Cristina Ferrare's turkey that led to a TV show
It's the meal that charmed Oprah and became a staple at Cristina Ferrare's Christmas Day dinners. Find out how one succulent turkey recipe helped her land her own TV show and how she plans to top her holiday dinner this year.
Every Christmas morning after our traditional evening at my sister's with the entire family, we wake up early to open gifts and enjoy an elaborate morning meal my husband, Tony, prepares and has dubbed "the best breakfast in the world ever!" Then, we clean up and Tony, our daughters Alexandra and Arianna and I head up to Montecito, California, to have Christmas Day with our friends, the Reitmans.

It's because of that very reason I ended up with a cooking show on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Yes, it's true. For the past 10 years, the Reitmans have ever so graciously let me make Christmas dinner because, basically, I can't stay out of the kitchen! And so a new tradition grew.

After Oprah moved to Montecito, she became great friends with the Reitmans as well. I had the opportunity to be on her show twice with books I've written, and I knew Oprah just enough to say, "Hello, nice to see you."

About eight years ago, when I was getting ready to start planning the Christmas Day meal, Genevieve Reitman told me that Oprah and Stedman would be joining us for dinner. Yikes! Oprah and Stedman were coming! I prepared the traditional turkey dinner Genevieve requested. On that particular Christmas Day, we ended up with about 60 guests at dinner. Over the years, the head count as gone up and down with the highest at 80 and the smallest at 20 (with Oprah there at least six times), but no matter what the head count, I am always so happy to be able to prepare the meal. So it was like a dream when I received a call from The Oprah Winfrey Show asking me if I would appear on the show to make the turkey dinner we have at Christmas for Oprah's 2008 Thanksgiving episode. Being there previously as an author—as wonderful and exciting as it was—didn't compare to this experience. It was definitely one of the highlights of my life walking out onto that stage to do what I love the most: cook!

Bringing the turkey dinner to The Oprah Show
All the wonderful people in the audience were so welcoming, and the energy in the room lifted me into a state of euphoria. When I walked onstage and Oprah greeted me with open arms, a great big smile and hug, I quickly lost my jitters and felt right at home. After the show was over and I said my goodbyes and thank-yous to the incredible staff who helped me put this whole meal together, I headed to the Oprah Store before going to the airport.

While shopping there, the manager of the store came over to me and quietly whispered in my ear that Ms. Winfrey wanted to see me in her office. I ran out the door and across the street—and didn't even bother to put on my coat in the -8° weather! When I arrived in Oprah's office, she was already in warm sweats and fluffy slippers. She greeted me warmly and proceeded to tell me how she would be launching her new network down the road and thought I would be perfect to have a cooking show sharing all that I love about home, family and, most of all, cooking! She took my breath away. That was two years ago.

The dinner that I make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas started my dream-come-true chapter in my life. Here is everything you need to know about preparing the dinner:

For Christmas Day this year, I'm going to add a Christmas Crackle Ham as well. Check out my recipe.

Blessings! Merry Christmas and happy holidays!


My new show, Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love, debuts on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network January 3 at 3:30 p.m. Watch a sneak peek.


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