Monthly Archives: November 2009

The Perfect Bird


   Making a good turkey that is moist and tasty is not as hard as one would expect. The thing that can make or break your turkey: BRINE. It may seem like a meaningless task, but it makes all the difference in the world. You don’t need to continually open the oven door and baste and baste and baste…with no results, just take a few minutes the night before to make a brine and your turkey will never be the same. I’ll explain the steps I take each year for cooking my turkey and then give the recipe that I used this year. No matter what size your turkey, these steps can be taken for a small bird to an army-feeding size. Realize that when you buy your turkey, that most of the time the turkey is probably still frozen to some extent. I normally buy my turkey a week or two in advance and stick it back in the freezer. If you buy your turkey the same week you are cooking it, just store it in the refrigerator. You want to pull your turkey out of the freezer 2-3 days before you cook it. Normally my turkey doesn’t defrost completely before I brine it, but that won’t change the outcome.

   You want to cook your brine at least 2-3 hours before placing it in with the turkey, to allow it time to cool off. Here is an excellent brine, the recipe is for a 8-10 pound bird, but you can always double it or just add a can or two of chicken or vegetable stock without compromising the effectiveness of the brine.

Brine Ingredients:

2 c. water

2 c. white wine

1-1/2 c. orange juice

1 c. kosher salt

1 c. light brown sugar

1/4 c. maple syrup

1 Tbl. black peppercorns

4 bay leaves

2 tsp. ground ginger

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

   Place all the ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar and salt are dissolved into the liquids. Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Take the turkey out of its packaging and remove any giblets and the neck from the body cavity. If you have a cooler a little bigger than your turkey, use this to brine your turkey in. If you don’t, use your kitchen sink for the task. Put the turkey in a garbage bag and place into the cooler or sink. If you are doing this in the sink, try to eliminate any extra space in the sink. (I like to use three small cutting boards formed in a triangle, held in place with bowls.) Pour the brine over the turkey and any stock if necessary, then add enough water to almost cover the turkey. Add ice to the turkey, adding more if you are leaving the turkey in the sink. Normally I use four trays of ice cubes when leaving it in the sink, and there are still some unmelted in the morning. Close the bag with the pull straps or tie at the top, and leave in the brine until an hour before cooking.

   The turkey normally takes around 20 minutes per pound to cook to the proper temperature. Pull the turkey out of the brine and brush off any peppercorns and thyme sprigs, then place on a few paper towels to dry. In the mean time, prepare the rub and aromatics. Cut up one large orange and one lemon into 1/2 inch slices. Pull out 6 sprigs of rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano and set aside. Finely mince the ingredients of the rub together.

Rub Ingredients:

2 Tbl. fresh parsley

1 Tbl. fresh rosemary

1 Tbl. fresh sage

1 Tbl. fresh thyme

1/2 Tbl. fresh oregano

2 cloves of garlic

1 Tbl. kosher salt

1 Tbl. black pepper

   Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pat dry the turkey and place into roasting pan breast side up. Stuff the sliced citrus fruit and fresh herb sprigs into the body cavity, then tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the body. Use half of the rub in between the skin and the meat, concentrating on the breasts and legs. Grab 3-4 Tbl. of butter and rub all over the skin of the turkey, then sprinkle the remaining rub on the outside. Cover the turkey with foil and place into the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Turn down the oven to 350 degrees and continue to cook until the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-175 degrees. To give your turkey the perfect golden skin, uncover for the last 30-60 minutes of cooking time. I always allow my turkey to rest at least 20 minutes after pulling out of the oven before carving, to let all of the juices soak into the meat. This also allows you to throw the rest of the sides into the oven to finish cooking. I always get compliments on my turkey, I’m sure you will as well!