Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving and this year I loved it even more because we were hosting it. This was the perfect opportunity for me to flex my cooking and baking muscles as I needed to feed 17 people. Luckily my hubby helped me around the kitchen which was a great help! (Thanks baby!) Although I was totally prepared to cook everything, my family insisted on helping out so I let them each bring side dishes (veggie, mashed potatos and salad). However, I was in charge of the turkey and desserts. But this year I also wanted to try some new side dishes. So I made mac & cheese and a sweet potato casserole. Let me just say that I really lucked out with some great recipes this year. The turkey recipe, by new favorite chef Anne Burrell, was amazing! Considering how long and all the effort it took to make this 20 pound turkey, I would definitely do it all again next year because it came out so amazing. I made and dunked the turkey in the brine on Tuesday morning and cooked the turkey on Thursday. So it was in the brine for roughly 2 days. Also the mac & cheese by the Neely's was delicious! Really easy to make and was packed with flavor. Then I found a knock off recipe for Boston Market's sweet potato casserole which was yummy!

So overall, Thanksgiving dinner came out wonderful and I couldn't be happier. I was so excited with the dishes that I forgot to take pictures of the end products. LOL! Enjoy!

Brined Herb Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
Total prep and cook time: 5 hours 

7 quarts water
1 quart apple cider
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large onion, diced
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 head garlic, cut in 1/2 equatorially
1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
1/2 bunch fresh sage
6 bay leaves
1 (12 to 14 pound) turkey, free range organic is great! (I used a 20lb. Butterball turkey)

Herb crust:
1 bunch fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 bunch fresh sage, leaves finely chopped (I used ground sage because I couldn't find the fresh stuff any where)
3 sticks butter, room temperature
Kosher salt
You will also need butcher's twine to truss the turkey

1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 bunch thyme
Kosher salt
1 quart chicken stock, divided
2 cups apple cider, divided
1/2 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 

Directions: To brine the turkey: Combine all of the ingredients for the brine in a large container. Add the turkey and let it brine in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

To prepare the turkey for cooking: Remove the turkey from the brine the night before roasting and pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels. Combine the rosemary, sage, and butter for the herb crust in a small bowl. Season, to taste, with kosher salt. Work the butter under the skin of the turkey and massage it into the breasts and the legs. Massage the butter on the outside of the skin as well. Tie the legs together over the breast so they will protect it during cooking and help keep it moist and juicy.

Gravy preparation: Put the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, apples, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and thyme in a roasting pan and season with salt. Arrange the turkey on top of the veggies and refrigerate overnight UNCOVERED! Yes, that's right, uncovered. This will help the skin dry out and become really brown and crispy. Make sure that there is no raw food near the turkey in the refrigerator. After refrigerating overnight, the turkey is ready to go in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Put 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup apple cider in the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast the turkey in the preheated oven until the skin gets really nice and brown, about 40 minutes. Lower the oven heat to 350 degrees F for the remainder of the cooking time. Baste the turkey every 30 minutes or so and add more stock to the roasting pan, if needed. Cook about 17 minutes per pound. Once it gets to the proper color, tent the turkey with aluminum foil to prevent it from getting too dark.

Remove the turkey from the oven when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey registers 160 degrees F. Make sure that the thermometer is not touching a bone when doing the reading. When the turkey has reached the proper temperature, remove it from the roasting pan to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Strain all the veggies over a bowl to separate them from the stock/mixture. Discard the veggies. Skim off the fat and add it to the roasting pan. This is the fat for the roux. Put the roasting pan over 2 burners and over a low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture looks like wet sand, about 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the remaining 1 cup apple cider, remaining chicken stock and the stock/cider mixture. Cook until the mixture has thickened and reached a gravy consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour into a serving pitcher or bowl.

This is the last picture I have of the turkey. This is what it looked like after 45 minutes in the oven.