The Best Way to Roast a Turkey (the simple way)

Whether you’re planning on roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day, you can always use a few helpful tips to make it the best it can be. Since roasting a gargantuan bird is not on the usual M-F menu plan, it can cause even the most experienced cook to hesitate before proceeding. Fortunately, I think I can help you relax and boost your confidence in preparing your event’s main attraction.

My Crash-Course on Turkey

You may be wondering what a relatively young lady such as myself could have to add to everything that has already been said about turkey, and you would be right to wonder. After all, how many Thanksgivings have I been cooking? Not nearly as many as some experts out there…right?

But here’s the thing: I’ve been to Turkey Boot Camp.

When I was nineteen, I had the privilege (?) misfortune (?)  – honestly, it was a mix of both –  of working a summer at a remote fly-in fishing resort on the Pacific Ocean. Another fellow and I were the chefs for the camp, cranking out three square meals for over forty people, seven days a week, eleven weeks straight. Every three days, a couple of float planes would fly in carrying a new group of clients – and a frozen turkey. Along with the requisite pancake breakfast, shrimp bisque lunch, and other culinary highlights, we were obliged to prepare a well-rounded turkey dinner for each group of guests.

Two groups per week, eleven weeks of work. Yes, that’s right, in the span of one summer, we cooked twenty-two turkeys!

If that doesn’t make me qualified to talk turkey, then I don’t know what does!

[Read more…]

An Indian Film, A New Spice Blend and a Giveaway


This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to the winner, EMILY of Sugar Plum!

I don’t write about movies very often on this space simply because it’s a food blog, and also since I don’t watch very many films. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love movies, but let’s just say the the opportunity doesn’t present itself very often. On the rare occasion that I find myself with a few hours to myself, I’d much rather spend it in a book store (AHH, the silence!) or perusing the shelves of my favorite gourmet food shops. If a film is released that I think I want to see -i.e. not a summer blockbuster or holiday fluff- I tell myself that I’ll just rent it. Famous last words, for Danny and I seldom rent films either! There’s always something better to do with our time in the evenings, like play Agricola or…[glancing out the window]…shovel snow. Not More Snow?!
However, I couldn’t wait to see Slumdog Millionaire after all that I had heard about it and so when my sister agreed to come hang out with the boys on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Danny and I were out the door as fast as you can say ‘popcorn’.
The film does not disappoint and pins you to your seat for an emotional and exhilarating journey to a colorful, yet often brutal India. I loved it, but it certainly tugged on a mother’s heart! Upon my return home I hugged my boys a little tighter than usual and cooked a simple dinner in honour of the movie. That’s where the spice blend comes in.


From Montréal’s spice expert, Philippe de Vienne, comes a special new blend: Route de la Soie or Silk Road Blend. Inspired from his travels to Kashgar and containing only the very best of spices, Silk Road Blend is to the palate what Slumdog Millionaire is to the eyes.
This blend marries the flavors of traditional Chinese, Persian, and Indian cooking. It contains over fourteen spices including Iraninan rose petals, green and white cardamom, casse, fennel, ginger, long pepper, saffron, anise, black pepper, white pepper, cloves, cumin, and rose buds. I used it in perhaps the simplest way possible: a rub for a Cornish game hen that I finished with a drizzle of honey. It was excellent! This dish perfumed the house with its extraordinary bouquet and transported us back to Central Asia.


Since you absolutely must try this blend, I am giving away one can to a lucky winner! Leave a comment before February 1 and your name will be entered to win. To get a second entry, blog about this giveaway and let me know where you have done so. Winners will be announced sometime on Sunday, February 1.
Good luck to everyone!

Silk Road Blend and more of M. de Vienne’s spices can be purchased online or at
Olives et Épices
Marché Jean Talon

7070 Henri-Julien etal C-11,

Montréal, Quebec



Roasted Cornish Hens with Silk Road Blend
Serves four.

(You can find Philippe’s original recipe here, which I only just discovered! It’s in French, but likely far better than mine below! I’ll give it a try next time.)

