This year for Thanksgiving I decided to make a brined turkey, which I’d never done before. I pulled a recipe from Food Network Magazine and it turned out fantastic. While this recipe is for a full turkey, I just made it with a bone-in turkey breast because I was having a small crowd. Right after I put the turkey in the oven, I saw a post from The Pioneer Woman on facebook saying, “If you’re brining your turkey, make sure to rinse it off after you take it out of the brine before you put it in the oven or it might be too salty.” Arg! I’d just stuck it in the oven!!! The good news is the turkey was perfect — moist, flavorful and not salty at all. So, I guess I’ll leave it up to you if you rinse it off or not. You will need to make sure you have a vessel big enough for your turkey. I purchased a 3-gallon bucket for the turkey breast, which fit both the turkey and my refrigerator perfectly. And plan ahead…you keep it in the brine for three days. Have a wonderful Christmas dinner! – Chef Ro
For the Brine
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half equatorially
1/2 bunch rosemary
1/2 bunch sage
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp fennel seeds
6 bay leaves
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 15-pound fresh turkey (neck and giblets discarded)
For the Herb Butter
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
For the Gravy
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
8 sprigs thyme, tied together with twine
3 bay leaves
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup a–purpose flour
2 quarts chicken stock
1. Brine the turkey: Combine 2 gallons water with the salt, sugar, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, sage, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves and crushed red pepper in a container large enough to accommodate all the ingredients and the turkey. Stir to combine. Submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate for 3 days.
2. The night before you roast the bird, remove it from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Make the herb butter. In a small bowl, combine the butter, rosemary, sage and some salt. Using your fingers, carefully work your way under the skin of the turkey to separate it from the breasts and legs. Massage the butter under the skin, then all over the bird. This acts like suntan lotion to create a lovely, crispy brown skin. ie the turkey legs together with twine to keep the bird nice and compact for even cooking.
3. In your roasting pan, for the gravy, combine the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme bundle and bay leaves. Season with salt Plunk the turkey on top of the veggies and put it in the fridge overnight uncovered. Yes, that’s right…uncovered. This allows the skin to dry out, which will create a gorgeous brown crispy skin. Now a bunch of your prep work is out of the way, so all you have to do the next day is pop the turkey in the oven.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Pour the wine into the roasting pan and put the turkey in the screaming-hot oven for 35-40 minutes, or until it becomes beautifully browned. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Baste with the pan juices and rotate the pan every 30 minutes for the remainder of the cooking time. Figure 17 minutes per pound of turkey.If the turkey breast starts to get too brown, tent it loosely with foil.
5. Remove the turkey from the oven when an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. (Be sure the thermometer isn’t touching bone.) Transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet, cover with foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
6. Make the gravy: Using a mesh strainer, strain the veggies out of the pan juices and allow the fat to rise to the top. Discard the veggies. Skim the fat from the pan juices, add it to a large saucepot and bring it medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until it has the consistency of wet sand, 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk the pan juices and stock into the flour mixture. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until it is thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.