Denise Curry is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her husband's side of the family for the first time in years. It's difficult enough to cook a feast in a cramped New York City apartment, but this year she's adding a chalenging new approach to the turkey, which she will be brining in a bucket of saltwater overnight before roasting it.
Whole turkeys have been the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinners since the time of the first pilgrim dinner, according to American folklore. Ever since, space-strapped Americans have been expected to deliver the big-breasted bird to their guests on a platter every year for the holiday. But that doesn't mean they can't have some fun with it, even if everything must be done at the last minute.
As a mother of two with a full-time job in advertising, Curry wasn't able to get to the Key Food Supermarket near her East Village apartment until a little before 10 a.m. Wednesday, which she took off from work to begin the last-minute preparations. The lines were long and tensions were running high, but she was determined to get the all of her shopping done in one trip. "I'm here the day before because there's no other option, really," she said. "It's going to be interesting."
Black Friday may be the most crowded shopping day of the year, but the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving must be in close contention. The Thanksgiving shopping scene at the Whole Foods Market on 7th Avenue in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood was chaotic Tuesday evening, as New Yorkers crossed last-minute items off their holiday grocery lists. A sign in the front of the store alerted passersby to the fact that the store had turkeys in stock, and lines snaked around most of the store's perimeter.
Chelsea IT specialist Chris Rios stopped in at the location on his way home from work to pick up a bird for his Thanksgiving feast. He said if he's the one doing the cooking, he likes to do the shopping, too. "It's not that much worse than normal," he said. "This place is always like this."
Rios will be cooking beer-can turkey in what the 42-year-old says has become a tradition for whenever his family visits him for the holiday. He switches the beer every year to experiment with different flavors, and this year says he is considering using a stout for the first time, then roasting it in the oven.
"This is the best way to give it that juiciness that everyone wants," he said of the beer-can recipe. "And there's that hint of beer in the meat."
While trying something different can make Thanksgiving more interesting, some folks, like Chelsea 60-year-old Stephen Pace, just want the old standby roasted turkey they know and love. And that's just what his wife, kids and new granddaughter will be eating come Thursday afternoon.
"I just make a plain-old roast turkey," he said while waiting in line Tuesday evening with a cart full of potatoes, butter, rolls and other Thanksgiving necessities, and of course, the all-important bird. "It's what everyone likes."
Home chefs looking to make their own versions of Curry, Rios or Pace's turkey dinners can look to the recipes below for guidance and inspiration:
Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's brined and roasted turkey recipe has cooks add brown sugar, oranges, lemons, thyme and rosemary to the brine mixture, a combination that makes for succulent and nuanced meat. He recommends leaving the turkey in the brine for between 4 and 24 hours for best results, and the recipe produces a pan gravy to accompany the poultry.
Sunny Anderson's beer-can turkey recipe, which she shared on Rachel Ray's cooking show, requires chefs to drink or empty the top third of a "tall boy" can of beer to make room for sprigs of thyme, sage and rosemary, which infuse the suds with herbal flavors. Then the can is inserted into the turkey, where it remains as the bird is grilled, leeching the beer into the meat and releasing the herbs' scents.
And here's a solid roasted turkey recipe called -- what else? -- Mom's Roast Turkey)