Another year, another turkey. That's how that saying goes, right? So as some of you long-time readers know, every year Elsie and I host Friendsgiving together. This year we hosted on a Monday and included our entire staff and their families (if they could come; it was a work day after all). This is our third time hosting together, and I'm getting to a place that I feel really comfortable with my turkey routine.
If you want to read my tale of worry and nightmares from my first year, check here. Roasting a turkey is a daunting task if you've never done it before. And there are about one million different methods out there, so it can feel overwhelming deciding what to do. If you're looking for what I would consider a foolproof method, I'd be happy to share what I do. Spoiler: I'm a briner. But I've got some new tips for you. You'll see.
What is brining? Basically, we're looking to soak our bird in tasty liquids for about 8 hours. This helps to create a juicy, tender bird during roasting. And you can just do this overnight and your bird will be ready the next day, ready to roast.
Every year I change up my brining recipe. This year was all about white wine and cranberries. I used 64 ounces vegetable (or chicken) broth, 1/4 cup sea salt, 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns, 5 bay leaves, 1 sprig of rosemary, 3 medium onions (sliced thin), 1 bottle dry Riesling, and then enough water to cover the bird.
Over medium heat, stir together the broth, salt, cranberries, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Stir so the salt dissolves, then remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients (except the water).
If you have a frozen bird, be sure to thaw first. Also, remove the innards before brining. I always buy a fresh, locally raised turkey every year, so this step may be a little different for me than for you if you buy a commercially raised turkey. I highly recommend local if you can find one in your community.
Now one issue I run into sometimes at Friendsgiving is running out of refrigerator space. We've got to keep our bird cold while it brines overnight, or it could spoil. But if you put it in your refrigerator, it may take up a LOT of the available space. So one solution is to brine your bird in a cooler. Simply fill one third with ice, add your bird in a brining bag, fill with the brining liquid and enough water to cover the bird, seal, and top off with more ice. Shut your cooler, and it should stay cool through the night (unless your house is unseasonably hot or something).
In the morning, discard the brining liquid and rinse your bird. Pat dry. Rub down with softened butter or olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Fill the cavity with aromatics such as sliced onion, lemons, oranges, rosemary, and thyme. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together so your turkey will keep its shape. Place on a turkey roasting pan (this will have a main pan and then a rack that the bird sits on, allowing air to circulate all around it) and roast at 500°F for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and roast until your bird reaches 155-160° (use an instant read thermometer to find this). My turkey this year was a little over 21 pounds, so it took about 4 hours and 30 minutes to reach this temperature. Once you remove the turkey from the oven, allow it to rest for 30 minutes, loosely covered with aluminum foil. So this is a great time to make gravy. :)
First, collect the drippings from your turkey roasting pan (you can see mine above). If you let this sit in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, the fat will begin to separate from the liquid. You can use just the liquid or both.
For gravy you'll need 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter or turkey fat, 1/4 cup flour, 1 to 1 1/2 cups turkey dripping liquid, and 1 cup vegetable stock or water to thin.
Melt the butter (or turkey fat) in a large saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour, and whisk to combine. Let that cook, continuing to whisk so it doesn't stick, for a minute or two. Add in the dripping liquid, and whisk to combine well. Now you can use your stock (or water) to thin the gravy to your desired consistency. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
I like to present the turkey with some kind of garnish underneath the bird, mainly for aesthetics. You could use something that hints at the brining flavor (like I did with the cranberries), or you could just use something pretty. Some good options are cut lemons, cut limes, cut oranges, cranberries, pomegranates, rosemary, edible flowers (if you use this, make sure they are food safe!), coffee beans, prepared stuffing, or raw green beans. Get creative—there are a million things you could use here to dress up your hard work. Enjoy, and happy turkey day! xo. Emma
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photography: Sarah Rhodes and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.