Thanksgiving Turkey Ideas
The number one complaint by turkey haters is that it’s dry. Both brining, tenting and turning while roasting can prevent this tragically dry outcome. Be careful not to over do it with the salt as we once did. We brine with all the herbs we can find in our garden and a few sprigs of extra pungent California Bay from the nearby forest. Of course you can use culinary bay instead. The salt dissolves some muscle proteins, which results in the meat contracting less while it's in the oven and losing less moisture as it cooks. All the other fattening, filling dishes aside, JoAnn’s mom’s cranberry relish and Henri's favorite Cornbread Pudding and some Villa Creek Garnacha are essential pairings.
Ingredients (Adjust herbs to taste and size of bird. This is for a 14-16 pounder):
Sea salt - 1 1/2 tblsp per pound
Bay leaves - 5
Rosemary - 2 sprigs
Thyme - 6 sprigs
Oregano - 6 sprigs
Peppercorns - 2 tblsp
One orange sliced
Dissolve the sea salt in a pot of warm water. Add remaining ingredients. Add brine along with a gallon of ice and water to your brining vessel of choice. We use a food safe 5 gallon bucket. Put your rinsed turkey in the bucket. Make sure it is fully submerged. You may need to weigh it down. Place brined bird in the fridge or cool area for 8-16 hours turning once. When done brining, pull the bird out and rinse completely.
*Our fated salty turkey episode resulted from over salting the brine, brining our turkey for 48 hours (while we went camping in Big Sur) and not rinsing prior to cooking. Tripple whammy!!*
Now for cooking that perfectly brined bird, we prefer placing it on a rack in a gigantic cast iron pan and roasting it in a hot wood fired oven when possible. Place the bird in at 500, put the door on, and let the oven cool while the bird slowly cooks to perfection. Take a temp in the cavity between leg and thigh every 30 minutes and rotate the bird, keeping it tented with foil after the first temp check. When the thigh cavity reads 150 - 165 pull the bird out, keep it tented while you prepare the gravy. If a wood fired oven is not an option, You can still follow the above protocol roasting in an oven at 500 for the first 30 minutes and following temp and time frames below. This Apricot Glazed Turkey recipe is a family favorite for a beautiful glaze and delicious gravy.
ROASTING TIME FRAMES
Turkey Oven Roasted at 325°F
Whole turkey (indirect heat) 8 - 12 lbs. 2 - 3 hours
Whole turkey (indirect heat) 12 - 16 lbs. 3 - 4 hours