Thanksgiving makes me giddy. A month before the big day I sit down with my recipes and plan the most decadent meal. The item I strive ever year to improve – my turkey. Each year I try to make a more flavorful and moist bird. Here is my tried and true recipe.
A few years ago, I was watching the food channel and saw one of the chefs talking about brining a bird. The main philosophy is that you actually seal the outside with a concoction of sugar, salt and water, sealing in the moisture.
When you decide to brine a turkey, make sure you have a large enough pot to fully submerge your bird. One year I didn’t have room for a large pot in my refrigerator so I actually put the turkey in a garbage bag, filled the bag with brine, put the entire turkey (in the bag) in the roasting pot and tied the bag to the top shelf of my fridge so as the turkey was fully submerged. You should keep your turkey in the brine for about 24 hours.
A simple brine recipes is this:
4 quarts water
1 ½ cups kosher salt
Mix the ingredients together until dissolved
Now, although these ingredients are the key ingredients to making effective brine, for a tastier recipe, I usually add several cloves of crushed garlic, pepper, a few chopped onions, and seasonings like Rosemary, Cilantro, and Thyme. Adjust your brine according to your taste.
Before adding brine to your turkey, rinse your bird off in cold water and remove the innards. You can set these aside for later preparation or throw them away. Pat your turkey dry. Put the turkey in the pot and pour the brine mixture over top of it ensuring that the whole turkey is submerged.
When you remove the turkey from the brine before cooking, throw away the brine solution. It’s tempting to use it while cooking, but it will be laden with bacteria. Rinse off your bird again in cold water. Don’t worry – you won’t wash away the brine flavor. Pat it dry.
I always cover my turkey in a garlic butter mixture. I melt about a cup of butter and add garlic, pepper, thyme, basil and Rosemary. Rub the turkey inside and out with this concoction. Since I cook my turkey slowly at a lower temperature, I do not make stuffing since it isn’t hot enough to kill harmful bacteria. Instead I usually chop up an onion, a few cloves of garlic, carrots, and stuff the center with fresh Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Basil, and Cilantro. It creates an amazing aroma.
Tie the legs of your bird tightly together and place it in your roaster. I usually put a half-cup of water in the bottom of the pan so it moistens the bird throughout roasting.
Roasting a turkey is a matter of personal taste. My method involves putting my turkey in an extremely hot oven about 500 degree for about ten minutes to sear the outside of the bird. I leave it uncovered at this time so the skin turns a light brown color. After about 10-15 minutes I turn the heat down to about 200 degrees and cover the turkey with tin foil tightly.
Since the skin is seared and the brine keeps the moisture in, I don’t have to baste the turkey throughout the day. Not only does this give me time to concentrate on other dishes, but also I can keep the tinfoil tightly around the turkey preventing moisture from escaping each time I open it to baste.
This method takes a little longer to cook, but you will be left with a moist flavorful bird. Since I’ve begun slow cooking and brining I’ve never been left with a dry turkey. When your turkey is done (180 degrees) pull it out of the oven. Let it sit for a few moments in the tin foil. You can baste it occasionally. Be sure to let it sit for about 20 minutes though because you will allow the moisture in the bird to settle.
Any moisture that has escaped is normally very flavorful because of the brine mixture, the buttery garlic rub, and the fresh herbs inside the bird. To make delectable gravy, simply add a little flour until it is at the consistency that you life.
Last but not least – Enjoy!!