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09 March 2008 @ 11:45 am
So, I have been working on getting a really good turkey recipe for the past couple of holidays. Past strategies have involved brining and rubbing the turkey with butter and stuff. The one from Thanksgiving was good, but mostly still just tasted like chicken. However, the one I made for Christmas was a resounding success! I got this recipe from Cook's Illustrated when I signed up for the free month. Since I'm not in the mood to pay for it on a monthly basis, I canceled it before they starting charging me. So, I am typing up the recipe here, in case I lose the paper I printed it on.  Also, the plan is to make you all v. jealous of our yummy dinner. : )

First, brine the turkey.  Brine recipes are easy to find and vary from water + salt, to stock, salt, brown sugar, and aromatics.  Here is the one I used (for a five pound bird... there are only three of us):

some water / stock - going to want to cover the bird... I think since ours was small, I did it in a giant ziplock instead of a bucket)
1/2 C br sugar
1/2 C salt
2 oranges, quartered and abused (ream them a little into the solution, maybe zest some of the rind, too)
lemon juice
fresh thyme and rosemary - abused (rough chopped or squished w/ mortar and pestle)

Some brine recipes want you to boil the liquid, add the stuff and chill, then add the bird.  Otherwise you can just combine, making sure the sugar and salt dissolve.  Leave the bird in the bring for 4-6 hours, more for a bigger bird (some brine recipes call for up to 3 or 4 days of brining).

Remove from the brine, rinse under cold running water, and pat dry with paper towels.  Refrigerate it uncovered on a wire rack over a pan for at least 30 minutes.  This recipe recommends 8 - 24 hours for extra crispy skin.  Me, I work the on the paste while it's in the fridge.

Herb Paste
1 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley leaves - roughly chopped (the parsley will form the base of the paste)
4 t minced fresh thyme leaves
2 t chopped fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 t minced fresh rosemary
1 medium shallot minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 t grated lemon zest  (I actually ended up using orange zest, and orange was one of the stronger flavours of the whole bird)
3/4 t table salt
1 t ground black pepper
1 t Dijon mustard
1/4 C olive oil

There are guidelines for if you have a larger bird, which basically consist of doubling all ingredients, except black pepper and using more paste in each section of the bird.

In a food processor (use the small bowl if you have one), process all but mustard and olive oil with 10 2 second pulses.  Add mustard and olive oil and continue to pulse until it forms a smooth paste, scraping down sides every 5 pulses or so.  use 10 - 12 pulses.

Put oven rack at lowest spot, and pre-heat to 400.  If you are using a V rack, this recipe recommends covering it with foil and poking many holes in the foil.

Here comes the fun / gross part.  We're going to smear the paste all over the chicken, including inside the cavity and inside the breast meat.

Using hands, carefully loosen skin from the meat of the breasts, thighs, and drumsticks.  With a spoon, slip 1 1/2 T under skin on each side.  Using fingers, distribute paste all over breast, thighs, and drumsticks.

With a sharp paring knife, cut a 1 1/2 inch vertical slit in the thickest part of each breast.  After making the cut, move the knife back tot he top, and lever the tip to the side, to create a pocket inside the meat.  Use the spoon to put about a tablespoon inside each breast and rub it around with fingers.

Rub 1 T paste inside the cavity, then flip it upside down and put half of what remains on the skin.  Turn right side up and apply the rest to the skin.

I usually add some aromatics to the cavity.  Take a quarter or a half of an onion and half a cinnamon stick and put them in a bowl of water in the microwave for a minute or two while you are applying the paste.  Then place them in the cavity along with as many of the orange quarters from the brine as will fit.

Start roasting breast side down, using the V-Rack, or balls of tin foil to keep it vertical.  For a 12-14 lb bird, start with 45 minutes down, then flip up for about 50-60 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh reads 170-175.  Check both sides to be sure.  Let it rest for 15-30 minutes (aka while you're making gravy), before carving.  You should be able to find cooking guidelines for different sizes online.

For our 5 pound bird, I did about 30 minutes down, then flipped it up for another 30 or so, until the breast was 165 and the thighs were 170. 
Put your trust in the thermometer, not the clock.  Also, make sure that when you insert the thermometer, it is not touching bone, as that will throw off the reading.

In case you are interested, I make my gravy from a roux, following the guidelines in the Williams & Sonoma Mastering Sauces book, which turned out to be super helpful to me.  I had the rudiments of a roux (roux-diments? ba-dum psh!), but this book explained some things more simply and eliminated some of the complications that I thought I had to go through.  Of course, DINC (do dogs count?) helps when it comes to laying out for it. YMMV
Your Message Here_mendon on November 24th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
The whole bunches of parsley in the paste did not turn out well for me. I'm going to try reducing that to ~1/2 cup and just doing lots of the other herbs. also, plenty of citrus zest.