Two years ago, when I was away at University and faced with hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner, I did a lot of research. What I came up with was a blend of three different recipes which, when combined, has blessed me with the juiciest, most tasty and tender turkey for three years in a row.
The first step for any turkey is to allow it to defrost. The turkey will brine for 48 hours before cooking, so make sure to give it 2-3+ days to defrost. However, don’t worry about it too much, because it can continue to defrost while brining.
After your turkey is defrosted, it’s time to begin Step One: The Brine.
Boil 4 cups of water, then add 1 cup of salt and 2 cups of sugar. Mix until combined. After the salt and sugar have dissolved, add 8 cups of water, 1 cup red wine vinegar (this is the secret!), 2 tablespoons each of sage, thyme, and rosemary, 1 tablespoon of pepper, and 4 cups of ice. Mix as the ice melts, and make sure the brine is cool before introducing it to the turkey.
While that is cooling, remove all packaging from the turkey and remove the innards. You can save them if you want to make a stock, but that is entirely up to you. I did one year, but didn’t personally find it worth the bother.
Rinse the turkey and put it into whatever receptacle it will be brining in, then add the cool brine. Put it into the fridge for 24 hours, then flip the turkey so that both sides get brined.
Welcome to Thanksgiving! After 48 hours, your turkey is very tasty, but there is a bit more work to do first.
Remove your turkey from the brine about 2 hours before cooking and allow it to come to room temperature. Rinse off the herbs from the brine and pat dry. Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare your turkey: put 1/2 an onion, 2 carrots, and the tops and bottoms of the celery you used for your stuffing into the large cavity. Add parsley. The next step is odd, but trust me…flip the turkey over so that the breasts are on the bottom. On the outside of the turkey, spread a little olive oil and sprinkle pepper, thyme, and rosemary. It’s ready to go!
Once your oven is preheated, tent your upside down turkey with aluminium foil then put into the oven! Forget about it for 90 minutes.
After 90 minutes, increase the temperature to 425°F and start keeping an eye on it. Since the breasts are on the bottom, you’ll need to check the temperature on the thigh. Depending on the size of your turkey, it should reach 165°F anytime between 30-60 minutes after increasing the temperature. Once your turkey reads 165°F, take it out to rest for 30 minutes. Leave it tented so it stays warm.
There you have it, beautiful and perfectly tasty and tender turkey.
And do you know what goes perfectly with a lovely turkey? That’s right. Gravy.
And it is so simple! I make my homemade gravy on Thanksgiving morning and stick it in a slow cooker until dinner. Easy peasy.
I found this gravy recipe on Food Network. It depends on how many people you are cooking for, but in my experience their yield will feed 2-3 people. When I was cooking for 8, I made four times the recipe and had enough for leftovers too. For 8 people, I wouldn’t do less than 3x the original recipe.
Melt your butter and add 1 onion per 1/4 cup butter. Cook it until the onions are golden brown. It will take a long time, but it is so worth it. Almost all of the flavour for your gravy will come from this step, and it is glorious gravy when it comes together.
Once the onions are golden brown, I strain them out of the gravy. I don’t want chunks, and I would be concerned about too much onion flavour if I blended them in.
Add the flour and mix, then add your chicken stock. Because I make this ahead of time, I only put chicken stock in, and then add the turkey drippings once the turkey is done. It mixes in just fine later. Add a bit of salt and pepper as needed.
Once your gravy has thickened with the chicken stock, add any of the extras. Because I don’t have it, I never add the brandy or white wine, and instead of cream I use normal milk.