Two Cornish Game hens, rinced and patted dry
1 tablespoon Silk Road Spice Blend

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup honey

Grind spice blend until fine and place in a small mixing bowl. Add garlic, salt and melted butter and mix well. Using your hands, rub spice mixture generously all over the hens. Marinade for an hour or two.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Place hens in a roasting pan and then in the oven. Roast for about 45 minutes or until tender and the leg easily pulls away from the carcass. Remove hens from oven and pour honey all over them. Allow to rest for at least five minutes.
To serve: use a sharp carving knife to remove the leg. Slice down the breastbone and remove the breast and wing.
Serve a leg and a breast per person.

WFD? Lemon, Chicken & Leek Pot Pies

What’s For Dinner? Individual Chicken Leek Pot Pies with Lemon and Tarragon.

It’s feels natural to jump on the comfort food bandwagon in January. Enough with the holiday finger food, the bowls of nuts, and elaborate dinner parties; what we need now is a one-pot meal to sink our fork into and forget about how dang cold it is outside. I think you’ll find this updated pot pie pretty satisfying.

Although I’ve been making variations on this dish for my family for a while, I might never have posted the recipe if it wasn’t requested by an old friend of mine. OK, maybe ‘request’ isn’t the right word, it was more like an order. In fact I believe her exact comment in response to this post was:

“I want your chicken leek pot pie recipe. I don’t like baking, but I like cooking so lets get on with the real food!”

Yes madam! Well, she did used to boss me around something fierce back in the day, so it comes naturally to her. I guess some things never change, eh?
So here you go, Kelly, I’ve done my part. You better make these now to feed all those bambinos of yours. Trust me, they will thank you for it.


I usually make these in massive batches as they freeze and re-heat wonderfully.
(edit 1) Since we sometimes need ‘heat & serve’ instant meals (little children’s tummies don’t understand waiting), I bake these as I normally would for a dinner, then cool them down, wrap them well and freeze for a later date. I re-heat them in the oven to keep the pastry crisp.
(edit 2) I find blanching my garlic alleviates some of the not so fun side effects while maintaining the full flavor that we love around here. However, this is not scientifically proven, just an opinion. I don’t do it often, perhaps just when I want to serve the dish to 10-month-old Mateo.

Chicken, Leek and Lemon Pot Pies

About 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I prefer dark meat and usually use thighs)
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and de-germed

3 leeks

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup white wine (Optional)

1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dry
(thyme is good, too)
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp grated lemon rind

1/4 cup whipping cream

Salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup green peas, defrosted if frozen

1 recipe pie crust or 450g puff pastry
(my lazy way out, although in the photos I used my usual pie dough.)
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
Place garlic in cold water, bring to boil, and boil for a minute or so. Drain and roughly chop. Reserve.

Cut very dark green leaves from leeks and discard. Wash leeks well and slice into 1/2-inch (1-cm) sections (I use about 2/3 of the leek)

Heat butter in skillet on medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes or until leeks soften. Stir in flour and cook until pale gold, about 4 minutes, adding more butter if needed. Stir in chicken stock, white wine if using, tarragon, lemon juice and rind. Bring to boil. Add cream, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until thick and glossy. Season well with salt and pepper.

Stir in green peas and chicken. Place in a 6-cup baking dish or individual baking dishes. Roll out pastry 1/4-inch (5-mm) thick to cover top of dish. Cut a steam hole, decorate with any extra pastry cut in shapes, if desired. Brush with egg.

Bake pies on middle shelf of oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until pastry is golden and mixture bubbles.
I usually set my baking dish or dishes on a cookie sheet as I inevitably get one that overflows.

WFD? Linguine with Turkey, Thyme and Petits Pois

Life is different with this much jam.

I’m not used to making these kinds of big decisions so early in my day, and I find myself standing with the fridge door open for long periods of time contemplating what kind to have on my bagel. The bagel/toast/whatever, by the way, is by far secondary to the jam, and acts merely as a platform to get the jam into my tummy. Mmm, jam. Which one to open next?

Happy Thanksgiving to our neighbors to the south! I’m sure you all wined and dined on turkey and the trimmings and whether you know it or not, you will all drive me crazy with your various posts over the next few days featuring your tantalizing menus from the holiday. Not to worry, I’m already in Christmas mode and my home smells like gingerbread.

