Saturday, November 7, 2009

Turkey Preparations

Every year I brine my turkey. I saw Alton Brown do it and I was fascinated. Since Thanksgiving is always at my house, I decided that I could make some executive decisions and do something different. For the past three years I have been brining my turkey and I have to say that it comes out tastey and moist. I wouldn't change it unless my husband decided to get one of those turkey fryers and said, "Gee babe, I think I will take over turkey duties and fry the turkey." Ain't going to happen. But if it did, I would give up my brining ritual. I have always heard it made a super moist turkey breast.

So, in preparation for my turkey's briny bath, I make vegetable broth. Because you see, I love my vegetable broth and it is FAR cheaper to make my own. The only thing I buy specifically for my broth is fennel. I know probably some of you like fennel, I don't particularly care for the taste. But fennel does make a seriously tastey broth. I think it marries well with other vegetables. For example if I had a tomato fennel soup that is pureed, I would probably love it.

Anyway, there really are no hard and fast rules as to what to put in the broth but I think some tips make it a better pot of broth.

Tip #1- I like to fry the fennel and onion in oil before adding the remainder of the veggies. Of course if you wanted to go all out with tons of flavor, roast the whole bunch of veggies that you plan to throw in there. Roasting always ups the anty as far as flavor.

Tip #2- Use fennel, it really does something wonderful to the broth. A star, really.

Vegetable Broth
Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness
4-6 cups chopped fennel and chopped onion
8 cups chopped vegetable scraps ( I used leek, asparagus ends, celery, carrot, onion and garlic- a whole head, sliced in half)
8 cups water
2-3 bay leafs
freshly cracked pepper
if I don't have celery leaves I suually add celery seeds as well

In a large stock pot, saute leeks and onion in oil until browned. Stir frequently as it tends to stick.

Add the remainder of vegetables along with the spices and water. Cover, bring to a boil and the turn down to a gentle simmer. Simmer away for thirty minutes. Drain the liquid through a collander, discarding vegetables.


I thought it would be good to share how I brine the turkey.
Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe.

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger or a chunk of ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

About 2 to 3 days before roasting: Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

The night before you'd like to eat: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. (I know this temp seems counter intuitive but really it puts a beautiful brown crust on the bird and traps in the moisture for the remainder of the baking process).

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours ( I found these cooking times to be WAY off- a bigger bird (20 or 22 pounds) will require that long) of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving. A perfect amount of time to get your gravy done.
Thanksgiving 2008


Barbara Bakes said...

I really want to brine my turkey this year, but I'm chicken! :-)

Katy ~ said...

I'm with Barbara, grins. I still cook mine in the oven bag. Not Norman Rockwell picture perfect but it sure does taste good and makes some mighty fine gravy.

I think I really need someone to hold my my hand about this brining process. I am such a wuss!

Anonymous said...

Lori - I LOVE brining turkey, and have a special honey-herb brine I use every time I roast a turkey. However, I sw an Alton Brown brine in which vegetable stock is used. Yours would be perfect for that! I have a ton of leeks I bought for a dish I never made and decided not to make, so it looks like veggie stock is in the works! It looks perfect!

Finally, so sweet to hear the Yankes played a small role in your courtship with hubby! They do hard, win and match

Lucy said...

Sounds wonderful, I haven't tried brining yet, I do like the sound of it

We do the deep fried turkey now for the last several years and OMG!!! it is unbelievably good. The 1st we tried it, I expected it to be greasy, not one bit!! I used the carcass to make soup, just tiny little beads of fat rose to the top of the broth, certainly not what I expected.

Ingrid said...

While I don't think brining is that difficult I wonder where do you put the 5 gallon bucket (filled with all the brine and turkey stuff) so that it's cold? I mean, I struggle to find room in my fridge for just the turkey.

Lori said...

Ingrid- I have a big pot that I use for canning. I put my turkey in there and then I place it in the garage where it pretty darn cold. At least here in NY. I think if I did not have a cold outside pace to put it, I would put it in a cooler with ice all around the pot.

Lele said...

I love making my own vegetable stock! It's so cheap and I feel really virtuous saving all my vegetable scraps in the freezer and turning them into something delicious.
However, don't use it for brining turkey. We use APPLE CIDER! If you look up "apple cider brine turkey" at you should be able to find it. It's killer!

Lori said...

Lele- Thank you so much, I need to check it out. It sounds fabulous.

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

This sounds so cool! I've never cooked a turkey before - they're not hugely prevalent here in NZ - but Nigella has a similar brining technique that I've been wanting to try since I've read about it. I'm sure the fennel would do something special to the brine - I love its flavour.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

Your turkey sure sounds good. Wish I could have a bite of it!

kat said...

We always brine too, it just makes for a better bird