Something I’ve always thought both charming and annoying about cooking for a food publication whether it be this little blog or a big publication like Cooks Illustrated, is that you have to cook on a publication schedule, not seasonally. In terms of turkey this means that Cooks Illustrated is testing and finalizing Thanksgiving recipes in May. As a food blogger I get to choose when I develop a recipe, but I can’t publish a recipe for Thanksgiving turkey after Thanksgiving. When I decided I wanted to share a turkey recipe with you, I knew that meant that we would have Thanksgiving a month early.
I knew the turkey was going to be a hit. When you make a brine “tea” of juniper, oranges, shallots and lots of salt, you are going to end up with a good tasting bird. If you then make a pan sauce from the defatted drippings with fresh squeezed orange juice and maple syrup you are going to also going be a very popular cook.
People get very protective of their Thanksgiving menus. It was nice having a turkey dinner without the pressure of checking everyone’s Thanksgiving culinary boxes. There were no mashed potatoes and no gravy. Just a knock-your-socks off turkey with a bunch of lovely roasted vegetables. For a great primer on roasting fall and winter veggies, check out this article on Serious Eats.
The brine is made like a tea, you boil water with the salt and flavorings then let it steep for a little while to develop the flavors. The hardest part to brining a turkey is finding a refrigerator spot big enough to hold the massive pot. I have a fridge in the basement that I use for overflow and I was able to clear off the bottom half of the fridge. Other recipes like this one from Cooking Light suggest placing the turkey in a plastic turkey roasting bag and then into a large stockpot. That would certainly save on the amount of brine you need and help to make sure your turkey is completly covered. I like using a lobster pot and no bag because I don’t like to buy extra things; I’d rather use what’s in the house. Whatever you choose, make sure you have enough space to properly store it in the fridge during the 24 hour brining process.
Once it is brined, its ready for a rub down with a little olive oil, maple syrup and orange juice. When the whole thing comes out of the oven you can make the quick pan sauce while the turkey rests. As turkey’s go, it’s pretty easy. The flavors are all there though. You’ll never miss the gravy. Enjoy!