For the past few years I have been pretty sure that being in Southern Living was going be the highlight of my career. I’ve been very fortunate to be featured in many amazing places but, come on, I had a multi-page spread in Southern Living. That’s the dream. I am fairly certain I peaked in 2011.
It turns out that visiting Southern Living’s headquarters comes a close second to gracing the pages of the magazine. And this fall I got to do just that, thanks to Delta Faucet. Delta brought a handful of food and DIY bloggers to Birmingham to tour the Southern Living Test Kitchen, participate in a tasting of recipes for upcoming issues, and hang out with Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin. It was overwhelmingly cool.
The first order of business was an introduction some of Birmingham’s sights. After an amazing breakfast (biscuit beignets, guys) we headed to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens which included such highlights as touring the Southern Living garden of indigenous plants, ringing a giant bell (awesome), and a patch of some of the coolest heirloom pumpkins I’ve ever seen. The fact that I had to give our docent the what for after he told me that North Carolina wasn’t the south (we talked about that) aside, it was a lovely way to spend the morning.
From left: Jen, Amy, me, Melissa, Jen, Amanda
When we were invited to Southern Living we were told we were getting an experience that wasn’t available to anyone but staff. When I read that, I didn’t really believe it. They made it very clear, however, that touring the headquarters and participating in a tasting was something that really isn’t offered to anyone but staff. Because Delta Faucets have been partnering with Southern Living since the very beginning they have the sort of pull to make this-never-happens things happen. And I am incredibly grateful for that!
As you probably expected, the test kitchen works seasons, or sometimes years, in advance. When we visited in early October they were long done with the holidays and had moved on to Spring, Summer, and Fall recipes for next year. We tasted a few main course dishes, a few side dishes, and a few heavenly desserts, getting to listen to the test kitchen staff debate the merits of each recipe, offer constructive criticism, and tweak as necessary.
After the tasting we were given a tour of the prop closet and the studio, where the magic happens. The prop closet is filled, floor to ceiling, with everything imaginable. Cake stands, plates, bowls, spoons, dish towels, pots, pans, platters. All color coordinated and ready to be grabbed off the shelf to use in a shoot. The studio was a dream- flooded with natural light, serene, and conveniently adjacent to the kitchen.
After we finished gushing over every last detail of the headquarters we headed out for dinner at Saw’s Juke Joint. Owner Mike Wilson, aka SAW, is from North Carolina and serves up traditional NC barbeque along with other delicious Southern fare. We had a great meal, and it was nice to be able to chat casually with the other bloggers and the Southern Living staff. Tours are great but the real fun comes when you find yourself telling the story of the youth pastor who made a very confusing analogy about abstinence and ‘nilla wafers to the director of the Southern Living test kitchen over a plate of banana pudding. That’s when the magic happens.
Shortly after I got home from Birmingham a Delta Touch2o faucet arrived at our house and was installed with much fanfare by Dan. The allure of visiting Southern Living was enough to make me excited about partnering with Delta, and getting to try out one of their amazing Touch20 faucets was icing on the cake! You can learn more about the technology behind the faucets and touch products on the Delta website but guys, we’re living in the future. Delta is calling their campaign HappiMess, which I think is incredibly fitting to this time of year. After our Fauxgiving party our kitchen was trashed, but a handful of friends stayed and cleaned everything, because they had enjoyed the meal so much they wanted to return the favor by helping us clean up (because we have amazing friends). A mess in the kitchen is the byproduct of something wonderful, feeding people I love. Worth it, completely.
We were also sent home with a signed copy of the newest book out of the Southern Living Test Kitchen- Bourbon & Bacon. A celebration of two of the South’s favorite ingredients, the book is divided in half, each half dedicated to one the two titular ingredients. Inspired by this ode to bacon I decided that our main event at Fauxgiving this year would be a bacon wrapped turkey. It seemed just over the top enough to work.
The turkey was delicious. In the same way a turducken works because the duck fat is basting the turkey from the inside, this worked because the turkey was snuggly surrounded by bacon, allowing it to baste in the bacon drippings as it cooked. The turkey, brined with bright citrus flavors, was moist and had a rich flavor. Once carved the bacon was crumbled over the sliced turkey meaning that everything on your plate got a healthy dose of bacon, which is never a bad thing. So if you’re looking for something to add a little pizazz to your Thanksgiving table this week, do yourself a favor and buy a pound of bacon.
Bacon Wrapped Turkey
1/2 stick butter
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp salt
2 gallons water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
24 hours before you’d like to cook your turkey, prepare your brine. Rinse your turkey and remove innards (save for stock!). Place your turkey in a bucket or large pot and cover with water. Stir in salt, sliced lemons, and vinegar. Cover and place in the fridge (or a cool garage/porch).
When you’re ready to cook your turkey heat your oven to 425F. Remove your turkey from the brine and place in your roasting pan. Wrap the turkey in the bacon, one strip at a time. For a simpler approach just cover the turkey with the bacon strips, taking care to tuck in the edges around the side. If you’d like to get fancy try a lattice top! Here is a good step by step on how to lattice pie crusts, the method is the same for the bacon.
Top turkey with butter, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 25 minutes before dropping the temperature to 350F. Cook an additional 3 hours, or until the internal temperature has reached 165F.
Let rest 25-30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!