I used to buy a fresh turkey every year at DiFeo’s in Akron, which still sells the best-tasting turkeys I’ve ever had, but then I discovered that brining makes even a garden-variety frozen supermarket turkey taste great. Of course, a fresh turkey off the farm or from DiFeo’s would taste even better, and that’s what I buy when I have the money and time.
If you haven’t already made turkey plans you soon will, so today I’m providing all the information you need to get that turkey to the table. Whether you want to roast it or smoke it, stuffed or unstuffed, the instructions are here, starting with the brine. You could just stir a cupful of salt into a couple of gallons of water, but the following recipe is the ultimate in flavor. I’ve been using it since I tasted a turkey brined in the mixture at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner in Napa Valley 17 years ago.
ORANGE BRINE FOR TURKEY
- 1 gallon orange juice
- 2 cups rice wine vinegar
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup peeled and sliced fresh ginger
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced
- 2 bunches cilantro, chopped
- 12 whole star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
- 2 tbsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp. whole cloves
- 2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 cup kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a stock pot or large saucepan. Stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes. Cool. (May be prepared 1 day ahead; refrigerate in nonmetal container.)
To brine turkey, remove giblets and neck and rinse bird inside and out. Place in a large non-metal container. Pour cooled brine over turkey, cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. If brine does not cover the turkey completely, turn the turkey once or twice a day.
If you’re a late rise, don’t fret. You can cook an 18-pound turkey in less than two hours using a high-heat roasting method. You cannot bake the stuffing inside the bird with this method, but you can produce a juicy bird lickety-split. The texture and flavor will be as good as that of a turkey roasted the traditional way at 325 degrees.
One difference is that the turkey is cooked to an temperature of 160 degrees, not the 175 to 180 degrees, and the thermometer is positioned in the breast meat, touching the bone. The thigh meat won’t be quite done, but it will finish cooking during the 30- to 45-minute resting period.
QUICK ROAST TURKEY
- 1 whole turkey, about 18 lbs.
- Vegetable oil, such as canola
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavitiesand wash the bird inside and out under cool running water. Pat dry. Remove any pads of fat from the edge of the body cavity. Insert a meat thermometer at an angle into the thickest part of the breast, touching the breast bone. Lightly
oil the skin all over.
Place a wire rack in a large, shallow roasting pan. Place the turkey on the rack, breast side up. The turkey must not hang outside the pan. Pour about 1/2 inch of water into the pan. Place on a rack in the lower third of the oven and roast uncovered until the thermometer registers 160 degrees — about 1 3/4 hours for an 18-pound turkey or 2 hours for a 22-pound turkey. If the turkey begins to brown too much, tent loosely with foil.
When done, remove from oven, transfer to a platter and cover tightly with foil. Let rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving. Serves 12.
CLASSIC ROAST TURKEY
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry. Stuff or not, as you choose. Place in a shallow pan (no more than 2 or 3 inches deep) and rub the skin all over with butter or margarine.
Do not cover with a lid or foil, which will steam the meat. Roast uncovered at 325 degrees until brown. Then cover loosely with foil and continue roasting until done (see roasting times below). Basting is not necessary because the juices do not penetrate the skin. Transfer to a platter, cover with foil and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
Roasting times at 325 degrees:
10 to 18 lb. turkey — 3 to 3 1/2 hours unstuffed, 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed
18 to 22 lbs. — 3 1/2 to 4 hours unstuffed, 4 1/2 to 5 hours stuffed
22 to 24 lbs. — 4 to 4 1/2 hours unstuffed, 5 to 5 1/2 hours stuffed
Build a large charcoal fire (about 30 briquettes) in the bottom of one side a lidded grill, and place a 9-by-12-inch foil pan in the bottom of the other half. Rub or spray an unstuffed turkey all over with oil or butter. Place on the grill over the pan. Close lid, leaving vents wide open. Grill for 2 to 3 hours for a 10 to 18-pound turkey. Note that the air temperature and wind can lengthen cooking time.
While roasting, add 6 to 8 charcoal briquettes every 45 minutes, and turn turkey quickly at the same time to rotate the side closest to the coals. Otherwise, do not open lid or heat will escape. Cook turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees.
