WHEN MY FRIENDS AT O2X HUMAN PERFORMANCE ASKED ME TO PUT SOME HEALTHY RECIPES TOGETHER FOR THANKSGIVING, I KNEW I HAD TO ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE. I MEAN, IT IS A CHALLENGE RIGHT? HEALTHY AND HOLIDAY ARE TWO WORDS THAT NEVER APPEAR ON THE SAME MENU IN THE FIREHOUSE. WE ALWAYS USE IT AS AN EXCUSE TO OVERINDULGE NOT MATTER WHAT WE ARE CELEBRATING. AND IN ORDER TO MAKE THANKSGIVING A HEALTHY ONE, I KNEW I HAD TO APPROACH IT WITH CAUTION.
I DECIDED TO TAKE SOME OF THE '“CLASSICS” AND PUT A SLIGHTLY HEALTHIER TWIST ON THEM BY OMITTING SOME DAIRY, FAT AND PROCESSED INGREDIENTS. FIGURING OUT HOW TO KEEP THE FLAVORS OF THOSE RECIPES WE LOOK FORWARD TO WHILE MAKING THEM HEALTHIER WAS CERTAINLY NOT EASY, BUT IT WAS DEFINITELY FUN! I EVEN USED IT AS AN EXCUSE TO “EXPERIMENT” WITH BRINING TURKEY BREAST…BUT FOR NOW, WE FEAST!
DRY BRINE OR WET BRINE…THAT IS THE QUESTION!
I used this opportunity to test out something I have been thinking about for quite some time, is it better to wet or dry brine turkey? But before I proceed let’s define briefly what the hell it even means…simply put, dry brine is the use of salt (and other spices) with NO water to add flavor to an ingredient. And wet brining is the use of a salt and water solution to do the same, although some add sugar and other spices to this as well.
In short, here I took two boneless turkey breast and dry brined one with just kosher salt overnight in the fridge. I left it uncovered and on a rack to allow the circulating air to dry out the skin, in hopes of achieving a crispier skin. The other breast I wet brined in a salt/sugar/water solution in a ziplock bag. Both were brined for 10 hours. I removed them both from fridge, drained the wet brined breast and allowed them to come up to temperature on the counter for 1 .5 hours. I then cooked them the same…325* for about an hour until 140* internal and then under the broiler to crisp up the skin and continue cooking until the breast reached 150* (FDA recommends 165* but read this article about turkey breast temp)
The general consensus was that the wet brined breast was juicier but the dry brined yielded a crispier skin. The flavors were very similar from a seasoning perspective, so I guess it comes down to what you are looking for. But I will say this, with both brines I used less gravy because neither breast was dry! See what works for you…
MASHED SWEET POTATO WITH BACON, MAPLE AND PECAN GLAZE
4 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” cubes
3 Slices of Bacon, chopped
1 C Pecans, toasted and chopped
1 C Maple Syrup
2 Tbs. Chile Powder
Pinch of Cinnamon
Dash of Vanilla Extract
Salt, to taste
Steam cut sweet potatoes until tender, set aside.
In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and the fat has rendered. Add the chile powder, pecans and maple syrup. Cook over low heat until reduced by ½ and bubbling. Set aside.
While the bacon mixture cooks, mash the sweet potato in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and salt to taste, combine well. Place the sweet potato mix into small serving bowl and drizzle the bacon-maple mixture over top. Serve
SLOW COOKED GREEN BEANS WITH MUSHROOM AND SHALLOTS
24 oz. Green Beans
2 Shallots, peeled and sliced thin
6 Garlic Cloves, peeled and smashed
10 oz. Package of Button Mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 Tbs. Paprika
1 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, to taste
Sherry or Cider Vinegar, to taste
Preheat oven to 350*
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the vinegar. Put the mixture in a 6”x12” oven-safe casserole dish or deep baking pan. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour, turning the beans every 10 minutes to cook evenly. Remove from oven and add a dash of vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning.
SPROUTED GRAIN BREAD-TURKEY SAUSAGE STUFFING WITH APPLE
6 Slices Day Old Sprouted Grain Bread (i.e. Ezikiel’s), torn into bite size pieces
2 C Onion, chopped
2 C Carrots, chopped
2 C Celery, chopped
1 Apple, chopped
1 Garlic Clove, chopped
16 oz. Turkey Sausage, loose or out of casing
2 Eggs, room temperature
1 C Turkey, Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 Tbs. Each of Fresh Sage, Thyme and Parsley, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350*
In a medium cast iron pan or skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add turkey sausage and brown, remove and set aside.
In the same skillet, add the onion, carrot and celery mixture. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned. Add the reserved sausage, fresh herbs and bread and continue to cook for a minute or two.
While the vegetable and sausage mix cooks, combine the eggs, stock and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
Take the pan/skillet off heat and let cool for a few minutes before adding the egg/stock mixture. Stir to combine. If using a skillet, transfer the mixture to a greased 10”x10” baking pan. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil. Place the stuffing in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top is browned.