Welcome to my Friday bonus feature called Karen’s Killer Fixin’s **Author Special**!! Today, in lieu of one of my own recipes, I’m going to introduce you to a new author who will share one of her favorite recipes. Not only will you and I occasionally learn how to make something new and delicious, but we’ll get a chance to check out some wonderful authors. Introducing author, ANNE LOUISE BANNON and her favorite recipe for ROASTING A THANKSGIVING TURKEY!
A RING FOR A SECOND CHANCE
BY ANNE LOUISE BANNON
In this sequel to a beloved fairy tale, an all-too convenient accident supposedly kills a young king and his family. Steffan and Ella and their children are, however, very much alive, but forced into hiding lest Steffan’s cousin, Queen Lanicia, wipes them out. Claiming to be a merchant fallen from the new queen’s favor, Steffan takes up farming in a small village. He and Ella raise their growing, and expanding, family, keeping their secret while forming friendships and building the support Steffan will need to regain his throne. Fortunately, there is just a bit of magic helping them along. But will it be enough?
Steffan was aware that he was ill, and that time was passing. Darkness and dreams faded into each other without much rhyme or reason. He was given strong broth to sip, and then the dreams would come again. Ella was there, off and on, and the children. He knew there was another, a man. It was hard to say if the man was a part of the dream or not.
The man was there when the fever finally broke and Steffan opened his eyes for the first time to clarity.
“Who… Who are you?” he whispered.
“I am a friend of the one your queen calls Godmother,” said the man in a soft, reedy voice. He was thin with wild, gray hair. “You can call me Mr. Murdren.”
“You’re of the Faer Folke.” Steffan swallowed. “Ella said we’d never see you.”
“I was of the Faer Folke,” the man said with a sad smile. “I lost my magic seeking after gold I never found. But I have kept my friends among the Faer. In fact, I’m even your cousin. On your grandmother’s side, obviously.”
Steffan frowned. “We must be in serious trouble.”
“You are. But rest. Her Majesty will be here shortly. You’ve been very sick.”
“Drink this broth.”
Steffan sipped weakly. It tasted somewhat different than the other broth had.
“The children?” he asked.
“They’re well enough. They’ve had some injuries, but yours was the worst. You broke your leg, and hit your head pretty hard, too. Then you had to go and take sick over it.”
“I’m back, Mr. Murdren.” Ella appeared behind me. “Oh, you’re awake.”
“I believe so,” Steffan replied with a weak smile.
Sniffing, Ella sank to her knees next to him. “Oh, thanks be, you’re really awake. You’ve been in that healing sleep for so long, I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever wake up.”
Steffan gazed at her, completely puzzled. There was something odd about her appearance. The ragged gown and shawl she wore were unexpected enough, and she moved stiffly as if bending were impossible.
“You’re with child,” he gasped.
“Yes.” Ella smiled and patted the greatly swollen belly.
“You look as if you’re about ready to deliver. Have I been asleep that long?”
“Only six months,” laughed Ella. “I’ve just grown a bit more than usual. Well, a lot more. It looks as though we’re going to have a very large child.”
“That’s enough shock for now,” Mr. Murdren cut in briskly. “Your Majesty, you sleep some more. I need to brew some herbs.”
Steffan obeyed. He continued to rest on his own rather than by the magic of the healing sleep. He gained strength and learned that Mr. Murdren was a hermit and that Steffan and his family were hidden with him in a cave. But it was a week before he was able to sit up and hear the worst about his situation.
“Lanicia? Queen?” he growled. “I’ll have to go right to the palace and clear this up.”
“You can’t,” said Mr. Murdren. “She’s very powerful now. And she knows that your bodies were not in those coffins. She firmly believes you’re dead but more than one family with two small children has disappeared or met with an untimely accident.”
“At the palace they’ll know me.”
“Not necessarily,” Mr. Murdren said. “Lanicia has completely replaced the entire staff, and it’s her Raultberg Regiment that controls the army. They like their positions. Your Majesty, without any support, you wouldn’t last two hours.”
Steffan looked away, thinking. “A sluice gate must have burst to cause that sudden flood. How fortunate for Lanicia. In fact, suspiciously so. I remember seeing the guard fleeing into the woods.”
