A word about the big bird

I’ve been so focused on chicken these last two weeks I feel I would be remiss if I did not include a blog about turkey! Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Have you planned out your turkey day menu yet?

So, how does a frugal lady save money at Thanksgiving? She takes the family to Mom and Dad’s house for dinner…that’s how!  This year we’re splitting the day between my folks and Hubby’s folks. Family fun for all and my checkbook will rest easy. Although I won’t be cooking the big bird myself this year, I will pass on my favorite method for cooking Tom Turkey.

A few years ago I was searching for a recipe that would impress my in-laws during our family beach vacation.  I came across a recipe from Tyler Florence for  barbecue chicken. Tyler sang the praises of a method called brining. I really didn’t care about the brining technique at the time. I was more interested in the barbecue sauce. I had no idea what I was missing. I proceeded to make the juiciest, most flavorful barbecue chicken I’ve ever had! From that day forward I’ve been a brining fool!

For those of you who don’t know what brining is: it’s simply soaking the meat in a salty liquid. The liquid permeates the meat with flavor and helps to keep it moist while cooking. And believe me, brining creates the juiciest bird you will ever have the pleasure of eating.

(From the November, 2008 issue of Cuisine at Home)

To brine a 10-12 pound turkey, thoroughly dissolve 1.5 cups of kosher salt in 1.5 gallons of water. Use this formula to make enough brine to fully submerge turkey, increasing salt/water combination in proportion to size of the bird). Refrigerate the brining turkey, breast side down; soak for 24-36 hours. Use a weighted dinner plate to keep turkey submerged. Alternatively, turn bird a few times during brining.

That’s a basic brine. In the past, I’ve added brown sugar, orange peels, garlic and thyme to the brine. It’s really up to you and the flavor you want to bring to the bird. If you’re nervous about new flavor combos, practice on a chicken and you’ll have the same effect. 

To cook the bird (from Nov. 2008 issue of Cuisine at Home):

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1.5 tsp. dried thyme, crushed

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

Freshly squeezed juice of one orange

1 large yellow onion, quartered

2 stalks celery with leaves, cut in large pieces

3 bay leaves

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse the brined bird under cold water; pat dry, inside and out with paper towels. In a bowl, mix softened butter, 1/2 tsp. salt, the pepper and thyme, Stir in citrus juices (not all the juices will be incorporated). Rub turkey with seasoned butter, inside and out. Fill cavity with onion, celery, bay leaves and garlic. Skewer turkey neck skin to back. Tuck drumstick ends under the band of skin across tail. Twist wing tips under back. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer into enter of thigh muscle. Pour chicken broth into roasting pan.

Roast turkey 45 minutes undisturbed. Spoon pan juices over turkey. Roast one more hour, spoon juices over turkey every 20 minutes or until thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. Remove from oven; transfer turkey to a serving platter. Tent loosely with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Let rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove vegetables from inside cavity & discard. 

Even if you don’t cook the big bird with this method, you really should give brining a chance. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Ok…I’m taking a break from fowl for awhile….next post will feature some meat & potatoes, I promise!


3 thoughts on “A word about the big bird

  1. Thanks for printing the brining recipe. It just so happens I am brining our turkey this year. You will be quarenteed a moist turkey. Maybe even Bean will try it! Then next year he can tell Peanut how good it was.

    Love you,

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