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Woman's recipe brings home the turkey

Take another look at the herbed turkey on the cover of Sunset magazine's November 2005 issue.

That lovely, moist bird garnished with persimmons and sage? It's the creation of longtime Ashland chef, caterer and restaurant consultant Helena Darling.

Yes, it's my turkey on the cover of Sunset and I'm really excited about that, Darling said Friday.

Darling, 44, took the best turkey award in the magazine's 2005 &

36;50,000 recipe contest.

Her Dry-Cured Rosemary Turkey recipe was worth &

36;5,000 ' one place shy of the top prize. It was among some 6,500 recipes submitted by readers in the magazine's annual contest.

— I was just on the Internet looking up some other food-related thing and I thought, 'Well, I'll just enter this,' Darling recall.

I work with those methods that make up the recipe really often, so I sent it off and I forgot about it.

In July, Sunset editors called Darling to tell her she'd won.

I thought it was about a subscription, she said.

The &

36;50,000 grand prize went to Kari Bowers, 42, of Bellevue, Wash., who impressed judges with an unusual Roasted-Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Maple Cream.

That's nice, of course, but Rogue Valley diners familiar with Darling's talents at local restaurants Primavera and Verdant might hold different views about the contest outcome.

Indeed, Dan Fost, a Bay Area journalist who attended the winners' Harvest Dinner in October, noted in a blog that dinner-table buzz had picked Darling's bird to win the big one.

Darling told Sunset editors she came up with the original recipe during a party-advice phone call with her bachelor brother.

The recipe calls for coating the turkey with a mixture of sea salt, herbs, juniper berries, garlic and anise and letting it cure for three days before roasting.

It makes it kind of velvety, Darling said.

Winning the contest was exciting, said Darling, who is planning to use the prize money for a vacation.

Even more satisfying is the sight of her glossy holiday turkey on newsstands everywhere.

I've had a lot of grocery-line conversations about turkey, she said.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail Woman's recipe brings home the turkey"jaleccia@mailtribune.com.