Friday, November 18, 2011

NaBloWriMo #18: Salty

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, so I thought I'd help you out by suggesting a simple way to make your turkey better.

Brine it!

You may not be surprised by this, as it has become increasing popular in recent years, but I can tell you from experience that it is the right way to prepare your turkey to ensure moistness and flavor. We brined our Thanksgiving turkey last year for the first time and it was a unqualified success. (And this was with a run-on-the-mill, grocery store box brine.)

And if we can do it, you absolutely can do it too.

The next question is . . . how?

Well, if you're reading this, you are familiar with the Internet, so searching for a turkey brine recipe won't present much of a challenge for you. If you do go that route, I suggest selecting anything created by Alton Brown. He's a good chef, an awesome guy, he lives in Atlanta, he puts up with TONS of unwanted Twitter hatred, and he created one of the best cooking shows every broadcast.

But, if we can get personal for just a minute, let me suggest you do what I am going to be doing on Wednesday. I'm going to be using my sister-in-law's brine recipe. You may recall that earlier this month, I told you that Amy and her sister were appearing on the Paula Deen "Best Dishes" Food Network program. So, you now know that Amy is good enough at what she does to be on TV. (And I happen to know that she just filming ANOTHER visit to Paula's kitchen just this week, so she's definitely good enough do it TWICE.)

Amy's turkey brine recipe & complete set of instructions:

2 gallons of water or vegetable stock
2 cups of kosher salt
2 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 ½ teaspoons allspice berries
2 bay leaves
14-16 lb. turkey

Combine stock, salt, sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries and bay leaves in a large stock pot
Heat over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt
Allow the broth to cool, add ice
Combine the brine and turkey in a 5 gallon bucket or a stainless steel pot
Place the turkey in the brine breast side down; making sure that the turkey is completely submerged
Cover and refrigerate for 8 – 16 hours

Remove bird and rinse inside and out, discard the brine
Pat turkey dry with paper towels
Make the compound butter (recipe follows)
Using a long, thin flexible rubber spatula or your hand, slowly slide the tool between the skin and the flesh of the breasts on both side of the breastbone
The skin is pretty tough and won’t tear if you do it carefully
Do this on both sides of the breast bone but leave the skin attached along the center of breastbone itself
Stuff the compound butter under the skin on both sides
Rub the butter on the skin of the turkey, legs and wings

Place the bird in a roasting pan, breast side up
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes
Reduce heat to 350 degree
A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting
Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving

Compound Butter
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup finely chopped green onion tops
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons of basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl.
Cover and chill.
Bring to room temperature before using
Spread lavishly under the skin of the bird

You WON'T regret this. But just remember to give yourself plenty of time to thaw the bird AND allow for the necessary amount of brine time.

(If you follow my suggestion, please leave comments on how things turned out.)

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