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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cider-Brined Roast Turkey and Gravy

The star of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey.  There are many ways to make a turkey, you can bake it, fry it, grill it, smoke it, etc. but my favorite way to make it is to brine it overnight the night before you bake it.  Brining the turkey in a salty solution infuses the turkey with extra moisture, creating an extra juicy turkey.  While I don't take credit for the apple cider brine, I have no idea where the original recipe came from and its been adapted several times over the past few years to the current version. 

Even if you brine the turkey, the most important thing is not to overcook it.  If you overcook it, no matter what you did the turkey will be dry.  My advice - don't rely on that little pop-up button that comes in the turkey.  They are often wrong or just don't work at all.  Make sure you get a meat thermometer, you can find one at pretty much any store with a kitchen department.  While you can spend a lot of money, you definitely don't have to.  Personally, I prefer the kind that has a probe that you can leave in the turkey that connects to a display outside of your oven.  

The gravy recipe below is for "sweet gravy" a recipe that my grandma always made.  You can make the gravy without the sugar, but I really suggest trying it to see if you like it if you've never had sweet gravy before. 

Cider-brined Roast Turkey

1 quart apple cider
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 T allspice
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 T peppercorns
8 whole cloves
At least 3 quarts water

Heat the apple cider, brown sugar, salt, and allspice in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Stir frequently until boiling to dissolve sugar. Set aside to cool. Quarter onion and smash and peel garlic cloves. In a container large enough to submerge the turkey, add the cider mixture, apple cider vinegar, onion, and garlic along with bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Add two cups ice. Carefully add thawed turkey (make sure to remove the neck and giblets first if necessary). Pour in water until the turkey is submerged. Refrigerate turkey for approximately 12 hours.

1 14-18 pound turkey
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 T sage, chopped
2 T thyme, chopped
1 apple, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken or turkey stock

When ready to cook the turkey, preheat oven to 375 degrees, rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels.  Place turkey on a roasting rack in a heavy roasting pan.  Pour wine in a shallow bowl and soak a square of cheesecloth big enough to cover the turkey breast in wine.  Mix butter with herbs and rub liberally over turkey, including inside cavity and under skin of breast.  Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper.  Lay cheesecloth over turkey breast.  Add apple, lemon and onion slices to the cavity of the turkey, put anything that doesn't fit in the bottom of the pan.  Pour any remaining wine over the turkey, add about 2 cups of stock to the bottom of the pan. 

Bake turkey at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for about 15 minutes per pound.  Baste the turkey every 30 minutes.  Remove the cheesecloth for the last 45 minutes of baking time.  Cook turkey until the temperature in the breast reaches 160 degrees on both sides.  Remove turkey from the oven, transfer to a platter, tent with foil and let rest for about 30 minutes.  Save the turkey drippings in the pan for gravy.  Temperature should continue to rise until it hits 165 degrees.  Remove the aromatics from the turkey cavity and discard.  Carve turkey as desired.  If during the cooking process, the wing tips or legs start to get too dark, cover them loosely with foil and continue cooking.

Turkey drippings
1/3 cup water
2 T cornstarch
2-3 T sugar
Chicken or turkey stock if necessary

Carefully pour turkey drippings from roasting pan into a large measuring cup, mason jar, or gravy separator or similar container.  Put container in the refrigerator.  The fat from the drippings will rise to the top and then can be carefully spooned or poured off and discarded.  Meanwhile, mix together cornstarch and water to form a slurry in a separate cup.  Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat.  Add remaining drippings.  Whisking constantly, add cornstarch slurry to thicken.  Continue whisking until the mixture thickens to desired consistency.  If its too thick or you don't have enough gravy, you can add additional stock, if it's too thin, add more cornstarch slurry.  Do not add the cornstarch directly to the gravy or it will be difficult to get rid of lumps, mix it with water first.  When it's the right consistency, add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, to taste.  Transfer to a gravy boat or serving bowl and serve hot.

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