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Brining a Turkey for Thanksgiving-Tips from the Executive Chef at Stowe Mountain Lodge

What’s wrong with just a roast chicken?...

 As I am writing the new winter menus at Stowe Mountain Lodge, one of my cooks came and asked me why we are putting roast chicken on the menu?  “What’s wrong with just a roast chicken?” I said. Young culinarians want to see items that they have never seen before on menus. Yes, we do have some new items on the menu this season that are neuvoue.  But to me, a simple roast chicken is the zenith of cuisine.  The process of brining and roasting a chicken is one of those recipes like crème bruleé, consommé or pot roast.  Yes the recipe is simple to prepare but the outcome (if done right) is sublime.  To roast a chicken perfectly you must start with a good brine.  

Brining is an ancient tradition in which people across the globe used salt, water, and spices to conserve meat long ago before the advent of refrigeration. Chicken, pork and turkey would be the best proteins to be brined because they are lean, and mild in flavor. This provides an opportunity for the brine to seep in to the protein and enhance the flavor and the juiciness. Many types of seafood, like shrimp, are also excellent for brining. Beef and lamb aren't recommended because they contain more fat, and don't lose as much moisture as poultry or pork during cooking. The process of brining sounds complicated but believe me the proof is in the perfectly cooked roast turkey or chicken that you pull from the oven. 

Brining works due to the dual processes of diffusion and osmosis.  When meat, such as chicken or turkey, is placed in a brine, the salt and sugar concentration of the brine solution is greater than the concentration inside the muscle cells. Diffusion allows the salt and sugar to flow into the muscle cells of the meat. As the concentration of salt and sugar increases inside the cell, osmosis will draw the water into the muscle cell. Once the salt and sugar get inside of the muscle cells of the turkey, the proteins will begin to denature, or "unravel", and create a matrix that captures and holds the water. This is why the ratio of salt, sugar and water are important when brining.

During cooking, the salt and protein matrix forms a gel that traps the water inside the cell. The water stays in the meat during cooking, resulting in a more juicy and flavorful piece of meat, and also prevents the likelihood of overcooking.

Letting the meat "rest" for 10 to 20 minutes after removing it from the oven will allow the extra moisture to redistribute before carving the turkey.

One of the tough situations that you may run into when brining is that you will need a container that will fit your chosen protein and the amount of brine needed.  I recommend that the container holding the brining protein be held below 40ºf.  I always brine my turkey for thanksgiving, and thanks to the Vermont weather, I can keep my brining turkey in a 5 gallon container outside overnight. I love New England in the fall!

Come to Solstice this winter and enjoy our Chicken Roti or our boneless pork loin chop.  Both utilize different brines with great success. Have fun cooking and enjoy the process! 

-Chef Berry

Chef Berry's Brining Recipe:

 http://www.stowemountainlodge.com/stowe-seasonal-recipes.php#

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Forest Bathing at Stowe Mountain Lodge

Early Winter Grandeuar

 

Leaves are falling all around, it’s time I was on my way. Thanks to you, I’m much obliged for such a pleasant stay” – Page/Plant

 

With the foliage gone except for the persistent Beech leaf, this often underrated mini season is a marvel like no other.

 This time of year we find the forest floor blanketed in a thick layer of dry leaves, crunching under foot with every step. The leaves not only serve as a nutrient supply for the flora of the forest, but act as a reminder of the cycle of life.

 Hiking this time of year offers a fresh perspective. The sights, smells, and sounds of the forest are unique to this pre-Winter mini season.

 Views are opened up along the trails that have been hidden all summer & fall, giving you a sense of place. The leaves release an odor unlike no other, those fortunate enough to experience it are rewarded with a sensory delight. The sound of crunch with every step echoes throughout the forest as the sound travels far with the newly opened up air.

 Please take some time to head out and enjoy a guided hike with us here at Stowe Mountain Lodge, you will not be disappointed. See you on the Mountain!

 

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A Wedding Affair in Vermont

Most people would think that wedding season has come to an end until Spring of 2015…however that is not the case…I am getting ready to represent the Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge at this year’s WellWed’s and Vermont Vows A Wedding Affair (http://www.aweddingaffair.com/) hosted at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms. This will be our second year providing mini spa services at this special event.

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