Selfishly this post is more a record for me than it is for you (unless you plan on roasting a turkey again anytime soon…). Which is ironic really, because it’s about something I’m really not all that fond of. But I started this blog as a personal recipe journal of sorts (thank you to those who now include some of them in theirs). And I know this is one recipe I will be looking back on, even if only once a year.
Does anyone actually like turkey? I mean really like turkey? Or are we all just in the habit of tolerating it during these festive times? I rarely eat turkey outside of December 25 and 26, unless it’s in a rather indulgent sandwich with plenty of camembert, cranberry sauce and alfalfa. Yum. Because it’s just… well, boring.
It became apparent at a few pre-Christmas drinks, when discussions turned to what would feature at everyone’s table this year (yes, perhaps directed there by me), that most people would describe with delight their planned Christmas feast and then pull out that ‘eh-one-shoulder-shrug kind of look at the mention of an obligatory bland and dry roast turkey. Then there were the handful, me included, that shamefully and un-Christmasly admitted to not caring much for it at all – I think we all felt slightly relieved that we weren’t alone.
So this year, I was determined to cook a turkey… a good, tasty and juicy turkey, and enjoy it! And in order to achieve this, I needed to invest a bit of time, and brine. Brining any kind of poultry adds moisture and flavour and most importantly, stops it from drying out.
If you’d like the simple science behind it – the muscle fibres absorb liquid during the brining period, (brined meats typically weigh six to eight percent more than they did before brining), to replace those liquids that inevitably get lost during cooking. And since the meat is in a sense more juicy at the start of cooking, it ends up juicier. The salt in the brine also dissolves some of the proteins.
This Spice and herb brined roast turkey recipe is a simple one, from Curtis Stone. You’ll have most of the ingredients on hand, but you will need a container large enough to completely submerge your turkey in liquid overnight. Thankfully my esky was the perfect size to bathe my 4.5kg organic free-range one. If you have a cool room or fridge big enough to accommodate a huge tub like this, then lucky you, but I had to fill mine with ice blocks over time to keep it cool – maybe the esky was a lucky stroke of genius?!
The end result? A glossy golden bird with moist and pink flavoursome meat that I even went back for seconds of! Sure some of its original aluminium covering may have gotten stuck to an unruly wing on one side, but there wasn’t really much to gnaw at on there anyway.
Turkey, now there will always be a place for you at my Christmas table. But, next year, I’m cooking my first goose!
Spice and herb brined roast turkey (Curtis Stone)
Serves: 8; Prep time: 10 minutes plus overnight resting; Cook time: 2 hours plus 45 minutes resting
9 litres cold water, divided
3 cups salt
4 cups sugar
¼ cup black peppercorns
3 heads garlic, halved
3 lemons, halved
10 sprigs rosemary
¼ cup coriander seeds
To make the brine:
– Place I litre of the water in a large sauce pot and bring to the boil
– Remove from the heat and add all the ingredients for the brine to the pot and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved
– Pour the hot brine into a container large enough to hold the turkey and add the remaining 8 litres of cold water to cool the brine
– Place the turkey into the brine making sure the entire turkey is submerged
– Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight
The next day:
– Pre-heat oven to 230’C
– Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine
– Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat dry the skin of the turkey with a tea towel. Truss the turkey with butcher twine
– Rub the outside of the turkey with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper
– Place the turkey onto a roasting rack inside of a large roasting pan
– Cover the pan with aluminium foil and roast the turkey for 25 minutes
– Reduce oven temperature to 170’C, remove the foil and continue roasting the turkey for an additional 1½ hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 73’C
– Remove the turkey from the oven and rest at room temperature for 35 to 45 minutes lightly covered with foil before carving