as a side dish, shred it down and add to make a hearty soup, or save the broth and vegetables to eat the next day as a light meal.

You can also add shredded chicken or turkey, mini meatballs, or cooked pasta or rice to the vegetable and broth mix. Two meals with one stretch in the oven makes this an easy thing to fix.

Roasted Cornish Game Hen

2 Cornish game hens, defrosted
6 cups brine (see recipe here)
3 stalks celery, large diced
1 cup diced carrots (or 1 cup baby carrots)
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
2 large potatoes, large diced
1 sweet potato, large diced
1/2 medium onion, cut into eighths
2 clove of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
4 cups water or broth
1 teaspoon ground sage or poultry seasoning
fresh sage leaves (optional)
olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter
salt and pepper to taste

At least 24 hours ahead:
Place defrosted game hens in large zip bags or other sealable container and add the brine. Put in the lowest area of your refrigerator for 14-48 hours.

Heat oven to 350F.

On the day of:
Remove the game hens and brine from the refrigerator. Take the birds out of the liquid and rinse in fresh water. Discard brine.

In a large, heavy baking dish or roaster place the game hens and all of the vegetables. Add the water or broth, ground sage or poultry stuffing, and salt and pepper. Lay sage leave across the top of the birds, and drizzle with olive oil.

Cover and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 30 minutes, or until the hens register 165F on a thermometer. During the last 20 minutes of cooking, baste with the melted butter every 10 minutes.

When the birds are done, remove from the pan.

You can serve with the roasted vegetables as a side dish, shred the game hen down and add to make a hearty soup, or save the broth and vegetables to eat the next day as a light meal.

You can also add shredded chicken or turkey, mini meatballs, or cooked pasta or rice to the vegetable and broth mix. Two meals with one stretch in the oven makes this an easy thing to fix.

Easy Bread Stuffing

Ok, is it just me, or do you think stuffing/dressing should be enjoyed all year? This recipe is easy to put together, and super simple to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand. It is also a great way to increase the amount of vegetables that you (or your kids) enjoy with a meal. I made this with French bread, but you can use sandwich bread, rolls, or even soft pretzels. If you don’t have croutons, you can make your own or simply increase the bread chunks by 1 cup.

1/2 loaf French bread
1 cup croutons (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup orange and red bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 tablespoons unsalted pepper
3-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (you can use water, if preferred)
1 teaspoon ground sage or poultry seasoning
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Tear bread into 1-inch pieces and let dry for several hours in a large, heat-resistant bowl.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Melt butter in a large skillet and cook the onions, celery, half of the peppers, and mushrooms until just starting to get soft, about 4-5 minutes. Pour in 3 cups of broth and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Add the croutons and poultry seasoning or sage to the French bread pieces, then pour the broth and cooked vegetables into the bowl. Mix well and add more broth if it seems too dry.

Fold in the parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly grease an oven-safe dish and fill with the stuffing mixture. Smooth out the top so it is even, and bake uncovered until golden, about 25-30 minutes.

Variations: substitute chopped walnuts for croutons; top with sliced almonds or dried cranberries; add browned sausage to the stuffing mix before baking.

Quinoa Stuffing

The annual holiday debate seems to center around stuffing or dressing. They are the same thing, but dressing is cooked outside of the bird and stuffing is, well, stuffed into the bird before cooking. I grew up with stuffing, but as an adult I prefer is prepared as dressing. When a turkey or chicken is stuffed, it takes so long for the poultry to get to a safe temperature to eat that the meat winds up drying out. If your family prefers stuffing, I suggest preparing dressing and then fill the cooked bird right before taking it to the table.

1 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (you can use plain water as well)
1 cup quinoa
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small butternut squash (peeled, seeded, and cubed)
1 zucchini (diced into 1-inch cubes)
3 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground sage or poultry seasoning
1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
chopped parsley for garnish
1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Put chicken or vegetable stock into medium pan and bring to a boil. Add quinoa and sage or poultry seasoning, then cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the diced zucchini and butternut squash until slightly browned.

Stir in the cooked quinoa, chopped green onion, dried cranberries, then drizzle with parsley and lime juice. Enjoy.

Note: this recipe works really well to make stuffed portobello caps.

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