A Turkey Worth Its Salt
It’s a little-known fact that brining poultry before roasting helps to season the entire bird. It also prevents the bird from drying out during roasting. And as if that weren’t helpful enough, brining reduces the cooking time by about 30 minutes. Executive Chef Jim Nuetzi suggests beginning the brining two days before serving. Here’s how:
Remove the giblet bag and thoroughly wash your thawed turkey inside and out.
Create a simple brine by combining 2 ½ gallons of cold water, two cups of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and one cup of granulated sugar..
Submerge thawed turkey in the brine in a refrigerator for 30 minutes per pound (or a maximum of 24 hours). If you don’t have room in your refrigerator, combine the salt and sugar with one gallon of very cold water in a clean cooler. Add remaining water in the form of ice, place turkey in the cooler, and store in a cool place.
Create a rich turkey stock by simmering turkey parts (Chef Nuetzi believes turkey necks add the most flavor) in water with onions, carrots, salt and pepper for two hours. Strain and refrigerate overnight. Use this stock as a base for the gravy.
The Preparations Continue
One day before serving, it’s time to prepare the turkey for roasting.
Remove turkey from the brine solution, rinse inside and out and pat it dry with paper towels.
Season the turkey inside and out with fresh cracked pepper.
Combine two sticks of softened, unsalted butter with one tablespoon each of chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage and Italian parsley. Insert this herb butter under the skin to keep the turkey moist and flavorful.
Place turkey in refrigerator, uncovered overnight. Flavoring the bird overnight ensures that the meat will be seasoned all the way to the bone. And leaving the turkey unwrapped allows the skin to dry, making it crisper.
The Highs and Lows of Perfect Roasting
Today’s the day.
Remove turkey from the refrigerator one hour before roasting. Allowing the turkey to slowly approach room temperature promotes more even cooking.
Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and pour one cup of dry white wine and one cup of stock in the bottom of the pan. Start roasting at 425º until the skin is golden brown, continually basting the turkey with the pan juices every 20 minutes as it roasts to keep the bird moist.
Reduce the temperature to 350º and roast until the thermometer reaches 160º at the thickest part (usually the thigh). The high heat makes for crisper skin, while the lower heat cooks your bird more evenly.
Loosely tent the turkey with foil and allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving. “Resting” lets the meat become more tender by allowing the juices to redistribute throughout the bird.
Make the sauce. Add the stock prepared on day one to the roasting pan and bring to a simmer on the stove. (Be sure to scrape the bottom of the roasting pan to get the most flavorful particles.) Reduce until you achieve a rich tasting broth.
Strain if necessary. Thicken the broth with a small amount of cornstarch dissolved in cold water and you will have a clean, rich flavor. (For a light gravy, do not use flour to thicken as it will leave a heavy, starchy palate.)
Finish with a couple pats of butter and season to taste.