Wednesday, November 12, 2008
If you want your Thanksgiving turkey to be the star of the meal, you might considering brining. Brining will not only produce a turkey that is moist beyond compare, it also improves the texture of the meat, and imparts amazing flavor to a bird that, let's face it, has a tendency to be a tad on the bland side. And best of all, it's neither expensive nor terribly complicated.
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 c. kosher sea salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. juniper berries
1 whole head garlic, cut in half to expose cloves
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh rosemary, bruised
6 sprigs fresh sage, bruised
6 sprigs fresh thyme, bruised
6 sprigs fresh savory, bruised
1 gallon ice water
2 large trash bags (not made from recycled materials) or
16 - 20 lb. turkey
additional herbs for roasting (see above)
1/2 medium onion
1 lemon, quartered
Bring stock to simmer in large stockpot. Add salt and sugar, and stir until completely dissolved. Add next 9 ingredients. Cover and allow to simmer for half an hour. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 24 hours prior to actually brining the bird.
24 hours before roasting, remove the giblets and rinse the turkey thoroughly. Line the ice chest with one of the bags, placing the other bag inside of it. Add one gallon of ice water, and the chilled brine mixture and stir a bit. Place turkey in brine, making sure it's completely submerged. Secure the bag and cover all with ice. Set ice chest in a cool place and allow turkey to soak in the brine for 24 hours before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove turkey from brine, and rinse and dry (you won't get crispy brown skin unless the turkey is dry!) thoroughly. Place in large roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with fresh bunches of the same herbs used in the brine, 1/2 an onion, and a lemon that has been cut into quarters. Tie legs with kitchen twine. Brush entire turkey with butter, and cover the breast with foil. Roast, basting with butter (be sure to baste under the foil), until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 135 degrees. Remove foil, and continue to roast until skin is browned, and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Transfer turkey to a platter, and tent with foil (it will continue to cook). Allow turkey to rest while you make the gravy (but no less than 15 minutes) before carving. This allows time for the juices to redistribute.
I guarantee that you will not regret the little bit of extra work - it will pay off in the tenderest, juiciest bird you have ever cooked!
Just a note - the drippings from a brined bird can be very salty! Tomorrow's recipe...gravy!