D o you have questions about fixing the food and pairing the wines for a turkey dinner? Well, Frank Family Wines has answers.
They hosted an outstanding virtual wine tasting before Thanksgiving that included a professional chef who offered us many practical tips about preparing the turkey, stuffing and sides. Meanwhile, the Frank Family folks showed us four wines that would be perfect with a Thanksgiving dinner.
Chef Christina Machamer’s accolades include winning the fourth season of FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen and working side-by-side with some of the world’s top chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller. She achieved a Sommelier certification from the Master Court of Sommeliers based in London. Chef Christina has lived in Napa Valley for the past decade where she now works as a personal chef for both wineries and tourists.
It may be too late to help with this Thanksgiving, but if you cook a turkey for Christmas, New Year, or any other time, these tips will be helpful. I found them useful for our Thanksgiving dinner, and Teri and I like turkey so much, we decided to make another one soon.
If you were smart enough to order the wines in advance, you could taste along at home. It was all great fun, another in Frank Family’s lively and informative virtual tastings. While the virtual tastings can’t replace in-person tastings, they are a great alternative during COVID quarantine. And they offer wine drinkers who live far from the winery a chance to have a wine-sharing experience. Folks who joined the Zoom tasting also asked questions via the chat feature.
Owner Leslie Frank hosted the hour-long tasting and kept things moving along. She put her award-winning television news background to good use, asking questions that probably were on the minds of many of the audience.
Liam Gearity, director of direct-to-consumer sales and hospitality, guided us through the wines.
Chef Christina showed the group how she puts together a Thanksgiving meal. All of the recipes can be found here: https://www.frankfamilyvineyards.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/11.21-VT-Recipes.pdf.
“It takes about six hours to cook my Thanksgiving meal,” she said. “I don’t want my guests to get full before we have the turkey, so I start out with a cheese plate.”
She put the plate together as we watched, and it looked delicious. Mrs. Frank said presentation is the key to a good cheese board, and Machamer’s cheese board looked spectacular.
Machamer used four different cheeses: Boursin, aged white cheddar, fresh goat cheese and brie. She sliced green grapes to put on top of the brie and sprinkled green olives around the board.
Other additions included almonds, sliced green apples and more grapes. She also added a pear for decoration and finished with some crackers.
“I like to use a really big board because it gives me more room to work with,” said Machamer.
The first wine we tasted was the 2016 Frank Family Rouge, a sparkling red wine which Gearity said had “berry-driven flavor.”
“Sparkling wines are great with cheese plates,” said Gearity. “They’re what we celebrate with.”
Gearity explained the Frank Family Rouge is made like a traditional Champagne, with a second fermentation in the bottle. It is made with primarily Pinot Noir grapes with a little Chardonnay. The wine must get prolonged skin contact, because it is a beautiful red color.
It is a fabulous wine, one I have been drinking for years and usually ends up on our Thanksgiving table. It does have great berry flavor, and the unending tiny bubbles keep the wine fresh and lively.
The next course the chef prepared was stuffing, prepared the way her grandmother made it.
“This is very traditional,” Machamer said. “It reminds me of home, of grandma. Since we’re in wine country, we used sour dough bread, cubed and left out overnight.
“Little steps you take will add to the layers of flavor. The bread needs to be dry, but if it’s not yet dry you can dry it in the oven.”
She then melted two tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan and added diced onion and celery. She added some white wine to deglaze the pan and allowed it to reduce. To make it really special she used Frank Family Chardonnay to deglaze the pan.
She added the onion and celery to the bread cubes in a large bowl. To that she added chopped parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage (We should have been singing the Simon and Garfunkel song while she did this.) three beaten eggs, chicken stock, salt and pepper. She mixed it all to combine the ingredients.
“You’re looking for a consistency that’s a little wet,” Machamer said.
Leslie Frank asked her if she stuffs her turkey because that’s what Leslie does.
“I stuff,” said the chef, “but it takes longer to cook a stuffed turkey. “Or you can put the stuffing in a pan for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.”
