I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in Dallas, Texas in 1987. It marked our first full year in the United States and my mother, father, and I felt blessed to share a meal with my family members who sponsored us. I was 5 years old but it remains a memory of family, full bellies, and feeling blessed in our new home, America.
Growing up, Thanksgiving was the biggest holiday, after Eid, in my household. It embodied everything my parents believed in, good food, togetherness, and gratitude.
One thing has changed since our first celebration, my mother now eats only Halal meats. Which means I’ve had to master making a juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked Halal Turkey. If you aren’t able to order a Halal turkey near you, many Islamic scholars accept Kosher meat as Halal.
It is incredibly important to brine a Halal turkey because Halal turkeys are not salted or injected with saline, such as store-bought turkeys and kosher turkeys are. My favorite brine recipe is from Alton Brown (Food Network).
Juicy Halal Turkey Recipe
1 Turkey (12-15 lbs) – Whole turkey neck and giblets removed.
Equal parts Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme (2 tablespoons each)
Lemon Pepper (1 tablespoon)
Salt (1 tablespoon)
Aromatics for inside the bird (1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 1 orange, 1 carrot)
Special Juicey Juice (3 cups Gingerale and 2 cups halal chicken broth or vegetable broth)
- 3 days prior thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. The number of days depends on the size of your turkey.
- 24 hours in advance it’s crucial you brine the turkey, as halal turkey is not pre-salted to retain juiciness when cooking. Use Alton Brown’s Method.
- On the day you’re serving the turkey, start your process 3-4 before your serve time.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F
- Stir together the parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture into the cavity of the turkey
- Slice the celery, orange, onion, and carrot. Toss the items together then stuff as much as you can into the cavity of the bird.
- Truss the turkey. There are great tutorials on Youtube.
- Place the turkey into the roasting pan. I like to use a turkey lifter rack, which I place in first. It makes getting the turkey out seamless.
- Pour the chicken broth and ginger ale over the turkey, making sure to get some ginger ale in the cavity.
- Use heavy duty aluminum foil to create a dome over the top of your turkey. Make sure the foil does not touch the skin or legs.
- Bake the turkey in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear.
- Uncover the turkey, and continue baking until the skin turns golden brown, 30 minutes to 1 hour longer.
- An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). You can double check your turkey cooking time here.
- Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
(Left: Deep fried turkey, Right: Halal turkey recipe)
The essentials on our table include mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry (with a kick of ginger), stuffing, bread rolls, and roasted vegetables. In recent years I inherited a cousin-in-law that makes a killer pumpkin cheesecake.
As an adult, I recognize that the narratives I accepted about Thanksgiving as a child were one-sided. For more on how we celebrate the holiday now: Rethinking Thanksgiving Celebrations: A Native Perspective On Thanksgiving.
Peace and Salam,
Photography Credits: Farina Kazi, Natasha Kazi