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Rob Feenie's Canadian club turkey brine with pancetta Brussells sprouts and oven-baked yam fries (Laura Leyshon/Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail)
Rob Feenie's Canadian club turkey brine with pancetta Brussells sprouts and oven-baked yam fries (Laura Leyshon/Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail)

In The Kitchen

Chef's recipe: Canadian Club turkey brine Add to ...

I just got back from a week in Maui where it was fun and sun, with my wife and kids enjoying the wonderful flavours of the island - the fish, fruit and amazing produce.

Last Tuesday, it was a struggle to get my son out of the pool and packed for home. But five hours later, we were on a flight back to Vancouver with Devon asking what we were doing for Christmas. When we landed, he looked outside at the snow (rare for Vancouver) and said, "Daddy, daddy let's make a snow man when we get home."

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This is without question one of my favourite times of the year. So I am sharing with you a very classic yet modern twist on preparing a wonderful Christmas dinner.

I grew up with one of the best Christmas chefs around - my mother. Every year, I look forward to her turkey, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Now that it's my turn to cook this Christmas I am trying to stay as true to my mother as I can, with a few twists of course. The biggest one is that I only use turkey breasts as opposed to the whole bird. And, unlike my mother, I love to brine my bird as it gives it more flavour and, more importantly, keeps the breasts moist.

One of the keys to this recipe is the rye whisky that I use in the brine. It gives the turkey a sweet, smoky flavour. The key is to leave the breasts in the brine for 24 hours. The longer the meat sits the better the flavour will develop with the rye. Roast it slowly and on low heat, basting every 15 minutes.

One of the other important things for me is that all of the side dishes should be served family style. I've chosen Brussels sprouts with honey and pancetta, yam fries, pickled beets with goat cheese and a cranberry and port sauce. I pull all these wonderful flavours together with a bottle of wine and some Christmas cheer.

From my family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas.

******

CANADIAN CLUB TURKEY BRINE

What you need

  • 4 litres water
  • 1 litre Canadian Club whisky
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, whole
  • 2 tablespoons coriander, whole
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 2 diced celery stalks
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 bunch rosemary, thyme, bay leaves
  • 5 to 6 pounds turkey breast

What you do

Bring water, whisky, salt and sugar to boil. Take off the heat and add the remaining ingredients except for the turkey breasts. Steep until cool, about 45 minutes to an hour. Place turkey in brine and leave for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Remove turkey from brine. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large roasting pan on medium high heat. Sear the top side of the turkey breast. Remove the turkey and place it in the oven.

After about 30 minutes, take 2 cups of the reserved brine and baste the top of the turkey. As the turkey cooks, continually baste it with the liquid in the bottom of the pan.

When the turkey reaches 160 F, about 1 to 1½ hours, remove from oven. Cover turkey with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Slice and fan on a serving platter.

PANCETTA BRUSSELS SPROUTS

What you need

  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, halved
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 10 ounces diced pancetta
  • 250 millilitres honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What you do

Boil salted water in a large pot. Blanch Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes and drain. Heat butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add pancetta and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes. Add honey and sugar. Turn heat down and allow Brussels sprouts to caramelize. Season with salt and pepper.

OVEN-BAKED YAM FRIES

What you need

  • 4 yams, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

What you do

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss yams with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crisp.

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