Leslie asked whether to use stock or broth and Machamer said you can’t tell the difference with store bought. But if you make your own, the stock is richer.
The wine we sipped during this course was a 2018 Frank Family Chardonnay from the Lewis Vineyard in Carneros. Gearity called it the winery’s flagship offering.
“It’s from a cool-climate vineyard, closer to the San Pablo Bay,” he said. “It has a bright, light, vibrant flavor. It is aged in 100 percent new French oak.”
It has inviting brioche and lemon aromas with flavors of pear, melon, yellow apple and lemon curd. The creamy texture is balanced by lively acidity. The finish is pleasantly long and smooth.
Gearity talked about two wines that pair well with Thanksgiving dinner: 2018 Carneros Pinot Noir and 2017 Napa Valley Zinfandel.
“The Pinot Noir has more aromatic complexity,” he said. “It is very mellow, soft and with complex fruit flavors. There is a lot of subtlety.
“The Zin has more focus, more punch. It is a bright, fruit-driven wine. It knocks you out with big flavors. Both wines bring acidity and both have softer tannins.”
Because it takes so long to cook a turkey, and the tasting only lasted one hour, Machamer had prepared a turkey in advance.
“The hardest part is the logistics,” said Machamer. She figures about 1.5 pounds per person, so for six people you would need about an 8-pound bird. If you buy a frozen turkey you should defrost it in the refrigerator. That takes about one day for every four pounds of turkey.
Machamer brined her turkey. I love to do that, as well, because it adds so much flavor to the meat and the turkey seems to retain its moisture better as it cooks. Machamer also said she brines her fried chicken in buttermilk.
Machamer’s brine includes three cups of Kosher salt for eight quarts of water. She boils two quarts with the salt and then adds brown sugar, orange peels, bay leaves, black peppercorns, sage, rosemary and garlic. She boils all the ingredients and then removes the mixture from the heat. When it cools she pours in the rest of the water.
When the water cools you can submerge the turkey in the brine. If it floats, weigh the turkey down with a heavy object. Cover the turkey and leave it in the brine for 12-24 hours.
I bought a commercial brine and I have a plastic brining container. Because it’s too big to fit in my refrigerator, I just add ice cubes every few hours to keep the mixture cold. I brined mine for about 14 hours and it turned out great. I followed the rest of her instructions when making my turkey this year.
After brining the turkey, remove it from the liquid and pat dry. Then put it in the refrigerator overnight.
When preparing the bird for the oven, if you don’t use stuffing, put citrus fruits and herbs in the cavity. Then truss the turkey, tying it’s wings close to the body and the legs across the cavity.
She then coats the turkey in fat. Machamer uses mayonnaise, but you can use butter. Then sprinkle the skin with Italian seasoning and black pepper. She uses an aluminum roasting pan that keeps the turkey raised just a little to keep the skin crisp. If the pan is flat you need to put a rack under the bird.
She doesn’t cover the turkey unless the skin gets too dark. Then she puts a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top. That keeps the skin crisp. She also said not to baste the turkey because then the skin won’t get crisp.
Machamer uses the high-low technique, starting the oven at 500 degrees for 15-20 minutes to brown the skin, then lowering the temperature to 325 degrees the rest of the way. I have been doing that for several years, and it works perfectly.
The bird is ready when a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. And Machamer says those little plastic pop ups inserted into the turkey breast are pretty accurate, so you can go by that.
Mrs. Frank asked about using a large plastic bag made for roasting turkeys. She has used one before, and I have, too. They work pretty well.
Machamer said she had never tried it. So I skipped the bag this year, and I think the turkey turned out better. The skin was crisp, but the meat was moist and tasty.
When Mrs. Frank asked about gravy, Machamer laughed and said she takes three days to make gravy.
“Or you can use a prepared base and add drippings,” said Mrs. Frank.
I generally used the bottled gravies from the grocery store. They work well, and you can add some pan drippings if you want to.
The next virtual tasting is 5 p.m. EST Saturday, December 5. It will feature Leslie Frank, Christina Machamer and Joli DeVore, event stylist, talking about holiday entertaining.
If you have questions about wine send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.