Italian Fennel Spice Rub for Turkey

Oct 23, 2013

Credit Kristin Wall/flickr creative commons

This simple, flavorful spice rub is one of my favorites, and will transform your roast turkey as it cooks sitting atop a bed of fresh rosemary sprigs. The best part is that you can make the rub ahead, then freeze it or store it for when you need it.

When I led a food and wine tour through Napa Valley with a group of WNPR listeners, I arranged for us to meet with chef and author Michael Chiarello, one of my favorite cooks. This is Michael's spice rub recipe, a rub that makes turkey delicious without overwhelming it. (This is what Italians do so well, enhance foods to bring out their best through the use of spices, herbs, citrus and olive oil.)

Michael's take on turkey involves toasting seeds in a pan, putting a fresh lemon in the turkey cavity, and drizzling the bird with extra virgin olive oil. Anyone can make this.

Special thanks to Michael and The Food Network for allowing us to feature his Fennel Spice Rub, which can be used on turkey, latkes or pork for any party.

Wine? I like this dish served with a dry French sparkling wine because it serves as a counterpoint to what can be an overwhelmingly rich meal. (My wine recommendation is listed after the recipe, and it is available in our region.)

Michael's Fennel Spice Rub

(Makes ½ Cup)


1 cup fennel seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons white peppercorns
3 tablespoons KOSHER salt, not table salt
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 lemon, halved
½ cup extra virgin olive oil


Note from Faith: You can get the best deal and usually the freshest spices at your local health food market instead of the supermarket. I order twice the amount I need and still it's a bargain because jarred spices can be absurdly expensive, especially around the holidays. Make sure your health food market keeps its spices in covered bins or big jars with lids. Please remember that this spice rub can be made ahead and frozen if you have a lot to do on the big day.

  1.  Put the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and white peppercorns in a heavy dry pan on medium heat. Watch them like a hawk! Stir frequently to be sure the seeds toast evenly; when they are fragrant and light brown, pour the seeds onto a dinner plate and allow them to cool completely, about a half hour to be certain.
  2.  Pour the toasted seeds into a blender and add the KOSHER (not table) salt. Blend the mixture to a fine powder, tapping the blender now and then to make sure all the seeds are pulverized.
  3.  If you're making this in advance, store the mixture in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool dry place, or do what I do, freeze it.
  4.  Wash and dry the turkey inside and out. Coat generously inside and out with olive oil. Place two lemon halves in the turkey cavity. Press the spice rub mixture all over the outside of the turkey.
  5.  Oil the bottom of a roasting pan. Place 4 rosemary sprigs across the bottom of the pan as a bed, and rest the turkey on top of them. Roast at the temperature recommended for the weight of the turkey.

Faith's Sparkling Holiday Rosé

Rich meals are often a given at the holidays, and I like to serve this beautiful dry rosé sparkling wine. It's a lovely sipper, and seems to go with so many foods, as long as they're not super-spicy. This is my go-to sparkler with turkey, latkes, or pork roast; in fact, keep it coming through dessert, too.

This Brut (very dry) rosé is from the Burgundy region of France. I buy it by the case; for the money, it's a steal. Head to your wine store now to avoid the rush and simply say you'd like Albert Bichot's Cremant Brut Rose. If it's not on the shelf, tell the store the distributor is Eder-Goodman. They'll have it to you in 24-48 hours. It sells for about $23 a bottle, cheaper by the case, of course.

Happy holidays from Chris, Lori, Jonathan and me to you and yours!

Parmesan Cheese and Garlic Potato Pie

Don't expect an ounce of leftovers from this dish. It's a crowd-pleaser, destined to make your dinners the most coveted invitation on the block. Or, bring the pie to your next potluck, and watch it disappear in minutes. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can make this mouth-watering dish. As one famous actress said about lamb chops, "You throw them in the oven, and what's to keep them from getting done?" This potato wonder is that simple; a few layers of divine things in a pie plate, and into the oven it goes. Serve it with an entree of beef, pork, lamb, fish, or poultry. In fact, you might want to make it bigger by using a larger buttered glass dish to dazzle guests for a holiday. I love this cheesy potato creation paired with the bitterness of broccoli rabe, although any vegetable will do. The truth is, this pie plate special goes with everything!

I discovered this dish in the paperback cookbook, Farm Stand Fresh. Written and illustrated by Manuela Soares and Jeanne Betancourt; it's a celebration of farm stands across the North Fork of Long Island, often referred to as the "Un-Hamptons." Thanks, Manuela and Jeanne, for supporting local farmers, and for your wonderful creativity. Great paintings, Jeanne! (If you'd like a copy, Google Farm Stand Fresh, published by Fig Tree Books.)

Serves 4

5 or 6 medium-sized boiling potatoes, washed, dried, and thinly sliced
3 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, finely sliced
½ cup hot milk
¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon or thyme, chopped


  1.  Preheat Oven to 375° F
  2.  Overlap the first layer of potatoes and garlic in a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with half the cheese and half the butter.
  3.  Repeat the layer. If you have more potatoes use 1/3 of the cheese and butter each time. You should end up with potatoes on top. (I don't include garlic in the top layer.)
  4.  Pour the hot milk over the pie and top with breadcrumbs. Add remaining cheese and butter. Bake for one hour. The top should be golden brown, and the pie should be tender when pierced with a fork.

NOTE: The ingredients and instructions are from the recipe's creators, Jeanne and Manuela, who say they've enjoyed this hot or cold. On a whim, I'll add more or less cheese, and I always add some salt.

Parmesan-Crusted Creamed Corn


6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1½ cups heavy cream
Two 16-ounce packages frozen white corn, defrosted
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour


  1.  Preheat the oven to 350° F. Brush a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with some of the butter.
  2.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup of the cheese over the bottom of the dish and tilt so the cheese is evenly distributed and adheres to the butter. (Or you can use ten 4-ounce ramekins for individual servings.)
  3.  In a large saucepan, heat the cream until it begins to boil.
  4.  In the meantime, make a paste out of the remaining melted butter and the flour. Stir it into the mixture in the saucepan and cook until thickened and the liquid comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the mixture to the prepared dish (or ramekins), and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese. Diva Do-Ahead: At this point, you can let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before continuing.
  5.  Bake the corn until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. (Individual ramekins will take 15 to 20 minutes.) Serve immediately.

Recipe from Happy Holidays from the Diva of Do-Ahead: A Year of Feasts to Celebrate with Family and Friends
by Diane Phillips
Published by The Harvard Common Press, 2006


  • \Chris Prosperi - senior contributor and chef/owner, Metro Bis, Simsbury
  • Alex Province - Allan S. Goodman/EderBrothers Wine Distributors