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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey (w/ Citrus Herb Brine)

Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey
Fourteen years ago, I was in charge of the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time. I was 25 and finally ready to join the ranks of my grandmas, mom, and aunts; I was finally going to be hosting the meal that I look forward to for an entire year. I'd been training for that day my whole life by helping choose how we were going to flavor the bird when my mom researching the pros and cons of reading up on wild vs frozen. I was a master baster. Go ahead, snicker. I was ready.

So, I set about my normal routine of figuring out how I could make the best turkey my family had ever eaten. Visions of breast meat so juicy that it garnered involuntary whimpers from the hungry mouths of my guests. Skin so burnished and crispy that I'd have to fend off sneaky fingers with the tines of my carving fork. Turkey that elicited a satisfied smile when looked back on throughout the year.

You know, a turkey that was no less than amazing—an A++++++++.....

And guess what? I basically accomplished what I set out to do. For real. That year, Cook's Illustrated just so happened to have a recipe for a crisp-skinned turkey with incredibly juicy meat in their December issue. To this day, I still use the method I used that first year for cooking my turkey. Sure, I switch things up from time to time, because you never know when and where a new favorite could emerge—but when I need something tried and true, I always remember my first.

I do switch up the brines and flavoring, the one I've shared today is not the one I used that day. It's really all about the method of prep and roasting in this recipe. I should also mention that the giblet gravy I made that year came from the same magazine, and it's still my family's favorite to this day. I'll share that one another day.

what you'll need for this recipe (beyond the food):
You'll also need to start this recipe 48 hours before you want to start roasting. It seems like a long time, but it's basically unattended brining and pellicle-forming time. If you like tender meat and crispy skin (and who doesn't), it's totally worth it.
Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey

Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine
Tender juicy meat and burnished crispy skin come together in one perfect roasted Thanksgiving turkey.
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Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey (w/ Citrus Herb Brine)
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 48 hours (mostly unattended)
Cook Time: 2 hours
Keywords: roast entree nut-free soy-free citrus herbs turkey Thanksgiving American fall

Ingredients (serves 10-12)
  • 1 (12-14 pound) turkey, fresh or thawed
for the Herb Brine:
  • 6 quarts water at room temperature
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • few sprigs fresh marjoram
  • few sprigs fresh thyme
  • handful of fresh parsley sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
for the inside of the bird:
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • few sprigs fresh marjoram
  • few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
everything else:
  • 4 ounces (8 tablespoons / 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 small onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • few sprigs of fresh herbs (any you have left will work)
  • 1 cup water + more as needed
Rinse the turkey and make sure to remove the giblets and neck from the cavity.

Combine water with salt and sugar in a large stock pot, food-save bucket, or turkey brining bag and stir until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients for brine. 
(Citrus Herb Brine) Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey
Add the turkey, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours (but no longer).
(Turkey in Citrus Herb Brine) Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold water. Pat it dry both inside and out with paper towels. Set turkey breast side up on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, then refrigerate uncovered for 12-24 hours. This step forms what is known as a pellicle (a protein coating) on the skin—this makes for a nice, crisp skin after roasting.

Place oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 400° F. Line a v-rack (that will fit in your roasting pan) with heavy duty foil. Spray the foil well with cooking spray, then pierce it about 20-30 times with a skewer or knife. Set aside.

Fill the turkey cavity with the onion, carrot, celery, lemon, orange, herbs, and 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter. Tuck the wings behind the back and use kitchen twine to truss the turkey.
(trussed) Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey
Place the remaining vegetables and herbs (everything else) in the bottom of the roasting pan with the water. Set the prepared v-rack into the pan. Brush the turkey breast with some of the melted butter, then set it onto the prepared rack, breast side down. Brush the back side with some of the melted butter. Slide pan into preheated oven and roast for 45 minutes.

Remove roasting pan and brush the back with butter. Use thick wads of paper towels in each hand to rotate the turkey so that one of the leg/wing sides are now facing up. If liquid in pan has evaporated, add 1/2 cup more. Roast for 15 minutes longer.

Remove pan and brush exposed surfaces with butter. Again, use thick wads of paper towels to rotate turkey so that the opposite leg/wing side is facing up. Return to oven and roast for 15 minutes longer.

Remove the pan from the oven, and again brushed the exposed surfaces with butter. Use thick wads of paper towels to rotate the turkey so that it's breast side up. Slide back into oven and roast until the thickest part of the breast registers 165° F and the thickest part of the thigh registers 175° F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes longer.
Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey
Carefully lift the turkey from the rack and set on a carving board (with rim or over a sheet tray to catch juices); allow to rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

If you're making a pan gravy, strain the solids out of the liquid left at the bottom of the pan, so that you can add the juices to it!

-inspired by and adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, December 2000
Roast Crispy-Skin Turkey w/ Citrus Herb Brine #Thanksgiving #turkey
If you're looking for a few good sides to go along with this turkey, try this Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Cloves, this Bacon Cornbread Stuffing, and these Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Bananas with Pecan Streusel. Sounds like Thanksgiving dinner to me!