[ Currently Eating: Lays Potato Chip (Just One) ]
Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. Famous words from Alton Brown on his Good Eats show. Why should you be afraid?
Well, to make a short story long: Every year for the last 30 or more years, I’ve relied upon parents and other family members to provide the main dish at Thanksgiving. The piece de la resistance to mangle a French phrase or two. The TURKEY!
We usually had Thanksgiving at my parent’s house or grandma’s house, and though there were many turkey ups and downs (overcooked, dry, undercooked, and soggy) there always WAS a turkey to be had. A full fledged, brown bird. I can’t remember for sure, but I believe I’ve always had The Bird on Thanksgiving without fail. Just like you see on TV, Turkey with all the Trimmings.
Well, this year the task of preparing the Turkey has fallen to ME for the first time ever. I’ve taken on the task in order to give my parents a bit of a break since their home is currently being remodeled and is in poor shape to host a Thanksgiving.
Cooking a turkey… where to start? Well, I guess I’ve passed the first test which is actually buying a frozen turkey ahead of time in order to let it defrost. I didn’t realize that everyone is thinking the exact same thing: buy the turkey on the weekend before Thanksgiving. So I thought I had plenty of time when I headed over there this past Friday night to look for one.
But the turkey icebox at the supermarket was a graveyard! Of gigantic 20-22 pound gargantuan birds. I wanted a 14-16 pound turkey just like the rest of the civilized world. As we pawed through the frozen carcasses looking for the ideal sized bird, I made a resolution to go earlier next year if I got the chance again. Finally, we found a stray 16.6 pound turkey hiding out under its bigger brethren. Whew!
I’ve never had occasion to shop for turkeys, Thanksgiving or not, so I didn’t really know what the prices would be like. They always have some sort of sale going on at all the major supermarkets on frozen turkeys. The three biggies near me are Albertson’s, Ralph’s, and Vons. I can’t remember the exact details, except that Vons was the most reasonable.
For all the supermarkets, you have to buy a certain amount of groceries in order to get the deal on the bird. For Vons, it was: Buy 25 dollars worth of groceries and then get an under 16 pound bird for $5 or an over 16 pound bird for $7. Unfortunately, our bird tipped the scales at 16.6, so we had to fork over the extra $2. I believe Ralph’s was, buy $25 of groceries and then get 2 turkeys for the price of one, while Albertson’s was buy $75 of groceries and get a free turkey? Not sure…
Now, since it’s still Wednesday and we haven’t yet done the deed, I won’t be able to post any pictures of the roasted turkey that we’re attempting to make. However, we have decided on a plan of attack and it’s going to be the “Brined” turkey recipe from Alton Brown’s Good Eats show. I’ve made brined roast chickens before which turned out pretty fabulously, so we picked the brining method for our first try. Plus, I’ve never had a brined turkey (parents weren’t into the idea) so this’ll be a fun test.
Brining is an extra step and is a bit trickier than a chicken because the Turkey is so darn large! I actually went to Home Depot to get a clean 5 gallon bucket in order to do it.
Well, in case you are wondering, here is the recipe taken straight from the Food Network site. We’re skipping the allspice berries and candied ginger, but we’re planning on following the rest of the steps pretty much to the letter. I’ll report back on the results after the holiday!
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.
A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine. Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.
Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.
Price: $7.00 for just the Turkey
Bought at: Vons
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10