Reader Mail: Kitty's Turkey Day Timeline


While hard at work browsing very important correspondence regarding the wonders of cialis and phentermine, the administrative team at My Husband Hates Veggies headquarters came across this reader mail:      

…you mentioned in the Maxim/turkey post that you normally brine and air dry your turkey.  Is that really what you are doing?  What exactly does that entail?  What else are you making?…I am cooking for 10 people this year…and I am a little freaked out. 

Julie D, Chicago

Well, Julie, we are thrilled that you asked!


This will be my 4th chance to host Thanksgiving in our Brooklyn home, and we plan to make it a yearly tradition.  The one piece of advice I would give to anyone hosting Turkey Day for the first time would be to make a timeline for yourself.  Have it include every bit of info you can think of, even the stuff that seems super trivial or easy to remember.  Hang it on the fridge, and when guests ask you if they can help, just ask them to read off to you what has to be done next.  I’ll show you an abbreviated version of mine. 

The Menu:

Appetizers – Onion Dip (for the husband), Spinach Dip in a Bread Boule w/ Crudite (for me), Sweet & Spicy Chicken & Bacon Bundles (trust me…yum)

Dinner – Kitty’s Roast Turkey w/ Creamy Gravy, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cornbread & Sage Stuffing Muffins, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Cipolline Agro Dolce (sweet roasted onions), Warm Rolls

Dessert – Blueberry & Pecan Pies, with fresh whipped cream 

Monday: Get Fresh Direct delivery –  (Tip delivery guy extra if he places the boxes down instead of dropping them like he did last year with the box that had the eggs)

Choose serving platters for each dish (wash again if in storage for a long time)

Evaluate linens, glasses, silverware, etc… 

Tuesday: Make the cornbread for stuffing

Make Roasted Brussels Sprouts (reheat day of)

Make Cipolline Agro Dolce (reheat day of) 

Wednesday:Brine Turkey/Air Dry Turkey (see method below)

Make the spinach and onion dips (store in tupperware)Make the Cornbread & Sage Stuffing Muffins

Make husband clean house/send to buy wines

Make herb butter

Peel potatoes, soak in cold water 


10am – Noon:  Finish prepping turkey, Set up bar, Send husband to pick up pies and buy ice, EAT BREAKFAST, Set table

Noon:  Make Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes (keep warm in crockpot on low setting), preheat oven to 475F

12:30:  Put turkey in oven, Prep Sweet & Spicy Chicken & Bacon Bundles

1pm:  Turn oven temp down to 375F 

1:30:  Put dips into serving bowls and arrange on platters, light candles, put out ice for bar, turn on music, put yule log on dvd player

2pm:  Guests arrive!  Put the Chicken/Bacon Bundles in the oven, Serve dips

2:30:  Serve Chicken/Bacon Bundles, Take all side dishes from fridge to bring to room temperature

3pm: Check turkey with instant read meat thermometer, if done, remove from oven,  and tent with foil, Lower oven to 350F

3:30:  Add sidedishes to oven to reheat, Start gravy, warm rolls

3:45:  Make guests come to oooh and aah at the bird, cause you are ready to Carve the turkey (clear out the cavity first!)

4pm:  Dinner is served!

Kitty’s Turkey Method:  I usually buy a 12-14 pound, fresh, antibiotic-free bird.  On Wednesday morning, in a stockpot, I will boil a few cups of water, adding one cup of kosher salt, and one cup of dark brown sugar, along with a handful of peppercorns and some orange peel.  I will stir to dissolve, and then let it come to room temperature. Then I add about a gallon of ice water to the pot.  I place the bird (after removing the giblets/neck/etc…) into a brining bag, and pour the mixture over it.  I will then seal the bag well, place the bag inside a large baking pan, and set it inside my fridge for 6 – 8 hours, turning the bird once or twice so every bit gets brined.  I then remove it from the fridge, discard the liquid, and shake the excess liquid from the cavity of the turkey.  I will pat it down with paper towels, set it on the rack of a roasting pan, and place the bird, uncovered, back into the fridge until Thursday morning to air dry.  This is the step that results in beautifully crisp skin.  On Thursday, I will remove the Turkey from the fridge an hour before I plan to cook it, and cover the inside of the skin with an herb butter I will make from sweet butter, sage, thyme and rosemary.  I will add a little bit of kosher salt to the outside of the skin, but go easy, since the brine solution already got a lot of salt into the turkey.  I will cover the outside of the skin with the herb butter as well, and place a big gob of it inside the cavity.  In the cavity, I will also place a cut up orange, and more sprigs of fresh herbs.  I will then position the wings under the bird, tie the legs together, and place it into a preheated 475F oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, I will turn the temperature down to 375F, and allow it to cook until it is done, about 2 hours more.  I do not open the oven door at all (except to make the appetizers) until I suspect the turkey to be done. The turkey is done when a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165F.  I do not baste the bird.  This method has resulted in the juiciest, most succulent bird for the past 3 years counting.  Seriously.  Like, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  It would take a serious shift in the cosmos for me to stray from this turkey-making method.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

11 comments to Reader Mail: Kitty's Turkey Day Timeline

  • Julie D

    Wow! Thanks for this. it is totally helpful adn I am going to use your timeline idea. I am scared to air dry the turkey though. Isnt it unsanitary/dangerous?

  • Julie D

    oops! one more thing, are you posting any of the other recipes?

  • Julie,

    You don’t have to worry about air drying the turkey as long as you’ve kept it refrigerated while you brine it, as well as while you air dry it. Letting it get too warm is when you have a risk of bacteria.

    I plan to post the Cipolline Agro Dolce recipe on Wednesday. Good luck with your planning!

  • You forgot to schedule time for Robotron in there.

  • Emily Cooks

    Sounds great, Kitty! Happy T-Day!

    Whats robotron???

  • Jeff: There is always time for Robotron!

    Emily: Robotron is a totally awesome arcade game from the 80s…and we have one standing in our living room. Happy T-Day to you too!

  • You have a great blog! Thanks for stopping by ours!
    I hope you had a fantastic thanksgiving – the menu sounds truly wonderful!

  • D. Miles-Hannah

    I am using a frozen turkey from Sam’s Club. Any different handling than for the fresh other than thawing? Thanks! Can’t wait to try it!

    • Kitty

      Word on the interwebs is that you can definitely brine a frozen bird, provided it has not already been pre-brined (read that label carefully! Butterball pre-brines, as does any Kosher brand). If its not pre-brined, plan to begin brining the bird once it is at least 85% thawed. Considering you want a day to brine and another day to air-dry, I would start thawing ASAP! Let us know how it goes!

  • D. Miles-Hannah

    Hi Kitty,
    I hope you had a fun Thanksgiving weekend. Mine was great! The turkey was fantastic. Started thawing our 20 pounder right after I replied to you :) It was a big one! We made the brine, omitting the peppercorns (not my friend’s favorite) and substituted some worchestershire sauce, along with two oranges, two cups of dark brown sugar, two cups of kosher salt and three or four cups of water. Put the turkey in the brining bag in our roasting pan late Tuesday night. Turned it a couple of times during the day on Wednesday and took it out around 10 pm to pat it dry and let it air dry. Slathered it with the herb butter and put the orange and butter gobs inside. It finished cooking in 3 hours and somehow we managed to cook the bird upside down! Haha – it was so funny, but the breast meat turned out really moist and flavorful and we were able to make a killer gravy!! Fantastic advice that may become a tradition in the future! Thanks again :)

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