Almost time for Thanksgiving and one way to ensure that you have a perfect roasted turkey: brine it. And don't way until Turkey Day to baste that bird! Amy Traverso with Yankee Magazine stopped by Tonia's Kitchen to talk turkey. Specifically how to cook one that could be the best you've ever had! Amy told Tonia the secret to a crispy delicious skin is in the brine. In fact, Amy says you might never go back to an unbrined bird. She says the ideal is to start two days before Thanksgiving, and leave the turkey in the fridge, uncovered. One more tip, Amy says you can use bacon while the bird is cooking. Place the bacon on top of the bird and it's fat will render itself on the turkey. Simply but, that's terrific!
Brined Bourbon–Pecan Turkey & Gravy
Total Time: About 3.5 hours, plus at least 8 hours brining
Hands On Time: 45 minutes
Yield: About 12 servings turkey, with 5 cups gravy
For the Brine:
1 12- to 15-pound natural turkey (see “Note,” below)
2 ½ gallons cold water
2 ¼ cups kosher salt
1 ¼ cups bourbon
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
Remove the giblets and neck from the bird, saving the neck if you plan to make stock (for a recipe, go to: YankeeMagazine.com/Stock). Set aside.
The evening before you roast the turkey, mix the water, salt, bourbon, sugar, garlic, and bay leaves in a lobster pot or other container large enough to accommodate the bird; stir until the salt and sugar have completely
Place the whole turkey in the brine, breast side down, and move it around a bit to expel air from the cavity. Place the container in the refrigerator (if brining outside, remember to add ice and secure the lid). Let the turkey rest in the brine 12 hours.
Remove the bird from the brine, and drain and pat dry. Let the turkey sit, uncovered, 30 minutes at room temperature before roasting. Discard the brine. Preheat your oven to 400° and set a rack to the lowest position.
This recipe works best with a natural, untreated turkey. If you’re using a kosher or pre-brined turkey, skip the brining step.
For the Basting sauce:
½ cup salted butter
½ cup bourbon
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock or turkey stock, divided
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Put bourbon and pecans in a blender; blend until smooth. Add to the saucepan, along with the maple syrup. Do not boil.
Tie the turkey’s legs together with butcher’s twine. Place the turkey, breast side down, on a rack in a large roasting pan and brush the cavity with half of the Basting Sauce. Pour 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock into the bottom of the pan. Cover the turkey with tented aluminum foil; just pat it down over the meat (no need to seal).
Transfer to the oven and reduce the heat to 325°. Roast 1½ hours; then remove the foil and flip the bird breast side up and baste. Return it to the oven and roast, uncovered, basting with Basting Sauce every 30 minutes or so—and adding stock to the pan as needed to keep the drippings from burning—until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast to the bone registers 160°, another 1½ to 2 hours, depending on the size of your bird. Remove from the oven and transfer the bird to a carving board; tent it with foil. Reserve the drippings in the roasting pan. Let the turkey rest 20 minutes before carving.
For the Gravy:
Drippings from the roasting pan
Remaining Basting Sauce
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock or turkey stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon bourbon
While the turkey is resting, make the gravy: Set the roasting pan with the drippings over two burners on your stove and set both to medium heat. Add the remaining Basting Sauce and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking continuously to pick up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and cook, stirring, until the gravy is thickened and smooth (if needed, run it through a strainer). Season with salt, pepper, and bourbon. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.