Sometimes, the best part about turkey is the Thanksgiving leftovers. But you can’t indulge in tasty leftovers if you don’t have a tasty bird to begin with.
Brining a turkey takes time, space and planning. It can be done two ways, as a wet brine or dry brine. Both impart flavor, and each has pros and cons.
Some people say a wet brine ruins the texture, but others, yet, will say it results in a moist bird. As for dry-brining or curing, it takes a little longer to flavor, but it leaves the texture unchanged.
Both options are customizable to include your own favorite blends of spices and flavors.
Here are a few options for your main dish:
Makes 8-10 servings; plus leftovers
If you dry-brine, you need to brine for much longer, 24-48 hours, and cook the meat much slower at a rather staggering 275 degrees with a quick spike at the end for golden skin.
1 turkey, about 10-11 pounds, giblets removed for the gravy
1 pound, 2 ounces fine salt
Finely grated zest of 2 mandarins
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1. Using a turkey brining bag, pop your turkey into the bag and prepare the dry brine. Place the cloves, allspice, star anise, cinnamon and peppercorns in a pan and toast them for 2-3 minutes. Place in a blender with the salt, sugar, herbs and zest, and blitz until you have a spiced salt. Pour the salt into the brining bag with the turkey and give it a good old shake until the turkey is covered inside and out with the mixture. Pop it into the fridge and leave for up to 48 hours.
2. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 275 degrees. This sounds alarmingly low. Trust me, it works. You now need to wash off the salt mixture and dry the bird really well. Carefully slide your hand under the skin to detach it from the breast, just enough to rub the butter underneath. Do your best to rub it evenly under the skin, but if there’s any excess butter, you can rub it over the top of the bird. No need to season, as the bird has been brined.
3. If you’re stuffing your bird, now’s the time.
4. Next, lay the bacon over the breast of the bird. You can get all fancy pants and make a lattice shape if you like, but this bacon is just to keep the breast moist and for more flavor.
5. Lay the bird on the sliced onions in a large roasting tray and wrap tightly in foil. Roast for 3 hours — there really is no need to baste when cooking at so low a temperature, so don’t remove the foil. It kind of roasts/steams the bird, which is how it keeps it juicy. When the time is up, take the bird out of the oven and increase the oven temperature as high as it will go. Remove the foil while the oven heats, up and check that the bird is cooked by piercing the thigh at its thickest part with a metal skewer. The juices should run clear, and it should be really juicy.
6. Roast for another 20 minutes, or until the bird is an even bronze color all over. Remove from the oven and wrap in fresh foil, then leave to rest for 40 minutes before serving with gravy.
— Recipe by Gizzi Erskine, “Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings”
SOUS VIDE LEMON HERB TURKEY
1 2-pound (1-kilogram) boneless, skinless turkey breast
1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon fresh
1. Mix the honey, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper. Place the turkey in a heavy-duty Ziplock bag or in a vacuum-sealer bag. Add marinade to the bag. For a Ziplock, submerge the bag in a bowl of water until just below the opening of the bag so the air is squeezed out, then seal the bag. For a vacuum sealer, set the machine to wet seal.
2. Place the turkey in a sous-vide set to 143 degrees. Cook for four hours or up to eight hours.
3. When ready to serve, heat oil and flour in a small saucepan. Stir well and cook for one minute. Add the juices from inside the turkey bag and whisk until no clumps remain. Slice the turkey thinly and serve with gravy on the side.
Note: You can follow the same time and temperature for any size turkey you would like to use.
Variation: To cook in the oven, keep the skin on and bone in. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until the thickest part of the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Remove and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.
This is the best goose recipe I’ve tried, and the gravy is a winner.
5 slices of fresh root ginger, bruised
2 spring onions, split down the middle
5 tablespoons maltose or honey
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons sea salt flakes
11 pound free-range goose, cleaned and excess fat removed
Goose’s neck and gizzards, if available
18 ounces fresh chicken stock
1. Place the water, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, spring onions, maltose, soy and salt in a pan and bring to the boil. Turn on the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Prick the goose all over with a tiny needle. This takes quite a bit of time, but it’s worth it for really crispy skin, as it allows the fat to pour out of it. Place the goose in the sink and pour the boiling hot infused stock all over it (discard the stock afterwards). The idea is that the skin will tighten up. Now place on a wire rack and leave in the fridge to dry for 15 hours. The skin of the goose will feel like wax paper when it’s dry.
2. Now stuff the bird with your stuffing, then you need to weigh it.
3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
4. Place a rack in a roasting pan and place the goose on top.
5. Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and cook for 20 minutes per kilo (2.2 pounds) for medium-rare, 30 minutes per kilo (2.2 pounds) for well-done.
6. Remove the bird from the oven and leave to rest for 30 minutes. It’s worth noting that the goose will leak tons of its fat, which is terrific to keep for roasting your potatoes, but keep an eye on it and pour away the fat as you see fit.
7. When the goose is resting out of the roasting tray, remove the rack if you used one, leaving the carrots and parsnips in it, and place the roasting tray on the stove over a low-ish heat. Chop the goose neck into 4 through the joint and brown the pieces in the tray with the gizzards. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, or until a little soft and golden. Now add the flour and scrape away at the bottom of the pan to lift up all the meaty bits and goosey juices. Pour in the port and whisk like crazy. It will fast become a purple gunge. Now add the bay leaf and pour in the stock slowly, whisking as you go, until combined. Now bring the gravy to boil and reduce until the flavor is right and it’s a good pouring consistency. Serve the goose with the gravy poured over.
— Recipe by Gizzi Erskine, “Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings”
Makes 1 gallon brine; enough for one 12-pound turkey
¾ cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)
2 teaspoons Prague Powder #1 (aka pink curing salt; optional)
Black or white peppercorn, up to 1 tablespoon
Garlic, peeled and lightly crushed, up to 6 cloves
Lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangerine or lime zest, grated or in strips
Bourbon, brandy, rum, mezcal, tequila, gin or other spirit, up to 1 cup
Whole cloves, up to 1 teaspoon
Fennel seeds, up to 1 teaspoon
Sugar, honey, agave or other sweetener, up to ¾ cup
Sweet onion, quartered, medium size
1. Place boiling water and salt and optional sweetener in a stockpot or large mixing bowl and whisk until the salts and sugar (if using) are dissolved. Whisk in the ice water and other seasonings. Let the brine cool to room temperature before adding the meat. Cover and refrigerate.
— Recipe by Steven Raichlen, “Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades”