November 17, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: The Turkey, pt. II

I apologize for the delay in Thanksgiving tips! It was a busy week last week. But now I’m back with tips about brining, seasoning, carving, etc.

- Don’t brine kosher or self-basting turkeys. It will just be wayyyy too salty.

- Cook’s Illustrated advises this ratio: for a 4-to-6 hour brine – 1 cup salt per gallon of cold water. For a 12-to-14 hour brine, use ½ cup salt per gallon of cold water. Mix up brine, then refrigerate for recommended time.

- Brining yields a tender bird because of osmosis – the flow of water across a barrier from a place with higher water concentration to one with a lower one. Meaning from the brine to the turkey.

- I found this recipe for Spiced Roast Turkey in Cottage Living years ago.
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 serrano chili, halved
  • 1 t whole black peppercorns
  • 1 t anise seed
  • 1 t coriander seeds
  • 1 t juniper berries
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool 3 hours, then place turkey in brine and chill.

- And now for something completely different…a dry brine (my brine of choice this year). Fine Cooking says of a dry brine, “[it] creates satiny leg meat and juicy, perfectly-seasoned breast meat.” Yes, please!

Fresh Herb and Salt-rubbed Roast Turkey
From Fine Cooking
Four days before you roast the Turkey [so Monday], mix
  • 2 T chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 T chopped fresh sage
  • 2 t chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
in a small bowl. Loosen the skin around the shoulders of the bird and around the cavity. Carefully slide your hands underneath the skin to loosen it from the breast, thighs, and drumsticks.

Rub the herb mixture on the meat, under the skin. Pat the skin back into place.

Rub 2 oz. kosher salt inside the cavity and on the skin. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Put the turkey in a large food-safe plastic bag (such as a turkey-size roasting bag) and tie. Put the bag inside a second bag and tie.

Refrigerate the turkey, turning it over every day, for 3 days.

Remove the turkey from the bags and pat dry. Put it in a flameproof roasting pan and refrigerate, unwrapped, to let the turkey air-dry overnight (for the fourth day).

Brining or dry brining is a good way to add flavor to your turkey. But in case you [unwisely] don’t brine your turkey, there are lots of variations to add great flavor to a relatively flavorless bird. Here are just a few ideas:
- Roasted Turkey with Juniper-Ginger Butter & Pan Gravy
- Hickory-Smoked Bourbon Turkey
- Turkey with Chipotle Rub

This section is not helpful at all. I am not going to recommend cooking times and temps. It depends on the size of your turkey, whether it is a whole turkey or pieces (such as the breast), whether you want to roast it, grill it, smoke it, or fry it. And now that I live in Colorado, I have altitude to contend with. So my advice is read, read, read. Find as many variations as you care to, then come up with your own time and temp. Better Homes and Gardens has an interactive roasting guide if you’d like to take a look/see why I don't want to get into this roasting business.

But do brine your turkey. It helps keep the meat moist even if you overcook it.

Cook’s Illustrated does such a good job describing how to carve a turkey, I decided to not reinvent the wheel.
-Let the turkey rest 20-30 minutes so the juices have time to redistribute

- Slice through the skin between the breast and leg and, using your hands, pull the leg quarters down until the joint between breast and leg is exposed. Remove the leg by cutting between the hip joint and any attached skin. Repeat with opposite leg. Remove the wings by cutting through the wing joints.

- Separate the thighs from the drumsticks by cutting between the joint that connects the two. Leave the drumsticks whole and slice the thigh meat off the bone.

- Remove the breast meat from the carcass by running the tip of the knife along the breastbone. Use your other hand to hold and pry meat from the bone as you cut. Slice the removed breast meat crosswise into slices. Repeat with the other breast.

There you have it! You can now make a delicious turkey.

Coming up --- sides, desserts, cocktails, and more. Come to think of it, you might not even need that turkey…

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