By Jacob Mathias
Thanksgiving turkey is about American as it gets. So much so that in my opinion, apple pie pales in comparison to the large fowl. The problem we all have is having to eat turkey that is so dry and chewy that no amount of gravy can make it palatable. Despite that fact, we go back to turkey year after year because we all know how wonderful and comforting it can be.
When cooking a bird as large as a turkey, it’s always advisable to brine your meet in order to not only impart flavor but also inject moisture into the flesh of the meat. Since turkey requires a long cooking time, it does have a tendency to dry out if this crucial step is missed. Brining at its most basic means to soak in salt water, but as salt has very little depth of flavor, we’re going to kick it up a notch with some herbs and aromatic vegetables.
For the brine you will need:
1 completely thawed turkey
1 gallon water or low sodium vegetable stock
1 gallon iced water
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp black peppercorns
8 allspice berries (easily found in bulk spice section)
Heat water or stock over medium high heat to a low simmer and add salt, sugar, and allspice and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Cool to room temperature. The night before thanksgiving, Add the iced water to the brine in a 5 gallon bucket and place turkey in breast side down. Allow to soak in brine for at least 8 hours although 12-16 is best.
You are now ready to roast:
Remove turkey from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Dry turkey with paper towels and place on a roasting rack with the wings tucked underneath to prevent burning.
DO NOT STUFF THE BIRD! This will lead to uncooked bacteria in the stuffing which could lead to food-borne pathogens and a not so happy Thanksgiving.
For the roasting you will need:
12-14 lb. brined turkey, rinsed and dried on a roasting rack.
1 apple sliced
4 sprigs rosemary
4 sage leaves
1 cup water
Melted butter for brushing
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the apples, rosemary, sage and water in the cavity of the turkey. Brush the turkey completely with the melted butter.
Place turkey in oven for 30 minutes. Remove and brush with more butter and reduce oven heat to 350 for the remainder of the cooking. Continue to brush with butter every 30 minutes. The turkey should take about 2 ½ to 3 hours to cook.
Remove roasting pan from oven once a meat thermometer reads about 160 when inserted into the breast of the turkey. Cover turkey with foil and allow to rest for about 20 minutes in order for the juices to redistribute and not leak out and dry out the bird. Failure to rest your bird before carving will lead to shoe leather, which is not so good.
For the gravy you will need:
Reserved juices from roasting pan
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
Salt and Pepper
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and cook until it stops bubbling. Whisk in the flour for about 2 minutes, until a golden brown paste is formed. Pour in pan juices and increase heat to medium high, bringing to a low simmer while continuing to whisk. The gravy will thicken.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and your turkey and gravy is completed.