I’ve been asked several times lately what it is that I love about cooking. It’s caught me off guard every time, I guess because I’m not used to having to quantify it. It’s my passion – how can I explain that? My mind immediately went to a snapshot of me standing by the stove top, holding my glass of wine (naturally), listening to music and sautéing something that smells wonderful. I’m in my element. I’m happy just thinking about it.
Why, though? It’s a good question. I’ve been turning it over in my mind all week. I decided to go back to my earliest memories of cooking to see where it all started. “To make people happy,” was what I came up with, as I thought back to a Mother’s Day many years ago, when I snuck into the kitchen and made my signature dish, french toast, to bring to my mother in bed. Ever the people pleaser, a big grin of approval was all I needed to make my efforts worthwhile.
Naturally, my cooking trended toward comfort foods like pastries and pizza. I think it’s probably an easy trap to fall into. What better way to bring a smile to someone’s face? I was renowned in my small town for my homemade pizza nights and my freshly baked trays of cinnamon rolls. Eventually, though, I had to make some changes to my lifestyle. And because I could no longer make the decadent foods I had enjoyed so much, I felt like I was giving up more than just the calories. Would cooking still be enjoyable or would it feel restrictive and even worse, bland?
As I trended toward a healthier diet, and especially during my stint of strict veganism, I ended up learning more in the kitchen than I ever had before. I highly recommend trying that out, by the way. Taking the meat and dairy off my plate, without replacing them with processed substitutes, forced me out of my comfort zone. It forced me to stop following recipes and taking short-cuts because they just didn’t exist. I finally ditched the grocery list and started buying whatever was in season, figuring out how to use them as I went. I did a lot of google searching, a lot of experimenting, and tried more foods, especially vegetables, in the past year than I probably have in my entire life.
Cooking was fun again. And it made me think, if I was having fun even without getting the compliments that come with “splurge” foods, there must be more to my love of cooking than praise. I realized that even though it never hurts, cooking was never really about the praise or even about the end result; it was always about the process. There is something very satisfying and therapeutic about the process of creating something, whether it’s music, those tie-dye shirts you saw on Pinterest, a journal you poured your soul into, or a beautiful home that you lovingly decorated. And with an entire world of ingredients to pick from and completely different outcomes with each slight variance in preparation, cooking is all that. It’s challenging, it’s soothing, and it’s constantly teaching me since there’s definitely no “sugar coating” the end results (pun intended).
Cooking is an outlet because it allows me to have control of something in a variable world that lacks control. I may not always have control over the end result but I do have control over all the steps that get me there. And the more I learn, the more control I have over how my creations turn out. So there you have it. I love to cook because I love to create. It’s as simple as that. And speaking of creating…
I love that this brine is as beautiful as it is flavorful. If we’re talking about cooking as an art, we definitely need that aesthetic aspect. It adds to my cooking joy when I’m feeling fancy as I stir (serious bonus points). This recipe was a joy to create too because rosemary and clementines is a divine combination. Divine. The first time I tried this brine, I was a little nervous to have such bold flavors contrasting with the gravy. But let me just tell you, Not. A. Problem. The flavor is subtle but delicious enough on its own that you may just forget to even add gravy. If you do remember it, though, it’s pretty fabulous that way too.
Rosemary & Clementine Turkey Brine
This flavorful brine will give you a moist, tender turkey with subtle hints of flavor in every bite. 2-3 days is an ideal amount of time for the turkey to brine.
- 2 cups apple cider
- 24 cups water (1 1/2 gallons)
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1 1/4 cup organic brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic
- Peels of 3 Clementines
In a large stockpot, combine the apple cider, water, salt, and brown sugar and heat them on high heat.
Mince the rosemary and garlic and add them to the pot, along with the clementine peels. Place a lid on the pot and heat the mixture for 5 more minutes and then turn off the heat and let it sit until cooled off. (You can put it in the fridge to expedite the process)
Once it’s cooled, place the turkey into the brining bag and pour the brine over it. Seal it up and place the filled bag into your fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 4 days.