Honey brown, crisp skin with meat that's tender and juicy.
That's a cook's goal for the holiday bird.
At Thanksgiving, a myriad of turkey techniques and methods are suggested.
There's the roasted turkey. Grilled or fried turkey. Turkey in a bag.
Turkey with the back cut out and flattened it cooks in half the time.
But in our test kitchen, we are set in our ways. Our recommended method is brining (wet or dry) and roasting or grilling. Brining gets the juices flowing, and we know it works.
We also like grilling (on a kettle-style grill) because it frees up much-needed oven space.
Brining recipes increasingly use different liquids and seasonings other than the basic salt water solution or plain salt. Wet brines can include fruit juices, ciders, beer and wine and can be seasoned with sugars (white or brown), aromatics, herbs and spices. Dry brines can include other seasonings and herbs along with the salt.
ORANGE JUICE BRINED TURKEY
Serves: 10 to 12; preparation time: 30 minutes (plus overnight brining); total time: 3 hours
4 cups orange juice
3 quarts water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
Herb sprigs (rosemary, thyme, parsley), optional
1 fresh or frozen turkey (12 to 15 pounds), thawed
4 to 6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
To brine the turkey, start with a large, clean bucket. Make room for the bucket in your refrigerator - adjusting shelves if necessary.
Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey, and reserve them for another use.
In the large bucket, stir together the orange juice, water, salt and sugar. Continue stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add herb sprigs, if using. Place the turkey in the brine, breast side down. Add more water if the turkey isn't completely submerged in the liquid. Place the bucket in the refrigerator for at least 10 to 12 hours or overnight.
Two hours before you plan to roast it, remove the turkey from brine and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey well, inside and out, under cold water for several minutes. Place the turkey on a tray and pat it dry well with paper towels. Let it sit out for 1 hour so the skin dries further, which helps crisp the skin.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a V-rack in a roasting pan.
Add about 2 cups of the chicken broth. Place the turkey breast side up on the rack. Brush the turkey with the vegetable oil or rub with softened butter. Season the turkey with salt and pepper or a favorite seasoning.
Place it in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Baste the turkey with the pan juices, and add more chicken broth to the pan if needed. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting another 2 to 2 1/2 hours, basting with the pan juices every 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
If the breast seems to be browning too quickly, cover it with foil.
Remove the turkey from the oven and transfer it to a platter. Cover it with foil and let it rest at least 15 to 30 minutes before carving.
BASIC PAN GRAVY
Makes: About 6 cups, about 1/3 cup per serving; preparation time: 30 minutes; total time: 30 minutes
Pan drippings from the turkey
4 to 6 cups turkey stock or broth or chicken broth, heated
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Madeira or dry sherry, or 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
Pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a heatproof glass bowl or fat separator.
Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then skim off and reserve the fat that rises to the top - you should have about 3/4 cup fat. If not, add melted butter to equal 3/4 cup.
Add enough heated turkey stock to the skimmed pan drippings to make 6 cups total. Place the roasting pan over low heat on two burners of the stove and add the skimmed fat.
Whisk in the flour, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the pan drippings mixture and Madeira or dry sherry, or balsamic vinegar.
Cook, whisking often, until the gravy has thickened and is lump-free, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a gravy boat and serve.
Variation: For a wild mushroom gravy, soak 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup hot water until rehydrated. Strain, reserving the liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.
Saute 8 ounces cremini mushrooms in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter until soft. Add the porcini and saute 5 minutes more. Add the mushrooms to the gravy and add some of the mushroom soaking liquid in place of the turkey stock.
102 calories (80 percent from fat), 9 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 120 mg sodium, 10 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.