Thanksgiving is quickly headed this way, and with it typically comes turkey, dressing and all the trimmings. My husband and I established our own Thanksgiving tradition several years ago when we were still dating—we spend the day at home cooking, watching parades and football, and just hanging out. Oh, and drinking. Instead of a day filled with yelling, arguing and my aunt’s dry turkey and questionable side dishes, we do it all here at home, and we do it our way.
Our early obsession with The Food Network, namely Alton and Emeril, led to experimentation in the kitchen and our ultimately tweaking and combining a couple of recipes into a for the most delicious, juicy, spectacular turkey ever to be made in this world.
And it’s all about the brine, baby. Interested? Click below for the recipes for our brined and roasted turkey!
Originally, I think one of our brine recipes suggested doing this in an ice chest, large bucket or heavy duty trash bag. Just, don’t. Trash bags are untrustworthy, and the ice chest and/or bucket is a pain in the arse to clean out after the brining process. Instead, my intrepid spouse found the most awesome brining bags at Williams-Sonoma. They’re strong enough for a 23-pound bird (if you want to go there), closely easily and securely so you don’t have to worry about a turkey/brine explosion in the fridge, and come in a set of four for just $16.
And now that you’ve got your big ol’ bird and your trusty bag, here’s what you need to get going:
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
4 sprigs (or handfuls, whichever) thyme
4 sprigs (same here) rosemary
Dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a large stock pot. Gently place turkey in brining bag, and pour in the brine solution. Add the oranges, lemons, thyme and rosemary, close up the bag, and stick it in the fridge. Brine for four to 24 hours. (We let it soak as long as possible)
Now comes the fun part—remove the turkey from the brine and discard the bag and its contents. I highly recommend draining as much of the liquid from the bag before attempting to remove the turkey. I cannot stress this enough, as you do not want to wear it, aromatic though it may be. Remove everything that’s inside the turkey, and rinse inside and out under cold water. Pat it dry.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and let’s get cooking!
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8ths
2 large orange, cut into 8ths
1 stalk celery, large dice
1 large carrot, large dice
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
2 cups chicken broth, for basting
Place turkey breast side down (no, really) in a big, heavy roasting pan, and rub on all sides with the butter. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey with the onion, oranges, celery, carrot, bay leaves, and thyme. At this point you could tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string, or not. Also, this recipe originally called for a ton more aromatics than I’ve listed here, but trust me, this works beautifully for a 12-pound turkey.
Roast the turkey breast-side down for an hour. Remove from the oven, turn, and baste with 1/2 cup broth. After years of practice, we’ve determined the easiest way to do this is not with a contraption of wooden spoons and quickness, but by simply putting on some oven mitts, picking the thing up and turning it over. (It’s also helpful if your spouse or significant other has no feeling in one hand because his sister slammed it in a car door as a child, making it much easier for touching hot things from the oven) Promptly throw the oven mitts into the laundry pile after you do this. Undercooked bird and all, right?
Roast breast side up until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the largest section of thigh and away from the bone, about 2 to 3 hours total cooking time. Baste the turkey once every hour with 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
Remove from the oven and place on a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving. If you can wait that long. And it’s to die for the next day for sandwiches, and added to my mom-in-law’s homemade potato leek soup recipe. Yum, so I cannot wait until Thanksgiving!