Saturday, November 29, 2014

First time hosting Thanksgiving dinner and a turkey brine recipe.

"We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. "This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer."
~President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances"

Thanksgiving 2014 Sunrise

Just about every year for the past 40 years my mother has hosted Thanksgiving dinner to which usually upwards of 30 people come. This year, I offered to change to course of history. With Thanksgiving dinner at my house, only a handful of guests were invited. I just don't own that many chairs. Plus it was my first time hosting and making a turkey, so I didn't want to overwhelm myself.

Speaking of turkey, I read all kinds of recipes and tips online before I decided to brine my turkey. Everything I'd head and read convinced me that my turkey HAD to be brined to be juicy and moist. So the night before, I got started with my preparation of both the turkey and the veggies.

After two and a half years living in my new house and being SO careful, this guy finally attacked me. I was surprisingly amused at myself. Laughing sure is good for the soul.

So the brine. There are endless recipes for turkey brine on the internet, but all of them seem clear about the basic salt and water ingredients and ratio. The salt must be coarse kosher salt. And you must have one cup of salt per gallon of water. Also, use two oven bags (Reynolds makes these) one inside of the other to avoid any leakage. As for a recipe and instructions, this is what I came up with:

1 cup coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
16 cups water (split in half during the process)
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 fresh sage leaves
1-2 Tbsp of peppercorns (crushed)
a few random celery sticks and leaves
Combine salt, sugar, and half the water (8 cups) in a large saucepan and stir on stove. Add all the fresh herbs and bring to a boil. Let boil for a minute or two and then turn the burner off. Let the saucepan sit for as long as it takes for the liquid to cool.
While brine is cooling, take turkey out of it's plastic and rinse off. Remove the neck and the giblet and set aside for later. Place the oven bags in a large stock pot or bucket or casserole dish that can fit in your fridge and fit the turkey. Place the turkey, breast side down (this is important since you want it to get the most access to the brine, since it will cook breast side up and the juice will drain down to the back), in the two oven bags. Add remaining 8 cups of water (cold) to turkey bag.
When the rest of the brine is cooled, add it to the turkey. At this point, be very careful that you have a good hold on the edges of the bags so that the brine doesn't spill right out as you're pouring it in. Make sure all the herbs go into the bag. 
Now you will take the inner bag and wind up the top as tight as you can, pressing out as much air as possible so your turkey is completely immersed in the brine. Secure it with a twist tie. (Reynolds oven bags come with a handy tie.) Then do the same for the out bag. Next place the container in the fridge. If your container with the turkey in it doesn't fit on a shelf  (like mine) then you should have planned better to start, but just transfer it to carefully to another container.
Leave turkey in the fridge in the brine for 8-10 hours. In the morning, place the bag in a freshly scrubbed and disinfected sink, undo the bags, and pour out the brine. You will want to rinse turkey to get any excess salt or wilted herbs off and dry it thoroughly, inside and out, before placing it the roasting pan.

Then just prepare your turkey as you like. I put onion quarters, celery and carrots in the cavity, along with some other aromatics (more rosemary and thyme) and then slathered the outside with melted butter, crushed fresh rosemary and thyme, and pepper. Then I cooked it for 3 1/2 hours until it was perfect. And it was perfect.

I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of myself. That turkey tasted so yummy, I'm ready to roast another. Apparently, even the white meat was tasty. I'm not a big fan of white meat; I much prefer the dark and juicy thigh meat, myself. Everyone's offerings made for a beautiful plate.

And, I've been enjoying leftovers for last two days. Yum! First Thanksgiving dinner as host was a success! I think I'll go make myself another plate.


1 comment:

Becky said...

Yum! Looks amazing. I miss you and your mom. <3