For those of you hosting a Thanksgiving dinner this year, this is the best turkey recipe I have ever tried. Before I discovered the perfect turkey recipe, I tried a lot of different ways to cook the centerpiece of the holiday feast. The secret to this recipe is brining. At first I could not believe that three cups of salt, some sugar and herbs would have this magical effect, but the result is a perfect turkey, so juicy and tender I can almost taste it now! So, regardless of who hosts the Thanksgiving dinner in our family, I cook the turkey and everyone cannot wait to get the first bite.
(reserve neck for turkey stock; I will blog about how to use this soon!)
3 cups kosher salt
½ cup sugar
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon peppercorns, cracked
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and mixed with four tablespoons of olive oil
1 bunch fresh sage
Freshly ground pepper
Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Pull out and discard the excess fat. Choose a stock pot large enough to hold the turkey. Fill the pot one-third full with cold water. Stir in the kosher salt, sugar, onion, thyme, and peppercorns. Arrange the turkey, breast side down, and fill with more water as far above the turkey as possible. Cover with the lid and refrigerate for twenty-four hours.
Two hours before roasting, remove the turkey and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Return the turkey to the pot and add cold water to cover. Let stand at room temperature to remove some of the brine.
Slide your fingers between the skin and the breast to loosen the skin. Spread some of the melted butter and olive oil mixture under the skin over the breast, and then rub it all over the bird. Insert about twelve large sage leaves under the skin. Season with pepper. Put the remaining sage leaves inside the turkey.
Pour one inch of water into the bottom of the pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and roast the turkey for three to three and a half hours, basting the turkey every hour with the butter and olive oil mixture. Add water to the pan if needed. Begin testing for doneness after 2 ½ hours. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) should register 165 degrees F and the juices should run clear when the thigh is pierced with a knife. Transfer the turkey to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for thirty minutes.
Serve with Italian sausage dressing, which will be the subject of the next blog. The recipe and step by step cooking instructions for the dressing can be found at http://smellofrosemary.blogspot.com/2013/11/italian-sausage-and-cornbread-dressing.html.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Christmas cookbook.