When you think of Thanksgiving one of the first images that come to mind is THE Thanksgiving turkey. Placed at the center of the table with all the trimmings, surrounded by the delicious side dishes and your family sitting around the table waiting expectantly for that first slice. This is exactly why I’ve avoided making one all these years. I usually defer to my mom, the turkey maker, to pull off this classic dish with no help from me. But since I began this cooking journey I decided I needed to be brave and if I could make a delicious turkey then so could you NCJ Peeps!
I’m not ashamed to admit it….one of the most intimidating things for me to cook has always been a turkey. Most cooks have their achilles heel and this has for a long time been mine. I mean first of all it’s huge and it just looks intimidating; like it’s daring me to mess up and make a dry burnt bird. But with the encouragement of my friend Monica and this awesome recipe from Alton Brown I decided I was not going to let this bird beat me…I’m smarter than the turkey, lol!
Within the first 30 minutes of roasting I could smell the savory herbs and spices throughout my entire house and I knew this was going to be good. Soaking the turkey in a brine allows the spices, and yes salt, to penetrate the meat itself so no additional seasoning is needed. The meat stays moist and no basting is needed as long as you watch the internal temperature and pull the bird out of the oven as soon as it reaches 161 degrees. If you want you can sprinkle an herb mixture on the skin of the turkey before roasting it but I would advise against using anything with salt. The meat is so flavorful and juicy from the brine that none is needed.
Needless to say I absolutely love this recipe and will be using it whenever a turkey is needed. I usually make some changes to a recipe to put my spin on it, but this one is good as is. I was like a proud mama pulling my turkey out of the oven and was even prouder when I saw the faces of my family when they tasted it. I highly recommend using this recipe if this is your first or fiftieth time making a turkey.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for God’s grace & mercy, my family and my friends. What are you thankful for this holiday season?
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
2 to 3 days before roasting: Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket (I bought a cheap one from Home Depot) . Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown, Food Network