I love Thanksgiving…I love this holiday season!  I thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking for everyone. I like to sit back, catch up on some rest, and watch people enjoy their food.  And that’s why–every holiday season–I become a pain in the butt for my poor Michael.  I run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, I’m always out of something I have to ask him to run off and buy, and my small dining area is a mini grocery store itself.  I’m unorganized.  I’m a mess…and I admit, I sometimes give him a dirty look as I stress and run around to cook, bake, or clean and he’s enjoying himself in front of the television. That is, until he tells me something smells “wonderful” and I can look at him with loving eyes again.

Well, this year will be the third time I make Turkey for Mike’s family.  I’m excited, but  a little nervous. Yeah, I’ve done it before–but it’s a whole lot of pressure!  Oh did I mention, Mike’s family gathering is so large this year that his mom would like me to make 2–that’s right–2 turkeys.

So, without a doubt–I will be turning to my go-to-food techie, Alton Brown for task as I have in the past. As beautiful as a roast turkey may look, most of the time, it’s pretty darn dry.  Protein of choice, but generally speaking, not the best tasting thing at Thanksgiving. That is, until I was introduced to BRINING.  Brining is key.  I bet you thought you’d never hear the following term again after finishing school–but OSMOSIS, you make my turkey damn tasty. If you’re interested in the science of it all, check out wiki.

Mike carving his FIRST turkey during Friendsgiving 2010

Ummm...yeah, and don't forget to remove the bag of gizzards BEFORE roasting. In my defense, I searched the main cavity...and couldnt find it!

Whether you understand the scientific process or not–you need not worry. Follow the directions and you can’t go wrong.

Good Eats Turkey

Ingredients

1 Turkey*

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries (I did not include this in my brine)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily 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
Canola oil

Directions

2 to 3 days before roasting:

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in the brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack  inside a half sheet pan  and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil (or any other neutral flavored oil).

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

* I prefer to buy a fresh turkey.  Yes, they generally cost a little bit more but I’m convinced they taste better and they’re well worth the money.  BUT if you opt for a frozen turkey, the first part of the directions are applicable to you. 
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