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Bacon Wrapped Turkey

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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.

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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.

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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.

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From left: Jen, Amy, me, Melissa, Jen, Amanda

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bacon Wrapped Turkey

8-10lb turkey

2lbs bacon

1/2 stick butter

1 tbsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp salt

brine:

2 gallons water

1 cup kosher salt

2 lemons

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!

 

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Hummingbird Cake

Two years ago, my little work world changed forever when the darling, amazing, wonderful, fantastic, hilarious Rachael Binning came to the JMM and started sharing my office. Thrown together on pretty much every possible project, we soon became very close, and she has been that person that shares my obsessions, can finish my sentences, and will giggle uncontrollably with me. Without her I would have practically nobody to talk to about new Apple products, Mormon mommy-bloggers, and whether or not we think it’s weird that so and so did whatever. Not to mention nobody would be inclined to break into hysterics because they remember the time an old lady in the Target parking lot asked me to ride her electric wheelchair back into the store. She’s the best office mate I could have ever hoped for, and an amazing friend. Unfortunately this is her last week at the JMM, something I’m devastated by. I know she’ll go on to much greater things, but my office will be quite a bit darker next week.

For forever Rachael has been asking me to make her a hummingbird cake, something that I was lazy about doing because, well, I’m not a huge fan of cakes and this one has pineapples in it, which I’m allergic to (in that they make my mouth go numb). But for her going away party I couldn’t resist, so on Sunday I whipped one up. Thankfully, Southern Living had recently sent me a copy of Classic Southern Desserts to review, which contained a recipe for their “Updated Hummingbird Cake.” The fact that a recipe I’d promised to make Rachael was in a book I had been planning to review was, as my Esther would say, beshert. According to the book “Hummingbird cake is the most requested recipe in Southern Living history. The recipe first appeared in the magazine in 1978 as a reader recipe submitted by Mrs. L. H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina; since then it’s been the star at the table at family gatherings across the South. This updated version has less sugar and oil than the original, fewer eggs, and half the salt.”

I am not a particularly reliable judge of cakes, but this one was good. Made up of so much fruit it is dense, almost like a traditional fruitcake. My opinion doesn’t matter though because Rachael LOVED it. She raved about it all day and that made me the happiest person in the world. I may not have been able to keep Rachael as my coworker, but I can send her home with a ton of cake that makes her smile. And, that is something.

 Updated Hummingbird Cake
Classic Southern Desserts  by Southern Living

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 large eggs, beaten

1 8oz can crushed pineapple, undrained

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 3/4 cups mashed ripe banana (5-6 bananas)

4 tbsp vegetable oil

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

frosting:

2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 32oz package powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Walnuts for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Stir together eggs, pineapple, banana, applesauce, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and add to dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Pour batter into three greased and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until cooked through. Cool for 10 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks. Cool an additional hour.

Beat cream cheese and butter at a medium speed until cream. Gradually add powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla, lemon zest, and juice.

Layer the cakes with a generous amount of icing in between each layer. Coat top and side with icing and garnish with walnuts.

 

 

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Fried Pickle Chips

Recently I was sent a copy of Off the Eaten Path: Favorite Southern Dives and 150 Recipes That Made Them Famous, a book by Morgan Murphy that was produced by Southern Living.  It’s a collection of recipes from down home restaurants all over the American South.  It was such a delight to read through this book, get a glimpse into Southern food culture far beyond what I’m familiar with.  In his introduction Murphy makes the astute observation that to really know a place, you have to eat the food.  I wholeheartedly agree with this, regional food both defines us and brings us together.

The first thing I did after reading the introduction was to flip through to the section from North Carolina, of course.  I was not disappointed.  In this section Murphy highlights everything from sorbet from Chapel Hill favorite Crook’s Corner to a pork chop sandwich from Andy Griffith’s hometown, Mount Airy.  One thing I couldn’t pass up was this recipe for Crispy Fried Pickles from Okie Dokies Smokehouse in Swannanoa (near Asheville).

Fried pickles have always been a favorite of mine, whether they’re dill spears or okra. Fried on the grill and served with a ranch and barbeque sauce dip, these pickle chips were the perfect compliment to a summer dinner out back.

Crispy Fried Pickles
Source: Adapted from Okie Dokie Smokehouse, recipe from Off the Eaten Path

4 cups dill pickle chips, drained

1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

1/2 ranch dressing

2 tbsp barbeque sauce

Canola Oil

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp chipotle

1 tsp salt

After draining the pickles soak them in buttermilk in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Stir together flour and spices.  Heat your oil to 375.  Dip each pickle chip in the flour mixture and fry until golden (3-4 minutes).

Mix together ranch and barbeque sauce.  Serve with pickles.

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