Turkey Tips and a Bit of Fortification for the Big Day

Before we get into today's post, could I beg you please to vote for me by clicking here?  You'll find me on page 3 as Michelle's Dinner Bell. I'm up to 108 and would love to break into the top 100!

If you read my post on brining your turkey, you may have gathered that I'm not exactly a cool cucumber in the kitchen. Martha Stewart does not fear me. In fact, Mr. Bell, not always lovingly, refers to me as a kitchen tornado. People have asked why I don't have pictures with my recipes. It is because you would all be scared. I can make more mess in my kitchen baking a frozen pizza and tossing a store-bought salad than most of you will make on Thursday cooking a complete holiday meal. It is a problem. But I'm working on it.  This is my post Thanksgiving review from last year.  There are some important lessons here.  And a recipe for the perfect Bloody Mary - which may have played a little too large of a role in our cooking last year which resulted in a very late Thanksgiving dinner.

So anyway, back to my brine post. Did you see all of my warnings? Clean oven? Check. No peppercorns and allspice berries clogging your garbage disposal? Check. Last year, I thought I had another piece of brilliance to share with you for future brining episodes.  My dear friend and cooking partner for Thanksgiving 2010 pulled out the biggest Ziploc bag I've ever seen. I'm not talking like a 5 gallon one. This would be one you could put a body in. It has a specific warning not to put your children in it. And at least two of my four children would fit in it comfortably. This is like the Godzilla of Ziplocs. My friend said she was thinking that we could just brine the turkey in that, rather than in my Home Depot bucket or ice chest lined with a trash bag. Any guesses which one of us is the more refined? Right. Anyway, I found it to be a brilliant idea that last year, no one was talking about. In my head, I started composing a brine post. I was going to revolutionize the brining process and become a sensation. A modest sensation of course because all of the credit would go to my dear friend. But starting with my 52 blog followers and then reaching out across the Internet universe, I would bring the message that you can now brine in the Godzilla of Ziploc bags. Of course this year, it seems to be the accepted method of brining the bird and stores are selling "brine bags".  Whatever.

Let me tell you what they do not tell you. First, a 26 pound bird and five gallons of fluid in a Ziploc feels more like a 260 pound man wrapped inside a waterbed mattress coated with butter when you try to carry it across the kitchen. Second, the plastic handle that they somehow surgically implant into pterodactyl sized poultry to use as a handle is very sharp. Very sharp + plastic bag + gallons of sugary salty water = kitchen disaster.

My dreams of becoming an overnight sensation are shattered for now but at least I have another useful tip for you, right? Either stick to the not so fancy Home Depot bucket or make sure your bird has no sword-like weaponry sticking out of it.

Because sometimes you need a little, um, fortification to get through a big holiday dinner, here is the perfect recipe for an afternoon Bloody Mary to enjoy while you cook, while people yell at the TV and while you comb the ads looking for that elusive perfect Christmas gift.

Bloody Mary
64 oz bottle of tomato juice
2 1/2 tablespoons celery salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (I like Frank's Red Hot)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon horseradish
Juice of half a lemon

Mix all together and chill. Fill shaker with ice and add 1 shot vodka with 5 ozs of mix. Shake well and strain into salted glass with a lemon wedge, celery stick and an olive or two if you like.

And because I am unbelievably proud that my Christmas photos are done before Thanksgiving, I have to share one here.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours,


  1. I must admit, as your Thanksgiving side-kick, the brining adventure was more like a Laurel and Hardy routine...and, had you been there at the midnight hour as I was so masterfully completing our novel brining technique, I would have looked at you just as the beloved Stan Laurel to Oliver Hardy and said, "It's another fine mess I've gotten us into Ollie!". But alas, I was alone. And this is where the trouble began. I was instead like the little Dutch Boy stuck holding his finger in the dike. I still maintain that the humongous ziplock baggie was a brilliant idea. It was even fine lugging the 260 lb. man in the waterbed mattress coated with butter from the sink to the fridge. I like a good challenge. I looked at it as a head start on the workout I promised myself after the Holidays. And the satisfaction after I heaved it into the fridge, praying the shelf wouldn't collapse under the weight, was tremendous. Never mind the staggering and mumbling along the way, or the fact that I forgot to open the refrigerator door first. Regardless, I got the beast in there and not a moment too soon. Next thing I knew, a brine fountain was spouting like a geyser and I became the little Dutch Boy saving Thanksgiving dinner. What came next was a true comedy routine and more unwanted exercise which included the splits to reach from the fridge to the stovetop where the roasting pan lay. Everyone should just be thankful I was born with ape arms and super hero capabilities. A mere mortal would not have succeeded. The beast and I wrestled to the ground and into the roasting pan, scooted along the floor to the other side of the kitchen to find a bag tie, and after applying a basic tourniquet technique (to stop the Dan Ackroyd/Julia Childs routine replaying itself in my own home), voila! Mission accomplished! Of course I had to heave the brute back into the fridge, which was another comedic exercise, but I went to sleep that night comforted in the knowledge that we would not suffer salmonella poisoning due to brining in a bucket. After all that, I can assure all your readers that it was well worth it. Magificent, melt in your mouth deliciousness was the end result. I am a brining believer now. What a great Thanksgiving day! And I'm thankful your my friend.

  2. See? I knew it was your story to tell. A finer Thanksgiving feast has never been had - mishaps and all. I love you, dear friend!