In case you find yourself standing with your fridge door open wondering what to do with all your turkey leftovers, here’s a simple, but tasty pasta dish. It freezes very well, allowing you to spread the turkey love over a few weeks if you don’t feel like dining on fowl yet another night in a row.

Of course, this is just an alternate version of Turkey Tetrazzini, but I dislike that name, having had one too many gray, nasty pasta dishes by that label.
Did I mention that this dish freezes great? I make this recipe and freeze half for another night. Isn’t it nice to have a casserole or two in the freezer when you are out Christmas shopping all afternoon and don’t have time to cook? Oh, and the kids eat this one too. Bonus.
That’s all for now. I’ve got to get cracking on some canapes for a party tomorrow and there’s gingerbread to decorate for my cookie swap on Sunday. I better brew an espresso, it’s going to be a long night!

Note: I’ve made this without the wine and it’s still great.

Linguine with Turkey, Thyme and Petit Pois
(adapted from Chicken Tetrazzini)
Serves 8

Coarse salt and ground pepper
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves OR 1/2 tsp dried
1 pound linguine, broken in half
4 cups cooked turkey, skin removed, meat shredded
1 cup fresh peas or grated zucchini.

1. Preheat oven to 400. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (for pasta). In a large saucepan melt tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add flour; cook, whisking, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, gradually add milk, broth, and wine. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and add 1 1/2 cups Parmesan and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions for al dente; drain and return to pot. Add sauce, turkey, and peas. Toss well to combine. Divide between two shallow 2-quart baking dishes; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Freeze (see below) or bake until browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

To freeze: After placing pasta mixture in baking dishes and sprinkling with Parmesan (step 3), cool to room temperature. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and freeze up to 3 months.
To bake from frozen: Bake, covered with foil, at 400 degrees, until center is warm, about 2 hours. Uncover, and bake until top is browned, about 20 minutes more. Serve.
To bake from thawed: Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Bake, covered with foil, at 400 degrees, until center is warm, about 30 minutes. Uncover, and bake until top is browned, about 20 minutes.

Thanksgiving Part 1: Turkey & Co.


This was my first time cooking turkey dinner at home since…I can’t remember, and I got off to a terrible start. Do these things happen just to me? Read on.

Normally I am a big planner; life with two babies is just much more negotiable when I am organized and able to plan ahead for event such as holidays. However, when plans to dine elsewhere for our Thanksgiving dinner went awry, I decided to host it here–with five days to go.
I managed to hunt down a fresh turkey and get some Sweet Onion Dinner Rolls in the freezer, but that was the full extent of my dinner prep, due to an especially jam-packed weekend.

With Thanksgiving dinner planned for 3 PM Monday afternoon, I found myself in my kitchen around 10:30 PM on Sunday with every intention of getting started on the preparations.

My ears were still ringing from a lively and thoroughly enjoyable Indian engagement party we had just returned from and my shoulders ached from that wedding I photographed on Saturday (who knew that six hours of continuous shooting could take their toll?). I should have listened to my body and hit the sack, but as many of you know, I can be rather hard-headed, and it seemed perfectly logical to start cooking at that time of night. I at least wanted to get my cranberry sauce made so it could set all night in the fridge, so I juiced a few oranges, tossed the ingredients in a small pot, cranked my stove and went to check my blog feeds. (Can you see where this is going?)

A minute or two later I was squealing with excitement upon discovering that I had won a giveaway from the fabulous Michele over at Fine Furious Life. You would be excited too! All thoughts of cranberry sauce evaporated rapidly from my brain as I lost myself in the fun of discovering what I had won. It turns out the cranberry sauce evaporated too.

I didn’t smell the smoke, and I really don’t know what ejected me from my chair with a smothered shriek, but as I skidded into the kitchen I could see the smoke billowing from the pot.
I yanked the pot from the stove and like a true die-hard, thrust my finger into the molten mass and tasted it. That motion was enough to confirm what I feared, this wasn’t just a first-degree burn, where the top can be scraped off and used, this was scorched through and through. I’d be lucky if the pot survived.

