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Thanksgiving Warm-up Part I: Cajun Turkey with Friends

I enjoy the holidays.  I have no attachment to any particular tradition or approach, however, I really cannot imagine Thanksgiving without a turkey.  Just the other day I tried to remember what I did for the nearly 10 years I spent as a vegetarian when I was at Thanksgiving dinner with my family and friends.  I have no memory of those Thanksgivings…it is as if they have disappeared from my memory altogether.

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A couple of weeks ago I received my November issue of Food & Wine and Bon Appetit magazines.  Which, before I ever subscribed, would be on my coffee table at this time of year because of the alluring photos and holiday recipes resulting in my impulse purchase of said magazine at the $5 cover price.  Despite my chronic purchasing of glossy turkey photos, until this past weekend I never actually cooked a turkey.  I decided now was the time to change that.

After staring longingly at the recipes for Tandoori and Cajun Spice Turkey I decided to make the plunge and invite some friends over to enjoy my experiment.  Luckily, the View Ridge nieghborhood People's Community Co-op (PCC) had a turkey for purchase on Friday, so I could season on Saturday and cook on Sunday. 

I went with the Cajun Turkey recipe out of Bon Appetit by chef John Currence and modified it just a little bit.

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To create a cajun turkey you first rinse then douse it in lemon juice on both the inside and over the skin.  Follow this bath with a coating of fresh ground sea salt and pepper.  Leave the turkey alone on your counter to mix your Cajun Spice Rub.

Cajun Spice Rub

5 Tbsp kosher salt

2 Tbsp cayenne pepper

2 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp oregano (dried)

1 Tbsp thyme (dried)

1 Tbsp ground black pepper

1 Tbsp minced onion or onion powder

Mix all the spices in a bowl.

When the rub is ready put some in the turkey cavity and then take the rest by the handful and massage it into the skin of the turkey until the entire bird is covered.  In my variation of this recipe I had a half-turkey so I cut up an orange and placed the orange parts in the under cavity of the half-turkey in a glass roasting pan and then put the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered overnight. If you have a whole turkey – forego drying stuffing and fill the cavity of the turkey with a an orange cut in quarters, onion chopped and quartered, four pieces of celery in large chopped pieces, and a quartered lemon (if room).  The oils from the citrus and onion will not only flavor the bird but keep the turkey breast from drying.

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The next day, I took the turkey out of the refrigerator 1 hour before I was ready to start cooking it.

I chopped onions and celery and added these to the oranges beneath and around the bird and set the pan aside to start the rest of dinner.  As every recipe is a little better with a bit of alcohol for flavoring I took out the bottle of Orange Liquour from the cupboard and sat it next to the Canola oil for turkey coating and basting.  I doused the well-rubbed half-turkey in liquor and oil and placed in the oven at 350 degrees for 2.5 hours.

The end result was so tasty I couldn't get a picture of it before it was quickly devoured.  But here is another shot of the spread by my wonderful iphonographist friend Steph Spring. 

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