My favorite of all the American holidays is Thanksgiving.
Over the years I have experimented with roasting many turkeys so that the meat would stay moist. High heat, low heat, short roasting time, long roasting time, nothing really worked to my liking. Then I read somewhere about brining the bird. Bingo! Submerging the turkey for 3 to 5 hours in an ice cold salt water, brine, is the solution.
I use a large, old but clean beverage cooler, kept just for this task, and set it on the screened-in porch in the shade. I dissolve 2 cups of kosher salt in 1 1/2 gallons of very cold water and add two big branches of sage. If you have fridge large enough that can fit a pot, large enough to fit a bird and the water, that would be the ideal way of brining your turkey. Bar that, I use the cooler.
1 12-14 lb. fresh or totally defrosted turkey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage and more sprigs for cavities of turkey
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
Prepare the brine. 2 cups of kosher salt, I use Morton’s, dissolved in 1 1/2 gallons of water.
Remove neck and giblets.
Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels.
Immerse the bird into the salt water brine and add 8 cups of ice cubes. Weigh the bird down with a plastic bag full of ice cubes if necessary. Close the lid and let the turkey rest in it’s bath. I check every hour or so to make sure the temperature does not rise above 40 degrees. It shouldn’t, but if it does add ice.
Mix the soft butter, sea salt, sage and rosemary into a smooth paste. Set aside. Do not refrigerate.
Let the turkey sit in the brine between 3 to 5 hours. When you are ready to continue remove the bird from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Let the turkey air dry for 10 min. Discard the brine.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Starting at the neck lift the skin and with your fingers try to separate the skin from the flesh on the breast side. By advancing your fingers gently you should be able to do this without too much trouble. Push a couple of tablespoons of the butter mixture into this space. Do the same thing from the butt side.
Salt the rest of the turkey generously with sea salt rubbing it all over the skin and in the cavities. Add extra sage sprigs to cavities.
I don’t recommend stuffing the turkey with dressing because of health safety concerns.
Place the turkey on a V-rack (spraying it with a pan coating helps remove the bird later on) in a roasting pan and put into the oven. Roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees until the breast is medium golden in color.
Remove pan from oven. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Turn turkey, breast side down, and return to oven. Roast 2 hours more. Remove pan again and turn turkey so that the breast side is back up. Return turkey to oven and roast for approx. 30 min. more to crisp up the skin.
Check if the turkey is done by inserting a food thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.
To get an accurate reading, be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone.
The bird is done when the temperature is 160 degrees. Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 1/2 hour. The temperature will keep on rising in the bird.
Add 1 cup of water to “deglaze” the bottom of the roasting pan. Scrape all the large and small bits. Pour into a small sauce pan for the gravy. Recipe follows.
Bed and Breakfast Foodie