Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roast Turkey

Almost ten years ago I started brining turkeys for Thanksgiving after I read about the process in Cook's Illustrated magazine. Brining has revolutionized turkey for our extended family. No longer is turkey the dry, chalky vehicle for gravy! We actually like it: it's juicy, flavorful, and seasoned enough to be interesting. There are dozens of turkey brine recipes, and you can even buy a premade mix. However, I haven't deviated much from the orginal recipe, which is just salt and water. Sometimes I do add a bit of sugar to enhance the browning. Here's how we make our turkey.

Roast Turkey (note: you'll need to start the day before Thanksgiving)

4 c. kosher salt or 2 cups table salt (note: Morton is much saltier than Diamond, but I use it)
1 turkey (12-14 pounds), rinsed thoroughly: innards removed
3 medium onions, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 T. butter, melted

1. Dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large stockpot or clean bucket. You can also use an XL storage-type ziploc bag. Add turkey and refrigerate or set in very cool spot (about 40 degrees) for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Remove turkey from salt water and rinse well under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast-side up on flat wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours. This will dry out the turkey and allow the skin to crisp.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss 1/3 of vegetables and thyme with one tablespoon melted butter in a medium bowl. Fill cavity with mixture. Tuck wings behind back.

4. Scatter remaining vegetables and thyme in shallow roasting pan, pour one cup water over vegetables. Spray V-rack (or any other rack) with cooking spray. Brush breast with butter, then set turkey breast-side down on foil-lined V-rack; brush back with butter. Roast 45 minutes.

5. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey leg/wing side up and brush with butter. If liquid in bottom of pan has evaporated, add 1/2 cup. Roast 15 minutes.

6. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven, brush exposed surfaces with butter, and, using thick wads of paper towels or potholders rotate other turkey leg/wing side up and brush with butter. Roast for 15 minutes longer.

7. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey breast-side up and brush with remaining butter. Roast until breast registers 165 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh registers 170-175 degrees (30-45 minutes longer). Move turkey from rack to cutting board and let rest about 20-30 minutes.

8. Carve turkey.