The Perfect Turkey
I know you might be thinking that this post is about 9 days too late, but I figured I’d post my Thanksgiving turkey, because you still have plenty of time to plan a turkey for Christmas! I mean really….turkey only one day per year is clearly not enough. Especially when the turkey is this good.
This Thanksgiving we had a fairly small family gathering, especially compared to the 24 people my Aunt Mary managed to get around one amazing table last year! It’s been a hard year for us and today is especially difficult. I can’t believe it was just a year ago that my family showed up at my apartment to break the news that my father had passed away. That’s a day I will never forget. I just remember seeing Max fly through the door, leash trailing behind him with no owner attached, and before my mom even got to the door, I knew he was gone. As hard as this year has been, it’s also been a lesson in how resilient the human spirit is. At first I had no idea how I would even make it to the next day, let alone the rest of medical school. But here I am a whole year later, with an adorable puppy, an awesome husband, and only 6 months of medical school left! If you have had the misfortune of losing someone you loved recently, let me just promise you that it will get easier. And seriously, I really think some turkey for comfort food could really help. I’m sure my dad would’ve preferred these snowball cookies, but don’t worry, I already made a batch in his honor.
This turkey is a little bit involved, but it is by far the most moist, tender and delicious turkey you will ever eat. I used to be disappointed by the fact that turkey would take up space on my plate in lieu of more sides- but this turkey is really the star of the meal. First you throw all the ingredients in a pot and bring it to a boil. Then you have to let it cool, which unfortunately always takes longer than I think it will.
Houston wouldn’t let this turkey out of his sight. I’ve never seen him like this before…he obviously knew this turkey was special. I think this is his “Is that for me? Awww please mom….” face.
Then you have to pour the cooled brine, along with ice cubes and cold water over the turkey. The trickest part about this is finding a container that will allow the turkey to be totally covered. In fact, I ended up taking it out of the container pictured here and putting it in a GIANT stock pot. Last year I used a gray “sterelite” container I found at Walmart that was perfect – but it was at my apartment. I’ve also heard of people using new and throughly cleaned 5 gallon paint buckets from Lowe’s/Home depot. Just remember you need to keep this container cold, so if it’s 60 degrees on Thanksgiving like it was in Ohio this year, putting it in the garage will not cut it.
After the turkey has soaked in a cold place for 12-24 hours, take it out, rinse it it in cool water and set it in a pan. In case you didn’t know, that’s me with the awkward smile on my face. There’s some sage butter in the white bowl in front of me, which you spread under the skin in as many places as you can. Then you take a delicious mixture of chicken broth, butter and garlic, and inject it all over the turkey meat. This part is pretty fun. Between injecting the meat, and suturing the cavity closed with 2-0 vicryl, I was feeling like a real surgeon by the end of the day :-).
Then stuff the turkey according to your liking. This year we used my Grandma’s traditional (and amazing) stuffing, but last year I just put some onion, apple and celery in the cavity – both worked great. Then put the turkey in a “Turkey Bag” and cook according to the directions on the box – ours took about 3 hours. (I know that turkey bags might not seem very gourmet, but I promise they make the most moist turkeys!).
Then of course let the turkey sit for 20-30 minutes before cutting to let the juices redistribute. True comfort food. Why don’t we make turkey like 10 times per year! I’ve included all the specifics below. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and just remember all through this season (and always) to tell the people how much they mean to you. You will never regret saying I love you just one last time.
The Perfect Turkey
- large container that will hold turkey plus 2 gallons of liquid
- oven safe thermometer
- Flavor injector/syringe
- Turkey roasting bag
- heavy duty roasting pan
- 1 turkey, 12 – 16 pounds
- 1 gallon (16 cups) chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 1/2 cup white or brown sugar
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 5-6 cloves smashed garlic
- 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme*
- 1 large sprig fresh sage*
- 1 large sprig fresh rosemary*
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 8 cups cold water
- 8 cups ice
*the poultry blend of fresh herbs should contain these 3
- 3/4 c. salted butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1/2 c. chicken broth
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- Traditional Bread stuffing OR
- 1 apple (chopped in half), 1-2 small onions (chopped in half), 4 celery stalks (cut into thirds)
About a week before you begin brining your turkey, place it in the refrigerator to defrost. Alternatively, purchase a fresh turkey. (I have done both and I don’t actually think it makes a significant difference in the final product).
The day before you roast your turkey, combine the chicken broth and the remaining brine ingredients (through the parsley) in a very large stockpot. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, which will take over an hour.
Remove the packaging from the turkey. Remove the neck and giblets (be sure to check both the body and neck cavities) and reserve for gravy, if desired. Rinse the turkey in cool water and then place it in the appropriate container. Add the cold water and the ice cubes, then add the brine mixture. Stir to combine. Cover with the lid and then place in a cold place for up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to roast your turkey, preheat the oven according to the directions on the roasting bag packaging. Soften 1 stick of butter and mix it with 1 tablespoon fresh sage and set aside. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it in cool water, and place in the roasting pan. Use your hands to loosen the skin between over the breast. Spread handfuls of the sage butter between the breast and the skin, rubbing any excess over the outside of the skin.
In a blender, combine 1/2 c. chicken broth, 2-3 cloves garlic, and 1/4 c. melted butter until completely smooth. Let sit for at least 20 minutes, then strain out garlic to make it easier to draw up. Use the flavor injector to inject the mixture all over the turkey.
Slip any remaining rosemary and thyme sprigs under the skin.
Stuff the turkey cavity with bread stuffing or a mixture of apple, onion, and celery. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast and then place the turkey into the roasting bag and roast until the thermometer registers 165 according to the roasting bag directions. When you’ve reached 165, remove the turkey from the oven and cut the bag away from the turkey. Allow it to stand for 15-20 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute and keep the turkey juice.