Murdren sighed. “The sluice gate was sabotaged. No one can really prove that it was timed to coincide with the coach’s arrival in the canyon, and so, officially, it has been recorded as a tragic accident.”
“So now what?” Steffan looked over at Ella, as he scratched at the beard that had grown during his illness.
Ella shrugged. “We must remain hidden until we can pull together the support we need to get you back on the throne.”
“It will take some time,” added Murdren. “But it’s not hopeless by any means. The queen is not proving to be very popular. She’s moving slowly. However, not many are fooled by her patience.”
“As soon as I regain my strength, the first thing to do will be to go to Leiderkeit,” Steffan said.
“And have King John present you?” Murdren shook his head.
“I already thought of that,” said Ella. “If John championed you, it would be a virtual declaration of war, which is just what Lanicia needs to solidify her position. She would have the perfect excuse to invade, and the support of the people, since they would be only protecting the homes Leiderkeit is attacking.”
“The key, Your Majesty, is to let the queen do the damage to herself, then appear with the solution,” said Murdren. “Our people have a long history of revolting under rulers they do not like.”
“It will still take years,” Steffan sighed. “If I am supposedly dead, how will I get anyone to believe me when I reveal myself?”
“How you go about it, you will find in time. But our friend, the one you call Godmother, has used her power so that no one else can wear the ring that was cast as your royal seal. Lord Cedric guards it. Already, one man has claimed to be you. The ring proved to be far too small, and the man was not unlike you in stature.”
“The best thing to do, for now, Steffan, is get well,” said Ella. “Hermit Murdren is arranging for us to take a small farm he owns in the south of Raultberg.”
“True, but not Lanicia’s people. They support her only nominally and being right under her nose, so to speak, it might prove to be a better hiding place.”
“I farmed it for many years,” said Mr. Murdren. “But I gave it up a few seasons back in order to see if I can regain my magic.”
Steffan nodded sullenly. Murdren left to play with the two children. Steffan squeezed Ella’s hand.
“It’s going to be terribly hard,” he murmured.
He looked at the wooden ring his wife wore. It had been his betrothal present to her after she had told him how she wished at times that wood was all he had to offer her. Her gold wedding band had already been sold. Ella had been so ashamed when she’d told him. But even he’d agreed she’d had little choice. Afraid that Lanicia’s men would be hunting them, Ella had taken the hermit’s advice to be ready to flee at any time, which meant selling anything of value so they would have some money. The problem was there hadn’t been much to sell. Unlike her peers, Ella seldom wore jewelry during the day and had only been wearing her wedding band at the time of the accident. All they had was the money from the sale of the wedding ring and the small pouch of silver coins that Steffan carried for alms giving. And the jeweled medallions that each of them wore that identified them as a member of the royal family. Ella had hidden those. Selling them was out of the question.
“We have nothing,” Steffan said.
“We have some silver,” said Ella. “It’s not much, but it should help us through. We’ll be poor, is all.”
“All? Good heavens, Ella. I swore I would never let you see hard times again.”
“You didn’t let this happen. Who would have believed that Lanicia was this treacherous? It’s almost as if I’m fated to be poor.”
“What an unhappy fate.”
“I’m not in the least unhappy. The worst thing in the world is to be unloved, and I’ve already survived that. I shall survive this. I can’t say I like it, but I’ve got you, and two beautiful children with another on the way. Besides, I learned a long time ago that the only thing that can make you happy is yourself. If you depend on other people or your situation, you will be disappointed.”
Steffan smiled. “And I’ve many very rich and very unhappy relatives to prove it. I just hope the good hermit can show me how to farm. I have only the slightest understanding of the process.”
Anne Louise Bannon has made not one, but two careers out of her passion for storytelling. Both a novelist and a journalist, she has an insatiable curiosity. In addition to her mystery novels, she has written a nonfiction book about poisons, freelanced for such diverse publications as the Los Angeles Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Backstage West, and edits wine blog OddBallGrape.com. On the fiction side, she writes a romantic serial, a spy series, and her Kathy and Freddy historical mystery series, set in the 1920s. Her most recent title is The Last Witnesses. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters.
