I promise this entire blog will not be on brining/or not brining a turkey, I just liked the title. I will however approach the brining subject. When I was young and Thanksgiving was cooked by the generation before me, the turkey was cooked till leathery and never brined. I think my family wanted to cook anything that you could get ill from out of the bird, but along with the chance of illness went any chance of taste and flavor! Please don’t get me wrong the trimmings were fine, but the star was wrinkly and dry.
When I finally had my own kitchen I zealously took over the holiday cooking. In fact it has become a tradition to have two Thanksgivings, one on Thursday, like most of the United States, and the other Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Back to the subject at hand. I do brine and truly believe it makes a giant difference. It is a little bit of extra work for a whole lot of taste, besides the refrigerator does most of the work.
I know it looks like herbs and citrus fruit, which it is, plus salt, sugar, apple cider, fresh orange juice, a little soy sauce, water, and of course the turkey. This large pot of aromatics, juice, and fruit, gives to the turkey nestled inside an immeasurable amount of flavor, brining turns your turkey from so/so to tender and juicy.
Normally there is no need to a hold turkey up straight (DF loves to make us laugh while we cook), prior to brining rinse the turkey clean making sure to rinse the inside of the bird too (reserve the neck for turkey stock). I have found it is easier to place half of the herbs and fruit on the bottom of the brining bag inside a pot with just enough liquid to dissolve sugars and salt, then place the bird on top ,the rest of the aromatics, fruit , and liquids. Place the pot with the brining bag holding the turkey, tie the top of bag (no one wants to wake up to raw poultry juices that have leaked all over the refrigerator) in the refrigerator over night. About two hours prior to cooking your bird remove the turkey from its wet resting place, pat the bird dry and allow it to come to room temperature.
Hold your breath, I massage my turkey with 454 grams/1 pound of butter, softened and divided (Sydney is in charge of the butter). Leave 227 grams/1/2 of a pound mashed and plain, mix 227 grams/ 1/2 pound butter with herb and zest. I like to use blood orange, navel orange, and lemon zest with a “Scarborough Fair melody” of herbs. Now my bird gets a spa treatment: I carefully loosen the skin from the flesh ( be careful not to tear the skin) evenly distribute the butter mixture all through out the inside of the skin, massage the outside of the skin with butter. I really give my bird full massage ( too bad I cannot charge him for my services.)
In a large roasting pot I pour about 1/4 cup of dry white wine, so the bottom of pan won’t burn and there is nothing wrong with extra flavor, place the seasoned massaged bird on the roasting rack breast side down in the roasting pan. The bird goes into a cozy 163 degree C/ 325 degree F oven for 60 minutes, resisting opening the oven door.
After the 60 minutes have past WE (DF & I) turn the bird over, baste it with the turkey stock I have cooking and yes more butter. This ritual is done about every 15- 20 minutes till the bird reaches an internal temperature of 74 degrees C/ 165 degrees F. I tent the turkey when its nicely tanned and brown with foil while I prepare the gravy with pan juices, flour, white wine, baby portabella, and 3 to 4 cups turkey stock.
In our family Brioche stuffing is traditional, Sydney and I generally start making the brioche dough the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving; four loafs total, three loafs for the actually stuffing and one Brioche Tete for the table. We bake three of four loafs on Wednesday, that way the bread is a little hard, nobody likes soggy stuffing. The next morning the brioche is cubed and toasted for about 7 minutes in the oven. Mushroom, apples,onions, celery, “Scarborough Fair melody” of herbs, white wine/1 2 turkey stock and 1/2 chicken stock for moister is added and placed in a warm oven for 30 or so minutes.
This year we decided to bake up fat free yams in orange cups; using meringue, Calvados,oranges, orange zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. (Okay I know it is like ordering a diet coke with a super size cheese burger and super size fries, but I feel better anyway)!
The first year I prepared Thanksgiving dinner for my husband, DF had all the fixings out and the turkey was laid out on the table. DF was looking worried and perplexed, because he could not find the cranberries. I pointed to my traditional cranberry preserves, he thought they were not the “real cranberries;” he claimed his mother always made cranberries with lines on the sides. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out what he was referring to… the canned cranberries. Laughing, I explained those were manufactured and mass produced. He cautiously took a spoon of the homemade cranberries, slowly put the small spoonful in his mouth, with wide eyes he finally proclaimed the traditional cranberries were better!
With the Thanksgiving table just about completely set, I realize I forgot to mention there is always a lasagna served with our Thanksgiving on both nights every year, DF would not think Thanksgiving was complete without Lasagna and Noto Sauce
This year we had the opportunity to become apart of the Daring Baker’s challenge and decided to bake the challenge tart for one of the desserts; A Caramelized Pear with Frangipane Tart.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with warmth and love.
I began this blog debating to brine or not to brine, but as promised it was not the only subject I talked about. Since Thanksgiving has past and we are looking forward to more holidays this December I hope this blog brought a smile to your face!