Turkey: Crossing It Off My Cooking Bucket List

There are a lot of things on my Cooking Bucket List. Some of them are things I have accomplished and with which I have succeeded. Others of them are things I have tried and failed miserably while doing. Back in October, I decided I really wanted to make a turkey. Since it was only going to be a few members of my immediate family for Thanksgiving and my parents were spending every night in the hospital with my sister in the months of October and November, I said I would make our Thanksgiving dinner.

turkey 2 turkey 3 turkeyThe day before Thanksgiving, I was preparing to head home to potentially make a small Thanksgiving dinner for my parents and me, but my sister was transported to a different hospital, so my turkey-cooking dreams were passed for Thanksgiving. I was not that disappointed because I spent the holidays with my family and that’s where we needed to be. However, by the time Christmas came around and we still had not cooked that turkey, my dad and I decided to cook the turkey together.

I had been scouring the interweb for most of the fall, searching for the perfect recipe, and I found a great one over at the Multiply Delicious blog. It’s one of several on my Google Reader, where I track different blogs that I read consistently. Labeled the Best Thanksgiving Turkey Brine, I was excited to try it. We had never brined a turkey before and the reports from a couple of my relatives was that the brines they had tried made the turkey so salty. This one does not have much salt in it and seems to really focus on seasoning the turkey through the brine, instead of merely salting it. We had hoped to smoke the turkey on the Green Egg, but the day was just too cold to cook something that big. If you haven’t been to the site before, you should go over just to see how beautiful her turkey looks! I don’t have a photo of my turkey uncarved, but it wasn’t quite as beautiful 

We made a few adjustments to the turkey recipe posted on Multiply Delicious. I was not able to get all of the fresh herbs I wanted to at the grocery store in my small town, so we ended up baking it in the oven. It took a little longer than the recipe calls for to cook our 13 lb turkey, so when I do this again, I’ll likely raise the temperature to 325 degrees. I even got to practice carving the turkey. I doubt I’ll ever have the presentation skills to carve it at the table, but I did okay 

I’ve posted the entire recipe and noted how I modified it for dried herbs and such. We decided this was definitely a keeper and worth the effort beyond our usual turkey preparation.

Thanksgiving Turkey Brine
1 – 12-16 pound turkey (neck and giblets removed and discarded – we kept the neck in)
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced (I used 3 tsp of minced, jarred garlic)
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 sprigs each rosemary, thyme and sage (I used a healthy shake of each of the herbs – maybe 1 ½ Tbsp??)
6 sprigs Italian parsley (I used 2 ½ -3 Tbsp)
1/2 cup iodized salt
3 gallons cold water
One day before baking turkey, prepare brine. Combine all brine ingredients. Place the turkey in extra large brine bag (I used a Reynolds turkey bag in a 5 gallon bucket) and pour brine over turkey submerging it. Place in a cooler surrounded by ice in your hopefully cold garage or if you have room, in your refrigerator. Let turkey sit in brine for 12 to 24 hours (I brined ours for about 18 hours). Remove turkey from brine; dry off turkey with paper towels. Discard brine.

Thanksgiving Turkey Preparation
Inside the turkey:
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 apple, sliced into wedges
1 orange, sliced into wedges
4 garlic cloves, peeled, whole (this again was 4 tsp of minced, jarred garlic)
Under the Bird:
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot. diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, whole (I used 3 Tsp of jarred, minced garlic)
3 sprigs each of sage, rosemary, thyme (Here I used 1 ½ tsp sage and thyme; I had enough fresh rosemary for this)
6 sprigs Italian parsley (I used around 4 tsp of dried parsley)
3 bay leaves
On the Bird:
4 tablespoons ghee, sliced into pats – plus 1 more tablespoon (I used butter)
5 cups low sodium free-range chicken broth
2 tablespoons rosemary, diced
1 tablespoon honey (optional—I used this and it added a nice flavor!)
sea salt and black pepper to season

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. (Next time I would do 325 degrees)
Brine turkey as instructed above. Salt and pepper the brined turkey and cavity. Fill the cavity with carrots, celery, apple, orange, and garlic; bind the legs with kitchen twine (Mine was pretty well contained, so I didn’t need to do this).
In a large roasting pan, spread onion, carrot, celery, garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley and bay leaves. Place the turkey on top of the bed of vegetables and herbs.
Put ghee on turkey, or between skin and breast meat (or a combo of both). I usually melt the ghee slightly if I place on the outside of the turkey. (I rubbed about a tablespoon of butter on the skin of the turkey)
Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Pour half the chicken stock over turkey; roast an additional 45 minutes. Pour remaining stock over turkey and roast 45 more minutes; it will start turning golden brown. Baste with pan juices. (I had never basted a turkey before, either, since we usually use turkey bags – it was awesome!)
In a small bowl, mix together honey, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon melted ghee (butter). With a pastry brush, brush mixture on the turkey.
Cover loosely with foil and roast an additional 45 minutes. When the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 or 175 degrees, remove from oven, keep covered and let rest at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Transfer to platter and serve.

I did not do a the gravy, because we made turkey stock, but I think this looks delicious as well!
For a simple gravy:
From the bottom of the roasting pan, discard herbs and measure out 1 cup of vegetables and 3 cups of pan juices; puree in a blender or food processor. To thicken, add more vegetables; to thin add more pan juices. Pour through a mesh strainer to make smooth gravy.