Links to Anne’s website, books, etc.:
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ROASTING A THANKSGIVING TURKEY
Partial Reprint of Anne Louise Bannon’s “Five Weeks to Thanksgiving Dinner” (A Darkside of the Fridge Special)
It’s all about The Bird. Roasting a turkey is pretty easy. You prep the birdie, slap it in the oven. It cooks to 165 degrees. You pull it out, let it rest for 20 minutes while you mash the potatoes, finish the gravy and the green beans. Then you slice it in the kitchen, so you can snatch some of the yummy crispy skin first, and serve.
The trick is roasting the turkey so that it’s done at a certain time, such as after all the guests have arrived but before Grandma gets tipsy. Because turkeys are so big, they take a lot of time to roast. Not to mention ovens get cranky and depending on how cold your bird is before you put it in, it may take more or less time to get cooked all the way through. And you want it cooked all the way through because undercooked poultry is icky and because it can transmit salmonella, which is no fun at all.
I shoot for a slower cooking time – it’s easier to adjust for the timing of your meal. And it’s a much bigger problem if your bird is done too soon. Holding it in the oven or reheating it can dry it out and that’s not tasty. If it does happen to you, don’t despair. That’s what gravy is for. Just go ahead and slice the bird up and put it in a roasting pan or oven-safe dish, and cover it tightly with foil. Turn the oven to warm and if you can find the room (and you should, since the bones will be mostly gone), slide a pan of water on the lowest rack in the oven or on the floor. This will keep things somewhat moist.
A lot of folks recommend brining, and I used to be one of them. Until I discovered just how freaking hard it is to find a bird that hasn’t already had salt and other flavors injected into it. If your local turkeys are unbrined and you do want to, there are plenty of recipes out there on the Internet. But it is an extra step, plus the hassle of finding room in the fridge. Unless you’re in a part of the country where it’s below 40 degrees at night, in which case, a cooler on the back porch, securely closed, will probably do just fine and keep things perfectly safe. And speaking again of safety, you really want to make sure you clean any surface the raw turkey has come into contact with, and that you wash your hands before touching anything else. It’s a bit of a pain, but better than making your guests sick.
One note – because the stores hadn’t gotten their turkeys when I did the photos, I’m doing the demonstration on a chicken. Fear not. It is exactly the same process. The only difference is the size. And the first step is to figure out when you need to get the sucker into the oven. You’re going to be roasting it at 300 degrees, so figure it’s going to take 15 minutes for each pound of bird you have. I have a 12-pounder, so that’s 12 times 15, which is 180 minutes, divided by 60, equals three hours. You have a 20-pounder, that’s 20 times 15, which is 300 minutes, divided by 60, and that’s five hours. You want dinner at three. Bird goes into the oven at 10 a.m.-ish. If you’re going to stuff your bird (which I do not recommend because it takes longer and it’s harder to tell if the stuffing got cooked all the way through), then figure 20 minutes per pound.
It’s okay if the bird goes in a little late. Because I haven’t shared with you the one trick that will pretty much guarantee (as much as anything can) that the birdie will come out when you want it to. You’re going to blast it with high heat at the end of the cooking cycle. I learned this from watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats show on making turkeys, and I forget why he likes it. But I think it makes the skin crispier to blast at the end and I know I get a lot better control over when the verdamnt bugger comes out. Getting close to dinner time and the thermometer in the bird hasn’t crept past 100 degrees? Start blasting. Things cooking a little too fast? Turn down the heat until closer to dinner time, then blast the bejeebers out of it right before you serve the soup.
Which brings me to another major point – you will need at least an instant read thermometer. If you rely on the little pop-up that some birds come with, you will get over-done, dried out bird. Also, you won’t be able to tell when to turn the heat up. I like a probe thermometer, because you stick it in, put the bird in the oven and it stays. The wire drags out of the oven to the read out, but you can see exactly where your bird is at any time. And you can use it for any roast, meatloaf or even bread that you put in the oven.
