Holiday Hacks for an Easy Thanksgiving

Roast turkey

Prepare the perfect Thanksgiving feast for your loved ones with this collection of recipes curated by the expert chefs at Sonora Resort. Chef Justine Smith and Chef Lukas Gurtner share 3 holiday hacks to prepare an enjoyable Thanksgiving meal.

Step 1 - Brine

The secret to a moist and juicy turkey is taking the time to brine it before roasting.

Roast turkey


  • Whole Turkey from 3.5-4.5 kg in weight x1


  • Water x 2L
  • Ice x 3L
  • Salt x 3/4cup
  • Brown sugar x ½ cup
  • Garlic cloves x 6
  • Large onion chopped x 1
  • Peppercorns x 1tbsp.
  • Coriander seed x 1tbsp.
  • Cinnamon stick x 1
  • Star anise x 5
  • Fennel seed x 1tbsp.
  • Zest of lemon x 1
  • Thyme x 2 bunches
  • Sage x 2 bunches
  • Bay leaf x 5

Making the Brine

Add all ingredients into a large pot except for ice. Bring this to a simmer and let this cook for about 5 minutes. This will give an opportunity for everything to break down and for the flavors to extract and become more flavorful. Remove from heat and transfer into a cool Insert (make sure the insert is big enough to hold your turkey). If you do not have an insert large enough, you can use a roasting pan or large pot to do this as well. Now add ice to the brine, to lower the temperature so you can place the turkey into the brine faster. Make sure the liquid is cold to the touch and chilled all the way through.

Brining your Turkey

Submerge turkey into the brine, and place in fridge for a minimum of 14 hours (no longer than 20 hours). Remove turkey from brine, rinse, and place on a kitchen towel uncovered. Let this dry in the fridge for up to 48 hours (minimum of 12 hours) before roasting. Properly drying the turkey ensures a crispy skin during the roasting process!

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Step 2 - Roast

Crispy skin and double smoked bacon and fall apple stuffing – let’s get cooking.

Roast turkey

Meripoix and Fresh Herbs

  • Large White Onion (roughly chopped) x 2
  • Carrot (roughly chopped) x 2
  • Celery (roughly chopped) x 2 stocks
  • Apple (roughly chopped) x 2
  • Garlic x 8 cloves
  • Fresh Thyme x 3 bunches
  • Fresh Sage x 3 bunches
  • Fresh parsley x 2 bunches
  • Fresh Rosemary x 1 bunch
  • Fresh Bay leaf x 6
  • Butter (diced into cubes) x ½ lbs.

Preparing the Turkey

Temper turkey for 2-2.5 hours before placing it in the oven for a more even cooking process. Preheat oven to 325F-350F. Combine all meripoix and fresh herb ingredients in a large bowl; stuff turkey with meripoix mixture and place turkey into a large roasting pan. Option to add stuffing to turkey now!

Roasting the Turkey

Roast turkey from 2.5 – 4 hours. Pause every 30 – 45 minutes to baste your turkey so it is extra moist! Place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (while not hitting the bone); when the temperature is between 165 – 170F, it’s complete. Rest turkey for minimum of 1 hour to give the meat and juices an opportunity to settle before butchering. You can leave the Meripoix and Herb garnish inside the turkey for presentation, but it will be much easier to butcher and portion your turkey with it removed.

Double Smoked Bacon and Fall Apple Stuffing

  • Bacon (diced) x 8 ounces (226g)
  • Old bread (large diced) x 16ounces (1lbs. /454g)
  • Large onion (diced) x 1
  • Celery stocks (diced) x 2
  • Garlic (chopped) x 4 cloves
  • Granny smithy apple (diced) x 2
  • Dried cranberries x ¾ cup
  • Fresh parsley (chopped) x ¼ cup
  • Fresh thyme (chopped) x 1tbsp.
  • Fresh sage (chopped) x 1tbsp.
  • Fresh rosemary (chopped) x 1 tsp.
  • White wine x ½ cup
  • Turkey/Chicken stock x 2½ cups
  • Eggs x 2
  • Zest of lemon x 2
  • Black pepper (freshly ground) x 1tsp
  • Salt – to taste

Dice bread and toast in the oven until nice and golden brown. Now in a large skillet, brown bacon until it is golden brown and crispy. Remove the bacon from the skillet while keeping the fat inside, sauté onions, garlic, celery, and apples. Deglaze with white wine and cook this down until it is dry. Add bacon back in and let this cool down to room temperature before adding. In a large bowl, incorporate toasted bread, dried cranberries, fresh herbs, lemon zest, and ground pepper. Add eggs to the cooked onion and apple mixture, then add this to bread mixture, followed by the chicken stock. It might take 30- 60 minutes for the bread to absorb all the liquid. Taste stuffing and add more salt if it is needed. Bake stuffing in a casserole dish and serve it on its own or let the stuffing rest for a few hours and stuff it in your Turkey before roasting!

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Step 3 – Cranberry Sauce

No turkey feast is complete without this Thanksgiving staple dish.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce Ingredients

  • Fresh cranberries x 4 cups
  • Brown sugar x 1 ½ cups
  • Fresh orange juice x 450ml
  • Grand Marnier x 200ml
  • Fresh ginger (small dice) x 2 tbsp.
  • Cinnamon stick x 1
  • Star anise x 4
  • Zest of orange x 2
  • Zest of lemon x 1
  • Juice of lemon x 1 (to finish)
  • Fresh bay leaf x 3

In a medium to large sauce pot on medium heat, sauté diced ginger in 1tbsp. of canola oil. Add spices and bay leaf and let this cook for a few minutes. Now add a ½ cup of your brown sugar and let this caramelize while stirring constantly. Deglaze with Grand Marnier and let this cook down until dry. Now, add 3 cups of fresh cranberries and set 1 cup aside for finishing. Add orange juice, citrus zest and the rest of the brown sugar and mix everything together. Let this cook on medium to low heat for 1-2 hours, stirring every so often so it does not stick and burn. When cranberry sauce has had a chance to cook down and become more of a paste, add the last cup of cranberries and lemon juice. Let this cook for around 3-5 minutes or until the cranberries start to slightly burst. Remove this immediately off the heat and transfer into a clean insert to cool. Ideally the longer you let your cranberry sauce rest in the fridge, the better. If you can make your cranberry sauce 24/48 hours ahead of time, this is the best. This will give an opportunity for all the flavors to come together and be more pronounced. Before serving, remember to remove the star anise, cinnamon stick and bay leaves!

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