Sunday, November 28, 2010

To brine or not to brine

To brine or not to brine, that is the question, do you brine?  Wet or dry?  I only recently read about a dry brining technique, I may try it next year, but I didn't have enough time.  It involves massaging a salted turkey over the course of three days.  I picked up by bird Tuesday night, I was curious about this technique but didn't allow for enough time so I stuck with my traditional wet brine method.

I love the results of a wet brine but man I hate the process!  I buy a big bird, this year's was 28 pounds, add to that a couple gallons of salted water and we have a seriously heavy pot to haul to the fridge in the garage, well Rene has a seriously heavy pot to haul around!

I use the following:
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • fresh herbs; sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano
  • garlic cloves
  • peppercorns
  • lots and lots of water
I brined for about 15 hours this year, shorter than previous years but I read recently that to over soak the bird can lead to a mushy textured meat.  And nobody wants mushy turkey. 

When I'm ready to roast I stuff a quartered lemon, a quartered apple and as much of a red onion as I can into the cavity and also add some more of the fresh herbs.  I pour olive oil on top and massage in some pepper and coarse sea salt and into the oven it goes.  This bad boy roasted for one hour at 425 and then another five or so at 325.  

Now, I will admit that gravy is my single most anxiety inducing step of hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  Gravy can make or break the don't mess it up!  No pressure huh?  This year I went a slightly different route with that in mind.  I laid out celery, red onion and carrots underneath the roasting pan and added the left over fresh herbs (not the ones from the brine!).  I added a cup or two of water and then put the bird in the oven.  About three hours into the roasting time I warmed up one cup of good pinot noir and added 1/2 dozen or so whole cloves to the wine while it warmed.  I basted the bird with the warm wine and then left it alone again for another hour.  Then I basted it again with the pan drippings.  When the bird was done I removed the roasting rack and put the drippings through a sieve, smashing the solid vegetables to extract as much juice as possible.  I made a slurry (just learned that word this year!) of GF flour and water, I used two tablespoons of flour, and whisked that into the pan drippings.  That's all I did, I did not have to add any more salt or pepper to the gravy, just whisk until thickened.  With all humility I can say it was the best gravy I've ever made, I was...surprised.  Seriously out of the whole meal, the gravy is what scares the heck out of me!  For the first time I was really happy with the end result, hopefully I can repeat the performance next pressure.


  1. Man, what a process! Thank you so much for cooking this delicious bird for us every year.

  2. I love doing it! This was a very nice, relaxed dinner this year, I hope your crew had a fun time too.


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