Now, turn your oven to 300 degrees and prep your roasting pan, which means finding something to keep the bird above the fat and other goodies that drip to the bottom. This allows air underneath the bird and it doesn’t get so greasy. Or so I’m told. If you don’t have a rack, a small plate turned upside down will do just fine.
Using a small plate on the left, using a rack, to hold the bird up and away from the drippings.
Wash and dry the turkey both inside and out. This is one of those rare occasions when a paper towel really does the job better than anything else.
Now, you want to season the skin. You can use oil, with salt and pepper and/or other seasonings, use only plenty of salt and pepper, or my fave: slather on some butter all over, then salt and pepper. It’s Thanksgiving and unless you have an exceptionally compelling reason to cut the calories back, it’s worth the indulgence. Do cut off the half stick of butter before you use it because you’ll just contaminate the whole stick and butter ain’t that cheap. All you do is scoop up a chunk of butter, warm in in your hand for a moment, then rub it all over, starting with the breast side. That’s the really meaty side.
Then flip the bird into the roasting pan, breast side down. What? Am I committing heresy here? Hell, yes. It’s like I said in one of my earlier posts, that image of everyone ooing and ahhing at the perfectly browned bird? It’s a terrible way to roast a bird. All the juices drip into the back, which you don’t eat. Roasting a bird breast down doesn’t give you the pretty presentation, but all those lovely juices drip into the breast and helps keep it moist and delicious. I know which I’d rather eat. And you’ll be slicing this sucker in the kitchen to further spare you the embarrassment of doing a bad slicing job. One other benefit of roasting the bird on its breast, you don’t have to tie it up (even if you do stuff, which I do not recommend), nor do you have to worry about putting foil on the wings so they don’t get over done. No, as you see in the photo below, the wings tuck in very nicely on their own, as do the legs.
Do remember, however, to butter the backside of the bird, and generously salt and pepper it.
Insert your probe in the breast, away from any bone. Folks say put the probe near the thigh. I always hit a bone or the cavity and my bird ends up underdone, which is bad. If you plan to roast to 165 degrees, then everything gets done, but not overdone, and carryover heat (that final bit of cooking that gets done outside the oven while the bird is resting) takes care of the rest.
Set your probe thermometer to 140 degrees, or plan to check the turkey about every hour it’s in the oven. Put it in a 300 degree oven, but don’t stress if your forgot to turn it on earlier. Just turn it on now. It’s not going to hurt anything. That bird is going to be cooking a while. In an ideal world, you’ll be cooking it until the internal temperature hits about 140 degrees (about the time the hors d’oeuvres are set out), then blasting it with high heat until the internal temp reaches around 165-167 degrees. As noted above, if it’s cooking too fast, turn the oven down and check again in another half hour or so. If it’s cooking too slowly, give it about 15 to 20 minutes, then start blasting. And by blasting, I mean turning up your oven to its highest heat, around 500 degrees. Do keep an eye on things. My oven takes freaking forever to get to 500 degrees, even when it’s been cooking at 300 degrees. You may want to turn your oven on before Thanksgiving and see how long it takes to get to 500 degrees. It should only take about half an hour for the blast phase, but again, you can’t cook by numbers. Watch the birdie.
Oh, look. It’s done. You’ve strong-armed the bugger out of the oven. Now, using a couple sets of tongs and/or some long forks, pull it from the pan and set it on a cutting board (we like to put our cutting board on a half-sheet pan to catch all the juices) and cover with foil to keep warm while it rests. Now, we like our wooden cutting boards. We clean them with extremely hot water and a little bleach after every use and rinse them again. There are those who say that’s still not enough – and if you have someone among your guests with a compromised immune system, it may not be. You can also use a plastic cutting mat. One other note, you may want to cook some broth in that messy roasting pan, scraping all the bits off the bottom and sides, then pour everything into a jar, which you’ll put in your fridge once it’s cooled. It may be too salty for the gravy, but just salty enough to perk some up or for extra gravy later. Or you may have to toss it. But your roasting pan will be a lot easier to clean.
Now, to the cutting (and let’s thank my Beloved Spouse for demonstrating this part). First your remove the legs, separate the drumsticks from the thighs, and set them on your serving plattter, cut the meat off the thighs. Remove the wings next.
Thanks, Anne, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!