An Eco-Soul Thanksgiving

Anxious about your Turkey Day menu? No worries. Bryant Terry is back with healthy, eco-friendly recipes and a soundtrack to get you cooking.

Photo by Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images

What better way to think of an eco-friendly Thanksgiving menu than to recycle one from last year? Bryant Terry is The Root‘s resident eco-soul chef, and his Thanksgiving feast is sure to satisfy any appetite. The original article is reprinted below.

You might have noticed that harvest celebration née Thanksgiving is this week. If you have not started planning and shopping for your gathering, look on the bright side. You still have plenty of time! I hope that this menu will help guide your sustainable celebration. I offer a recipe for a Spicy Citrus-Herb Harvest Turkey that will blow your guests away. (Trust me.) I also recommend several sides to complement the bird to ensure that vegetarians aren’t stuck with rolls and salad.

On the menu:

Mac 4 Cheese (with Leeks)
Fresh Apple-Cranberry Sauce
Roasted Yam Purée with Coconut Milk
Citrus Collards with Raisins
Brussels Sprouts with White Wine and Thyme
Quinoa-Quinoa Cornbread
Agave-Sweetened Double-Orange Pekoe Tea
Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie

All of these recipes use fresh, whole, best-quality, health-supportive ingredients and cooking techniques with an eye on local, seasonal, sustainably grown food. Feel free to add, omit or substitute suggested ingredients for those that make more sense for you. For example, if you want to source your meal locally, use chard from your backyard garden instead of collards or use sweet potatoes from your winter CSA instead of yams. As Chef Daniel Boulud reminds us, a recipe is never entirely proprietary, but ripe for re-interpretation by any creative chef. So be creative and make these recipes your own.

Spicy Citrus-Herb Harvest Turkey

Prep Time: 1 hour
Inactive Prep Time: at least 4 hours or overnight
Cooking Time: 4 hours
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Soundtrack: “The Parasite (For Buffy)” by Eugene McDaniels from Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse

The key to this off-the-hook turkey is brining and basting. Brining, soaking poultry in salty water for several hours, is the first step to ensuring that your turkey has a rich flavor. Basting, pouring juices over the turkey while it is cooking, will keep it moist. I promise you, your effort put into these two procedures will pay off nicely when you take the first bite of this bird. Visit Local Harvest to learn more about sourcing organic, pastured and heritage turkeys raised by U.S. family farms.

1 (10- to 12-pound) turkey
24 sprigs thyme
12 sprigs oregano
12 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs sage
Fine sea salt
1 3/4 cup raw organic cane sugar
16 large oranges, zest removed
4 lemons, zest removed
1 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 large yellow onion, cut into eighths

·        If necessary, remove the neck, giblets and liver from the cavity of the turkey and discard. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Set aside in a clean roasting pan.
·        In an upright blender, combine 12 sprigs thyme, 6 sprigs oregano, 6 sprigs rosemary, and 6 sprigs sage with 2 cups of water.  Blend well for 1 minute. 
·        In a large stockpot over medium-low heat, combine the herb-water, with 1 gallon of fresh water, 1 3/4 cup salt, the sugar, 1 tablespoon orange zest and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Stir well until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
·        In a large non-reactive container (such as a stockpot, sanitized plastic bucket, or clean, heavy-duty plastic bag), combine the brine with 2 gallons of fresh water.  Transfer the turkey to the brine. The turkey should be completely submersed, so if you have a big turkey and need more brine, use 1/2 cup sea salt and 1/2 cup raw organic cane sugar for every additional gallon of water.
·        Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Cooking the Turkey

·        Preheat the oven to 325°F.
·        Remove the turkey from the brine, and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.
·        Loosen the skin from the turkey breast by gently inserting your fingers between the skin and the flesh. Rub the turkey on all sides with the olive oil, and season lightly (inside and out) with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Be sure to oil and season beneath the skin on the breast. Tuck 6 sprigs or thyme, 3 sprigs or oregano and 3 sprigs of rosemary beneath the skin of the breast. Place the turkey, breast side down, in a large heavy roasting pan and set aside. 
·        Squeeze the juice of 8 oranges to make about 4 cups of juice. Cut the remaining oranges in quarters. Squeeze the juice of 4 lemons to make about 1/4 cup of juice.
·        Stuff the turkey with the orange quarters, the remaining herbs and onions. Loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string.
·        Pour the orange juice in the bottom of the roasting pan. Transfer the turkey to the oven, and roast, uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour.
·        Remove from the oven. Turn and baste with 1 cup orange juice from the pan. Continue roasting with the breast side up until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165° F when inserted into the largest section of thigh (avoiding the bone) and juices in the thigh run clear when pierced with a fork, about 2 3/4 to 3 hours total cooking time. Baste the turkey once every 30 minutes with 1 cup of orange juice from the pan.
·        Remove from the oven. Place on a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
·        Carve turkey, as desired, and serve with sides.