Supper Spectacular

Festive, Show-Stopping Main Dishes for Your Holiday Table by Chef Jimmy Nadell

Basic Turkey Brine

  • 2 gallons water
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 oranges, quartered
  • 6 rosemary sprigs
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup cloves


  • Maple: add 3 cups maple syrup
  • Asian: add 3 cups teriyaki sauce
  • Jaimaican Jerk: add 3 cups jerk spice blend
  • Cajun: add 3 cups cajun poultry seasoning

Wash your turkey thoroughly. Place on large pot or plastic bucket. Combine all brine ingredients, submerge turkey in the solution. Allow to brine overnight about 12 hours for a 12-14 pound turkey (larger turkeys may require a couple more hours). It is possible to over-brine; for best results, follow this timeline. Once finished, rinse turkey with cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Season breast up, add two inches of chicken stock, cover tightly with foil, and roast at 325°F until internal temperature reaches 145°F. Cook times for stuffed turkeys: 14 minutes per pound (convection), 16 minutes per pound (conventional). For unstuffed: 12 minutes per pound (convection), 14 minutes per pound (conventional).

Chef's note: I started brining all my turkeys about 10 years ago. Brined birds are juicier, and the technique is fast, simple, and effective.

Tuscan Turchetta

  • 12-pound turkey, all natural
  • 8 cups dried French bread cubes
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 oz fresh sage
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken stock
  • 1 oz thinly sliced white, black, or can truffles
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp white truffle oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 feet butcher's twine

De-bone your turkey starting breast upward, leaving the skin intact without holes. (You could also ask your butcher to do this.) Mix all stuffing ingredients and set aside. Lay the meat out skin down, and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey so that once it's rolled, each slice will include half dark and half white meat. Roll tight, and tie with butcher's twine. Season the outside with paprika, salt, and pepper. Bake at 325°F until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Allow the turchetta to rest for 10 minutes, then slice into quarter-inch rounds and serve with your favorite gravy. 

Chef's note: This recipe could also be prepared with a large chicken, duck, or goose.

Super-Crispy Roasted Duckling

  • 1 whole duck, 3-4 pounds frozen
  • Mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In order to render the fat from the duck skin for maximum crisp without over-cooking the inside, you must cook the duck from rock-hard frozen. First, pre-heat your oven to 375°F. Place the frozen duck breast on a bed of mirepoix to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan, and place in the oven. After the first 30 minutes, remove the duck from the oven and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the legs in foil to avoid burning.

When crispy on the outside and barely cooked in the center, about 90 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Then take your bonding knife and enter at the center of the breast, peeling the meat off the bones on each side until you hit the spine on the back side. Remove the thigh bone and what you'll have left is a half duck with only two bones remaining: the drum stick and the wing.

When ready to serve, allow 20 minutes on a sheet pan, then fan out the breast meat and arrange nicely on your serving plate. Fruit sauces pair very well with duck; you might try a cognac-cherry sauce, à la raspberry with Chambord, or à la orange with Grand Marnier.

Chef's note: Winter ducks tend to be fattier than summer ducks, so take this into consideration when roasting and rendering the fat from the skin.

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