I’ve never roasted a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. ever. until this year.
how is it I managed to escape this domestic rite of passage for 20 years, you ask? well, I went from living at home to being married to my first husband, and almost every year for Thanksgiving we went to his father’s house for dinner; my father-in-law prepared the entire meal (he was a pretty good cook), so that got me off the hook for 6 yrs. for the next (or last, depending on how you want to look at it) 14 yrs I’ve always been invited to have Thanksgiving dinner w/family, and they’ve always fixed the turkey and just asked me to bring other things for our dinner, like green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and a relish tray; even when we hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our home last year, my sister brought the turkey (for the record, she offered, I didn’t assign it to her!).
but this year, w/growing kids w/growing appetites and more than 20 people coming to our house for dinner (!!!), we — the female organizers of this annual family gathering — decided we needed more than one turkey (which actually turned out to be way more than enough), so I decided to “woman up” and roast my first turkey ever. I figured it wouldn’t be a huge investment of anything other than time, b/c one of the local supermarkets out here had their private brand 10-16 lb turkeys on sale for $6 (yes, you read that right, six bucks!). so I bought my frozen bird, thawed it, and Wed morning set about concocting a brine for it.
I’d heard really good things about brining turkey, and the brine recipes I looked at on various recipe sites didn’t sound terribly complicated or overly exotic; I finally settled on this recipe at About.com — turns out to have been an excellent choice! now, anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t possibly follow this recipe exactly 😉 I did tweak it a bit, using culinary-grade Dead Sea Salt instead of “just” coarse salt, and substituting natural cane turbinado sugar (“Sugar in the Raw”) for the white sugar. I was also too lazy to make fresh vegetable stock, so I just used vegetable broth made w/”Better Than Bouillon” vegetable soup base.
once I’d heated everything, allowed it to simmer, let it cool, and added the cold water, I had to figure out what the heck I was supposed to put all of this liquid plus a 14-lb turkey in to let it soak for at least 24 hrs…! don’t tell my husband, but his big round beverage cooler worked a right treat, esp w/a large white kitchen garbage bag as a perfectly leak-proof liner. I did substitute 4 cups of ice cubes for 1 qt of the cold water, made sure my bird was completely submerged (I didn’t worry about the ends of the drumsticks sticking out of the liquid), put the lid on the cooler, and put the whole thing out in the garage to sit for ~24 hrs.
Thurs morning I retrieved my turkey from it’s briny bath, rinsed it as thoroughly as I could, then maneuvered it into a previously floured roasting bag waiting in its big aluminum tray, and shifted the whole thing into the oven, where it took 3 hrs to roast before the little red pop-up timer thingy finally popped. made gravy w/the drippings and enjoyed loads of compliments on how moist, tender, and flavourful the meat was (YAY me!) 🙂 it’s worth noting that I’m personally not a big fan of breast meat for the very reason that it usually IS so dry, but I’ve changed my mind about turkey breast that’s been brined. plus I think my mother and sisters have neglected to tell me all these years how good turkey tastes when you’ve cooked it yourself. 😉