Roasted Turkey. Those two simple words instill so much fear and worry into home cooks, all over this country, this time of year. I remember being intimidated – I mean, 20 pounds can be a lot of bird! But, you really shouldn’t be. Since I started brining my turkey, there hasn’t been a dry bird in the house for years.
Another key component for a good turkey is a nice variety of aromatics stuffed into the cavity. You can use what you have around – but, I’ve settled on oranges, onions, and rosemary. It infuses the meat subtly with those wonderful flavors. And, the juices drip down into the roasting pan infusing the gravy with the flavors as well. I didn’t list it in the recipe, but I love this seasoning mix from Penzey’s. The dried orange peel and coriander really shine through, and I love using it on my turkey.
Then there’s the cheesecloth thing. It’s mainly to keep the breast from browning too much, but it keeps the skin constantly soaked in delicious basting juices – which I don’t think hurts, either. Martha’s original recipe called for white wine, but a couple years ago all I had on hand was some home brewed hard cider so I subbed that. And wowza, talk about awesome. Tomorrow I’m posting my recipe for hard cider gravy, made from pan drippings. So, be sure to check back – you don’t want to miss that one!
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
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 allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
2 oranges, halved
1 small onion, quartered
4 sprigs rosemary
For the basting liquid:
2 sticks butter
1 (12 ounce) bottle hard cider
large square of cheesecloth (about 18″ x 18″)
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, allspice berries, 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.
Early on the day or 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.
Prepare the basting liquid by combining the butter and hard cider in a large saucepan. Heat over medium until the butter has melted. Stir to combine, and set aside.
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. Add the aromatics to the turkey’s cavity. 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 until the breast is starting to brown. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Dip the cheesecloth into your basting liquid, gently squeeze to remove the excess liquid, and carefully spread it over the breast of the turkey in an even layer, covering the breast completely. Return bird to oven.
Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the thigh 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 of roasting. Baste the turkey (including the cheesecloth) every half hour or so, basting with the pan liquids if you run out of your butter/cider mixture.
Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the cheesecloth before serving and carving.