turkey and rolls

Just because I’m a vegetarian, doesn’t mean I don’t cook up a tantalizing turkey come Thanksgiving. While I am enjoying my Field Roast Hazelnut-Cranberry Roast En Croute (and a ton of side dishes!), my guests will feast on what I believe is the simplest, healthiest and most delicious turkey ever to grace a table. No matter the season, when I’m buying animal-derived products I spend extra time label reading. I search for meat that is humanely raised, organic and of course, non-GMO. We eat what they eat and the only assured way to know if meat or dairy products are non-GMO is to look for the Butterfly seal.

Non-GMO Project Verified means all high-risk ingredients were tested to the industry’s most rigorous standard. The majority of corn and soy animal feed grown in the U.S. is genetically modified to withstand glyphosate, a chemical herbicide that the World Health Organization has classified as a probable carcinogen. While I am a huge proponent of organic products, pollen drift can cause GMO contamination in fields that contain certified organic crops. Having these organic products tested by the Non-GMO Project allows me to truly know what’s in the products I purchase.

If you eat meat, choosing organic and Non-GMO Project Verified is the “gold standard,” not only for your body, but also for the planet. Conventional and factory farming devastates our soil, water and the animals themselves. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to spread this awareness by serving a “gold standard” bird. Check out the Non-GMO Project’s holiday infographic and let’s get cooking!

A Fine Dry Brine

My favorite way to prepare turkey is in a dry salt brine. While salt is not an organism, many common table salts contain dextrose and other anti-caking agents that may be derived from GMO sources, such as corn. When you think about how prolific salt is in the foods we eat, you start to realize that the presence of genetically modified corn ingredients is way bigger than a seemingly harmless pinch of salt. Luckily, there are salt companies who proudly display the Butterfly!

Dry brining will result in a tender, tasty turkey. According to Food 52, “salting early doesn’t dry these things out — if timed and measured right, moisture is pulled out and back in again.” Epicurious says, “the salt-only dry brine enhances the bird’s tenderness and improves its ability to retain moisture without watering down its natural flavor. In essence, it brines the turkey with its own juices. And, because the skin hasn’t been soaked in water, it actually becomes thinner and drier. In the oven, this translates to a lovely crisp skin that your guests may fight over.” To make my feast prep a breeze, I dry brine my bird as it defrosts…saving time and precious space in my fridge!

Check out Russ Parson’s recipe for Dry Brined Turkey (a.k.a. The Judy Bird), a favorite among the L.A. Times Food Section staff, as well as my friends and family since it was first published in 2006. Winner, winner non-GMO turkey dinner!

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