Update: It didn’t.


Time to talk turkey! I had so much fun cooking this dinner and the burnt cranberry sauce–which I blame entirely on Michele–was the only bad part of the menu. As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, I had some cranberries reserved and was able to use them for a second batch of sauce.

Now, recipes you want and recipes you shall have. I am giving you this menu in three parts: 1) Turkey & Co, 2) Les à’côtés (or sides) and 3) Desserts, to give myself a chance to write up the recipes and remember what I did for each dish.

OK, the turkey is obviously the star of the show, although I admit, mine looks a bit like a washed-up has-been. How do they get them to look so great on those magazine covers?
In the past I’ve done it all to try and keep the turkey moist: the 24 hour brine bath, the wine-soaked cheese cloth wrap, and the heavy butter basting. This time I just kept in simple and was happy with the results. This isn’t a recipe, per-se, but here’s the method I used.

Basic Roast Turkey
Note: this is for an unstuffed, 10-12 Lb fresh turkey.

Remove turkey from it’s wrap and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels and place on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Allow to sit for about 2 hours to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350F. Season the bird inside and out with plenty of salt and pepper and place in the oven. Roast for about 2 hours, turning as needed to allow for even coloring.

In a small heat-proof bowl, melt 1/4 cup of butter and combine with 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Brush over turkey to coat completely and continue to roast another half an hour or so until an instant-read thermometer reads 165F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Remove from oven and let stand, covered loosely with foil for a half an hour before carving.
Reserve the drippings in the pan for your gravy.


Ah, la farce or stuffing. I was drooling over different recipes featuring chestnuts, fennel, sausages and other tantalizing ingredients, but didn’t have time to get out shopping and so this one came together at the last minute out of items I already hand on hand. Surprisingly it was fabulous and a lovely balance between old-fashioned heavy-on-the-savory stuffing and an updated, fruity stuffing. Fresh thyme, sage and parsley from the garden certainly worked their magic in this dish, while several apples from our apple picking outing sweetened up this stuffing.

Aimée’s Fruit & Herb Stuffing

1 cup butter
1-1/2 cups celery, chopped

2 cups sweet onions, chopped

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 large loaf of crusty Italian-style bread, cubed

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoons, chopped fresh sage, loosely packed

1/2 teaspoon dried savory, ground

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups chopped apple

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

In a large skillet, melt 3/4 of a cup of butter over medium heat. Add onions and celery, stirring often to sweat. Add thyme, sage, savory, salt and pepper and continue to cook until vegetables are tender. Add apples and cook gently for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with bread cubes. Plump cranberries and raisins in hot water for about ten minutes. Drain and add to bread mixture. Add parsley and toss well. Melt remaining 1/4 cup of butter and pour over stuffing. Mix well to combine. Butter an ovenproof dish and pack stuffing into it. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes of until golden brown on top. Serve hot. Stuffing can be assembled the day before and baked off with the turkey.


The last item to be included in Part One of this series is my favorite: the cranberry sauce. You already know how the first batch turned out, but the second fared a little better! Of course you don’t have to make it in a mold and I even wonder why I did… AsI was serving dinner I made the mistake of setting the pretty cranberry sauce, pink plate and all, in front of Noah. I turned my back to get something and–chop, chop, chop–with three swift motions of his spoon, he had flattened the entire thing. Oh well, I had to laugh.

Orange-Anise Cranberry Sauce
serves 6

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 orange, in suprêmes
1 whole star anise

3/4 cup sugar

1 leaf of gelatin

Roughly chop orange suprêmes and combine in a small pot with cranberries, star anise, sugar and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring often (do not leave the stove and go check your email!). Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes until berries have ‘popped’. In a small bowl of cold water, soften gelatin until limp. Whisk into hot cranberry sauce. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and fill to the brim with sauce. Allow to chill thoroughly in the fridge. Just before serving, place plate on top of the bowl and swiftly invert. Remove bowl from on top of the cranberry sauce and peel away the plastic wrap. Garnish with another star anise, fresh cranberries or whatever you desire.


Stay tuned for Thanksgiving Part 2 and see some wonderful recipes for side dishes!