Thanksgiving! The Turkey!

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I hosted my first family thanksgiving this year, so this is the first time I actually prepared the basic thanksgiving foods. Here’s how I did the turkey – it is a combination of Alton Brown’s recipe, my friend James’ method, my boss’s method, and trial and error.

Ingredients:

  • 1 free-range organic turkey, 15 lbs
  • 3 extra drumsticks, just because. No need to copy that part.
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 bunches rosemary
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 onion
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 apple
  • 1 cup stock or white wine
  • 3 TB molasses
  • For the brine:
    • 1/2 cup kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2 TB peppercorns
    • 2 TB whole cloves
    • 1 TB whole allspice
    • 1 chile de arbol

Preparation

2 days ahead, make the brine: bring a few cups of water to a low boil, add all of the brine seasonings, stir well, and take off heat. Add to a large vessel half full with cold water, and add turkey, submerging it.

1 day ahead, turn the turkey over.

Day of:

Set the oven to 500 F. take the turkey out of the liquid and dispose of the brine. Wash the turkey well in cold water, and then pat dry and allow to air-dry for another 15 minutes or until dry — it needs to have dry skin before it goes in. Using your fingers, push the softened butter underneath the skin, rubbing it in well everywhere, but prioritizing the breasts which have the driest meat. Tuck the herbs under the skin as well, and between the legs and wings and the body, and in the cavity, letting them hang out. If herbs have sharp branches, fold the bunches to avoid poking excessive holes in the skin. Quarter the apple, onion and lemon, and add them to the cavity. Soak a piece of cheesecloth in the broth or wine, just so its moist, and cover the breasts and herbs with the cloth.

Roast at 500 F for 45 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350. Cook for another 1 hour and 45 minutes, and then remove from the oven and remove the cheesecloth from the breasts and discard. Whisk the molasses with a 1/2 cup of water, or to loosen, and paint the entire turkey with the molasses water. Put the turkey back into the oven and cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160.

Although determining doneness and carving were a struggle for me (thank goodness, my sorta-cousin helped a lot!), the flavor of the meat and the moistness of the breast were perfect, and the skin, as you can see, was perfectly golden for presentation.

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