Among the more important kitchen lessons I have learned the hard way: never brine a turkey at 8.5 months pregnant.
My intentions were good, as intentions always are. I was hosting a crowd for Christmas dinner, and there were expectations. When you write a food blog and profess to be a half-competent home cook, let’s face it: your Christmas dinner guests arrive with some pretty serious expectations. Whipped butter, maybe, and homemade gravy, definitely. Apple pie, fresh out of the oven. And a moist and juicy bird.
The butcher down the street from me claimed that a “simple” brine would deliver the moistest and juiciest bird I (and my holiday guests) ever did taste. And I bought it—both the butcher’s claim and the $6.00 packet of spice mix that would, with the addition of a little cool water, become the brine in which my turkey was to soak overnight. How hard could it be?
Hard enough, apparently, that I managed to dump an entire pot of brine—and a 12 pound turkey—onto my kitchen floor on Christmas Eve, splashing turkey juices all over my swollen pregnant feet and sending me into a complete salmonella frenzy. Thank goodness for my dad, who swooped in to clean up the mess, and my husband who salvaged the turkey and a bit of the brine while I rested my own little Butterball on the sofa and bawled my eyes out.
I now know better than to over-complicate Christmas dinner. More important than a juicy bird, a lump-free gravy and a flaky pie are the people sitting around the table to share it with you. Keep things simple. Make as much as you can in advance. Don’t (ever) turn down contributions from your dinner guests. Keep a bottle of wine close at hand.
And when it comes to dessert—skip the pie crust. These Crustless Pumpkin Pies are a cinch to whip up, and you can make them a day or two before the big meal and let them chill in the fridge until shortly before you want to eat them. They’ve got all the taste and creamy texture of pumpkin pie—imagine a rich little pumpkin custard—but without the finicky pie crust.
The ingredients are basic—a tin of pumpkin, heavy cream, spices, and a few good ‘ol Canadian eggs. Whisk it all up (or recruit a kid to do it, as I often do), pour into small ramekins, bake, cool, and serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon. Easier, and more foolproof than brining a bird. I promise.
Disclosure: This post is presented in partnership with Egg Farmers of Canada and its #ScrambledPlan campaign. I received compensation to develop this fantastic egg-containing recipe and share it with you. Every time you reach for eggs this holiday season you’re supporting Canadian farmers. Now that’s something to celebrate!
- 1 398 mL / 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup heavy (35%) cream
- 1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see note below)
- ¾ cup organic cane sugar (or regular white sugar will work)
- Pinch of sea salt
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Divide the mixture between 6 to 8 small ramekins.
- Place the ramekins onto a large baking sheet, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of the pies are firm to the touch and beginning to crack.
- Let cool completely and serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- If you want to make these in advance, pop the cooled pies into the refrigerator and pull them out and let them come to room temperature a couple of hours before serving.