Friday, November 28, 2008

Best Darn Turkey Ever

My wife tells me that I turned 44 this year, and I have no reason to doubt her, I tend to loose track myself. A few years ago I thought for sure that I was 42 and then learned that I was actually 43... (Somehow I lost a whole year in there), anyway I guess I've been around long enough to have eaten my fair share of turkeys.

I have always pictured myself as an "amazing" chef, the truth is probably closer to periodic flashes of culinary genius, and the rest of the time everyone is happy because it's edible.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are great excuses to deviate from the norm in search of inspired gastronomic delights, and cooking Mr. Turkey has become a personal challenge for me to see if I can improve on the previous year.

When we first got married it wasn't really that hard to "one up" the previous year...I mean when your turkey comes out half raw, it's not that hard to make sure it's at least cooked all the way through the next year. (almost lost my turkey cooking rights over that one, but in my defense I didn't know that an 18-20 pound piece of bird muscle frozen rock solid takes 3 days to thaw)

So over the years I've tried different spices,fruits,vegetables, Basting, not Basting, cooking bags, stuffed, unstuffed, you name it I've probably tried it. A few years ago the "Injector" opened up several new doors, and I was turning out some pretty tasty birds. But this year was definitely the best yet. I mean when you can't wait to go to bed at night so you can wake up and have a turkey sandwich for breakfast the next morning that's got to mean something (I'm choosing to ignore comments made to the effect that it means I'm just crazy)

So in an effort to improve Thanksgiving feasts everywhere, and spread delicious turkey throughout the world, I'm sharing the recipe.

This recipe was posted on Recipe Zaar by Mirj Ra'anana, I made a few minor alterations but for the most part it is intact. (Thank you Mirj, and also thanks to my Brother Ron who was visiting with his family this year for serving as sous chef.)

Honey Brined Herb Roasted Turkey

1 fresh frozen whole turkey, thawed or fresh frozen whole turkey
8-10 quarts water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup honey
3-4 teaspoons fresh coarse ground black pepper
10-12 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bunches fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh sage
4-5 cups chicken stock
2-3 lemons
2-4 teaspoons olive oil

  1. Remove giblets and neck from turkey, reserve for gravy. Rinse turkey with cold running water and drain well. Blot dry with paper towels. (I personally don't save the giblets, some people like my mother like them, If the economy continues to deteriorate maybe I will learn to like them)
  2. Prepare brine by mixing water, honey and salt in a large bowl. Stir until honey dissolves. Add half the thyme and sage along with the garlic and black pepper. Set aside. Add chicken stock. (My stock pot apparently only holds just over 8 quarts of water, I had a 14lb turkey and 8 quarts was plenty...If your cooking a 22lb turkey you are going to need a HUGE pot...just giving fair warning here). I would definitely recommend getting the fresh herbs if you can find them. Walmart had fresh thyme, and it was Really nice, I had to settle for dried sage, but will be on the lookout next year for some fresh sage. also when peeling the garlic I used a spatula to squash the cloves first, which made peeling them much easier, and helped release some of the garlic flavor.
  3. Line an extra-large stock pot with a food-safe plastic bag. Place the rinsed turkey in the bag and pour brine over the turkey. Gather the bag tightly around the turkey, causing the turkey to be surrounded by the brine. Seal the bag and refrigerate the pot, bag and brined turkey for at least 12 hours. (Yes I'm going to have to get a bigger pot...I had about 3 inches of brine and turkey sticking out above my pot, either that or that 22lb turkey in my freezer is just going to have to stay there)
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350°F Remove turkey from brine and pat dry inside and out. Discard brine. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large shallow (about 2 1/2" deep) roasting pan. (I just used the good old American aluminum foil turkey pan)
  5. Squeeze lemon juice into the main turkey cavity. Put the squeezed lemon halves into the cavity along with the rest of the thyme and sage. Coat turkey lightly with oil and sprinkle inside and out with salt, pepper. (Since my turkey was only 14lbs I only used 2 lemons, after brushing it with oil I also melted a cube of butter and injected it into the breast. I did not add any additional salt since it had been soaking in brine, and based on the final result think it was a good idea...tasted perfect.)
  6. Insert an oven safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful the pointed end of the thermometer does not touch the bone. Roast turkey, basting with poultry stock every half hour or so. (I used the same roasting bag that I used to brine the turkey to cook it in, and since I had injected it with butter opted not to baste this year)
  7. Loosely cover with aluminum foil to prevent over browning, remove foil during last hour and a half of cooking time. Continue to roast until thermometer registers 180°F in the thigh, or 170°F in the breast. (I did cover the top with foil, especially since I wasn't basting.)
  8. Remove turkey from the oven and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Good luck all my fellow Turkey cookers, and I hope this turns out as well for you as it did for me...I know I will be using this recipe from now on...


~Nita said...

Awwwww! I fully expected to see pix of this great bird!!!!


Mirm said...

You can't post recipe without picture. This does not prove anything to me!!! The bird could look like crap even though the recipe looks appealing.

Rich LeBaron said...

I know...I totally forgot to take a picture...but Christmas is coming and I'll take one then.