My old cat, The Molly had a real love of turkey.
Thanksgiving time is almost here and it's time for everyone to share their favorite tip, tricks, and thoughts on food. I love to cook. While touring, I ate a lot of food off of paper plates, out of fast-food bags, and with plastic forks. So I found that when I returned home, I wanted to eat real food. Delicious home cooked food. My wife benefited from this greatly. She doesn't like to cook much, so I became our household's official cook.
I experimented with Thanksgiving Turkey since I can remember. The minute I was living along (ie, not at my parent's house), I would always cook for holidays if I couldn't make it home. Whether there was me and a roommate or a whole bunch of people (in Los Angeles we had about 12 people living in two buildings that were all from PA and couldn't afford to fly home all the time), I would do what I could to be the host of an awesome holiday meal.
Turkey was always a bit difficult for me and for years, I really thought that turkey was always meant to be dry and slightly flavorless. Then I came across Alton Brown and his genius show, Good Eats. What follows is my adaptation of his methods. I've been experimenting with it for awhile now, so hopefully you'll enjoy it. It takes some extra work and preparation, but you'll be amazed at the difference (just look at the juice on the plate in the photo above).
The night before Thanksgiving.
Hopefully by now, you've thawed your turkey. If not, get it under some cool running water and try to get it done.
In your largest stock pot, bring the following ingredients to a boil.
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of peppercorns
1 head of garlic (cut in quarters - skins and all, just try and cut through the cloves as this will increase the flavor)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 carrots, peeled and broken into large pieces
3 ribs of celery, washed and broken into large pieces
Several sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage (you can alternate your herbs, I use different ones every year)
2 gallons of vegetable or chicken stock
(If you're going to use canned/boxed stock - definitely go with vegetable, if you're using homeade, I find chicken stock works great. I usually combine a bit of both for flavor.)
When the pot comes to a boil, simmer for 1-2 hours, turn off the heat and remove the carrots, onion, and celery from the pot. Let it cool - you want this as cold as possible. Putting it in the refrigerator after it cools a bit will help. This is why you want to start the day before!
When the brine is completely cooled, pour half into a large bucket (with lid - I use on I got from Lowe's that contractors use - clean it well first). Add some ice. Make sure the liquid is very cold.
Clean and rinse your turkey, remove the giblets, and lower into the bucket with the cavity facing the top of the bucket. You may need to get some to help hold the turkey for you. Pour in remaining brine (fill up the cavity first, this will help to keep the turkey from floating) and add more ice. Push the turkey to the bottom of the bucket and make sure it is fully covered with liquid (you can add water if necessary). Add more ice to the top (it helps keep the turkey submerged) and if necessary, weigh the turkey down (plate over the top with some cans for weight). Store this bucket over night in a cool place.
The morning of Thanksgiving.
Wake up early, you've got a lot of work to do!
Take two heads of garlic and slice off the tops, exposing the cloves below. Drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven until the cloves are golden brown. Let them cool a bit then squeeze the cloves out into a bowl (they will just slide right out after begin roasted). Take one quarter of this and save in a different bowl for later. In a food processor, mix 2 sticks of unsalted butter (softened), the 3/4 of the roasted garlic, a pinch or two of salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper. Add some fresh herbs, finely minced (I usually stick with sage, thyme, and rosemary for this). Pulse until everything is thouroughly blended and the garlic has been broken up.
Open your turkey bucket and remove the turkey. Rinse and pat dry, then place it in your roasting pan. Remove the stupid pop-up thermometer. Those things are a waste and are never accurate predictors of the turkey's doneness.
Pull the skin apart from the breast meat and work the butter mixture in between the two layers. Really get it in there and coat everything generously (and push those hands all the way to the back of the bird). Smear some of the butter on the outside as well, concentrating on the legs, thighs, and wings (as you didn't get the butter on the inside of those). Also rub some butter mixture inside the cavity of the turkey. Fill the cavity with aromatics (carrots, celery, onions, and lots of herbs).
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Yes 500. Place turkey on lowest rack in oven and roast for 30 minutes. Remove turkey from oven, cover the breast with a double layer of aluminum foil and insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast (be careful not to push it into bones as these will throw off the reading). Place back in the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. If your thermometer has an alarm, set it for 161 degrees. A 13 to 14 pound turkey should take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. When ready, remove from oven and let the turkey rest 15 minutes before carving and thanking me for my wonderful recipe.
Wait a minute, I still have some of the garlic butter sitting around. What's that for?
Put it on the table for your bread or rolls. Its delicious. (Also tasty mixed in with mashed potatoes.)
So there you have it, my lengthy turkey recipe. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and enjoys some quality time with the family, friends, and loved ones.
Special thanks to Shirley Parks for inspiring me to put this on ActiveRain.