Okay, there is still plenty of time left if you haven’t really decided want you want to do with your turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s only Monday, so you still have time to do some kind of brining if that is what you want to do. I made another turkey this past weekend to try out a dry brine method that I saw from The New York Times and Melissa Clark recently because I wanted to see if it made any difference in the bird. If it seems like I have made a lot of turkey the last few weeks, well I have. I wanted to try some things out to give people some options and see how things work and since I wasn’t cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year myself, it seemed like a good idea. I even have 1 turkey left to cook, but my family is getting kind of tired of eating turkey at this point so I might hold on to that one until we get closer to Christmas. In the meantime, here is a very simple dry brine recipe that adds some great flavor to the turkey.
Simple Roast Turkey
1 turkey, 10 to 12 pounds
Coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 lemon, zested and quartered
1 bunch fresh thyme or rosemary
1 bunch fresh sage
12 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bottle hard cider (12 ounces)
Dry white wine or water, as needed
2 onions, peeled and quartered
3 bay leaves
Olive oil or melted butter, as needed
Remove any giblets from the cavity and reserve for stock or gravy. Pat the turkey and the turkey neck dry with paper towels; rub the turkey all over with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per 1 pound of turkey, the pepper and the lemon zest, including the neck. Transfer the turkey to a 2-gallon or larger resealable plastic bag. Tuck the herbs and 6 garlic cloves inside the bag. Seal and refrigerate the turkey on a small baking sheet or wrapped in another plastic bag for at least 1 day and up to 3 days, turning the bird over every day or after 12 hours if brining for only 1 day.
Remove the turkey from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, uncovered, back on the baking sheet. Return it to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry out the skin. This will help to crisp the skin while it is cooking.
When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add the hard cider and enough wine or water to fill the pan to 1/4-inch depth. Add half of the onions, the remaining 6 garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Stuff the remaining onions and the lemon quarters into the turkey cavity. Brush the turkey generously with olive oil or melted butter.
Place the turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Cover the breast with aluminum foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165 degrees, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.
A couple of things about roasting turkey. Though you have probably heard it a thousand times by now from every cooking show, magazine and blog out there, brining isn’t a necessity when cooking turkey; it does seem to help as far as flavor and the skin itself, but the only real key to having moist turkey is removing the turkey from the oven when it is the right temperature. Don’t go by those little buttons that pop up on the turkey; they are often set to pop when the internal temperature is already high, sometimes 180 degrees, and the bird will continue to cook as it rests outside the oven, leaving you with dry turkey. Invest the money in a thermometer and insert it into the thigh to check the temperature. When it is at 165, pull the turkey out and LET IT REST. Don’t carve it right away; it won’t be ready, you’ll lose all the liquid that needs to re-distribute while the bird rests, and you will end up with dry meat.
If you don’t have a roasting rack to put the turkey on, you can make something of your own to get the turkey up out of the liquid so it browns all over. Form a solid ring out of aluminum foil to place under the turkey to lift it out of the liquid. That is what I did with this bird since I wanted to use one of those disposable pans this time and my rack did not fit in the pan. It worked out really well and it is easy to do.
The dry brine in this recipe really seemed to add some flavor and I did like the combination of the cider and the aromatics. It helped to create some very tasty gravy for the meal. This is one of the easiest turkey recipes I have come across and one of the most effective. If you are making a larger bird, the New York Times does have a scale so you can adjust the herbs and seasonings and cooking time of your bird accordingly. You can check it out here if you wish. I would use this recipe if you want to do things easily for yourself and have great tasting turkey.
That’s all I have for today. I still have a couple of more side dishes to share before Thanksgiving, so check back for those. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!