Sunday, November 22, 2009

Turkey and Brine

For several years, I have been getting queries about brining turkey before roasting. Theoretically, it seasons the bird and keeps it moist. All rather amusing if you consider the amount of gourmet print that has been expended excoriating market-sold turkeys that have brine injected into them.

Moreover, as a Jew, if not an observant one, It seems to me ironic for people to go to all that work when they can buy a turkey that has already been brined to kosher it. It's even odder, when you realize that the koshering is done to remove any blood. Now, as a cook, I point out that the blood gives the meat flavor and moistness. The fat under the skin--except in the case of wild turkey-- bastes the bird as it melts due to my method of high-heat roasting. Basting adds only fat and ups the risk of burns on the human arms.

Still contrary, I say nay to stuffing in the bird. The bones are so thick that there is a minimal transfer of flavor. It is also a good way to breed salmonella. Each year, I make turkey stock with the innards, wing tips and carcass. I use that to flavor the "stuffing." If seems obligatory to put something inside the bird, use your choice of onion, apple, orange, garlic, fresh sage and celery leaves.

Even less traditional, I do not truss the bird. It seems perfectly ridiculous to push the darkest and heaviest pieces of meat together insuring uneven cooking and dried out white meat.

What is left? Simpliciity. Let the bird come to room temperature. Heat the oven to 500 F.
Put the bird in a roasting pan--not a foil one that can cause spilling and is not reusable. Also do not use that famioly favorite the blue and white spotted pan. The enamel chips easily and creates a fine breeding place for salmonella.

Just put the rack in the middle of the oven. Put the turkey on it--legs to the rear. Squiggle it around after fifteen minutes so it doesn't stick. Follow the timings in my book Roasting, A Simple Art. The bird will be perfect.


Paul Levy said...

Penny always brines our turkey, and then cooks it using your method. We find that it keeps the white meat brilliantly succulent and moist, and it is a way to add flavour, by adding spices, aromatics and herbs to the brine.
Of course, there is a difference. We in Britland don't have our turkey until Christmas. Brits, like the French, pretty much eat turkey only at Christmas. It is nearly impossible to buy a kosher turney at anytime of year. Naturally enough (you might think), it is even more difficult to find a kosher turkey at Christmas. Indeed, I wonder whether there is such a thing as a fresh kosher turkey here? I imagine most kosher turkeys sold here (that is, if they exist at all) are frozen and imported.
But we have enjoyed a renaissance of old-fashioned breeds of turkey here, and they taste better every year. And brining is such an easy process. Maybe this year I'll persuade Penny to use the spent brine from the kosher pickles for the turkey. Wouldn't that be amazing?

Barbara said...

My dear Paul and Penny always add to the best of the conversation. I didn't thin kosher would be such a problem in E,ngland.

In fact, I do not brine in any case and the breast rivals Mae West--white. One can, of course, flavor the brine; but I find that the delicate flavor of turkey gets overwhelmed. Make a good gravy.

We have old-fashioned breeds marching gaily along here too--we invented them--I'm having two of them for our Thanksgiving.
Love to all