Transfer to a platter, wrap tightly with foil and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
Lots of dough: No Ohio cooks placed at this year’s Pillsbury Bake-Off, which awarded the $1 million grand prize earlier this month to a Nevada woman for her Loaded Potato Pinwheels — frozen potatoes, cheese and bacon bits baked in spirals of Crescent dough and topped with sour cream. Yes, a million bucks for a recipe made with bacon bits and frozen potatoes. You can find the recipe here: http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/loaded-potato-pinwheels/08754751-ac0e-4d46-9d76-64f5a2e2b1d2?nicam2=Email&nichn2=Lifecycle&niseg2=PB&nicreatID2=PB_11_12_2013.
Supermarket cuisine: I never thought I’d brag about having lunch in a supermarket, but the coconut curry chicken bowl at Giant Eagle’s new Market District store in Green is worth recommending. Sure, I can make a better Thai curry at home – their sauce was a tad heavy and so bountiful the dish was essentially a soup – but for about $8, it’s a delicious deal. My friend liked her Vietnamese pho, too, even though the broth could have used more seasoning.
In short, it isn’t the best Asian food in the world but it is at least as good as at 75 percent of our local Asian restaurants. West Point Market does supermarket food better, of course, but you can’t beat Giant Eagle’s prices.
The Asian dishes are made to order in a small kitchen encircled by a dining bar. More seating and other dining options such as pizza, a salad bar and a hot-foods bar are located nearby.
I was on my way to a movie and didn’t have time to check out the rest of the store, other than a smallish area stocked with gourmet products (called the “Market District”) and the Japanese food section. The store is huge, so presumably the selection is large. The Japanese section wasn’t, however, and didn’t carry either of the items I needed. I’ll have to return to survey the rest of the store – and have more curry.
In Ohio, Market District stores are located in Solon, Columbus and Dublin in addition to the new Green location, and one is planned for the new State Road plaza in Cuyahoga Falls. Addresses and maps may be found here: http://www.marketdistrict.com/Locations/Overview.aspx.
Stuffing vs. dressing: I cover the controversy and provide my favorite cornbread stuffing recipe in this month’s issue of Mimi Vanderhaven, delivered to homes in the Cleveland suburbs. Those who don’t get my benefactor’s paper can search for the article at Mimi’s website, www.mimivanderhaven.com. The article should be posted soon, Mimi promises.
After many years of talking big, I decided to go for it this year on Thanksgiving and make a turducken. My question is, do you know of local butchers who will bone the birds for me? I assume I could get it done at a gourmet market, but am fairly certain cost would be significant. Purchasing the entire turducken online isn’t an option — I want to create it, not just cook it. Thanks!
Dear Amy: Try supermarket meat departments. Many advertise free meat cutting and boning. I would call now, though, or your request may be refused in the Thanksgiving rush. I could find only one local chain, Costco (with stores in Strongsville, Avon and Mayfield Heights), that sells partially deboned whole turkeys, but you must buy a membership to shop there.
Of course, you could always bone the turkey yourself. Step-by-step directions abound. I sure wouldn’t attempt it, though, without an expert at my elbow.
Turducken, for temperate diners who have never heard of the gargantuan entrée, is a chicken stuffed inside a duck, which is stuffed inside a turkey. Most recipes call for boning the birds and layering cornbread stuffing between them.
From Chef Janet, the Original Free Range Chef:
I have simplified turkey prep at our place with boneless turkey breast. I thaw and flatten then spread with basil pesto, or sun-dried tomato pesto, roll and tie and bake at 350 degrees to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. My family has requested it this year. That’s the real indicator! My children are not fond of turkey leftovers and with just Tim and me it’s a big commitment, and he has the freezer stuffed at this time of year with vegetables from the garden. No space for left over for turkey.
Dear Janet: I guess you really have to like turkey to cook a big bruiser for just two people, as I plan to do. I’m crazy about leftover turkey. I eat it in sandwiches, in quesadillas, in soup, in stir fries, in curries, in bisteeya (Moroccan phyllo pie). I could eat it every day for at least two weeks before I started to tire of it. When I host Thanksgiving I roast a back-up turkey for the leftovers, and when I dine out, I still cook a turkey at home. Your stuffed turkey breast sounds good, though. Maybe I’ll make it when my leftovers run out.