As some of you who have read my blog more than once, I have a more than passing love affair with food, restaurants, food preperation and service. I worked in restaurants most of my life before falling into the car business, but I have always loved cooking, entertaining and the experience of new food and classic comfort food favorites. So with that in mind, I’m going to start doing what I threatened to do ages ago: going to include some of my recipes on here and hopefully share some of my misguided foodee madness.
Food for me has always been a form of therapy. I cook when I’m depressed, I take myself out to dinner when I’m feeling lonely, etc. I’m always looking for new recipes, new foods and new experiences to challenge my tastebuds and the way I think about food. By savoring these foodee experiences, it allows me to get a little positive, albeit calorie filled, perspective on my little life.
From time to time, I plan on posting recipes, food ideas and restaurant reviews. I have to warn you now though: my recipes are very imprecise and come from years of cooking experience. So don’t expect exact measurements of any kind. I will try to come close though. For food and entertaining ideas, I’m actually open to suggestions or contributions if anyone wishes to lend me a hand in that regard. And finally, my restaurant reviews tend to lean towards the judgemental side. Having run restaurants my whole life, I can tell when I walk in if it’s a good night or if everything in the kitchen is going to hell.
Starting off this idea, I have my recipe for brining a turkey.
The reason for brining a turkey is to is to add moisture to the meat via a basic chemical reaction using essentially salt, water and some form of sweetener. This process creates a bird that is tender, succulent and flavorful even if you accidentally overcook it which happens a lot at this time of year. Too many times in my life have I had to fake a smile when being served up a piece of dried out cardboard with turkey flavoring. Now there are plenty of other ways to add moisture to a bird, everything from flavor injectors to coating the whole bird down with a vat of butter. With brining, however, you garuntee a succulent flavorful bird with less fat and will even survive the freezing process for Leftovers Shepherds Pies. More on those next time…
In a large pot combine the following-
4 cups brown sugar
4 cups white sugar
2 cups of kosher salt
2 gallons of spring water
That’s your basic brine right there. You can stop here, or do what I do and add a little flavoring:
2 large chopped onions
4 cloves crushed garlic
handful whole cloves
handful of peppercorns
3 large diced lemons
Bring this whole mixture to a boil and then taste. Too salty? add some sweetener. Too sweet? add some salt. Too thick? add some more water. It’s all up to you.
One other thing you will definitely need to brine a turkey is a food grade plastic bucket. You can get these at any restaurant supply store or, if you can’t find one, a very large deep cooler with an airtight lid will do just as well. You will also need several large bags of ice.
Allow mixture to cool then pour into the bucket. Then take your thawed and washed turkey and submerge it in the brine. Now the turkey will want to float, but not to worry, one bag of ice will be more than enough to hold the turkey in place. Clamp the lid down so that have an airtight seal and set in a cool place. If you have room in the fridge, great. If not, I always set mine out on the porch out of the sunlight. Let it sit for 36 to 48 hours. Occassionally check the ice inside, once it’s melted, remove the bag, place a fresh bag to weigh the meat down again and seal.
After 48 hours, remove the turkey from the brine, wash and get ready for some deliciousness!
Since the bird has absorbed so much moisture and flavor from the brine, there really is no need for stuffing of any kind, but, just to give it a little extra zing, I stuff the body with chopped apples, onions and fresh sage, oregano and rosemary. Place whole bird in a roasting pan with a cup of water in the base, tent with tinfoil and roast slow and low. I usually put my bird in the night before at 250 degrees and check it in the morning. This slow and low method allows the least amount of moisture to escape the bird. After 12 hours, the bird should be almost ready, so we un-tent the bird, crank the heat to 400 and let it brown for the remaining 20 minutes or until it reaches desired golden delicious coloring. After browning, remove bird from oven, cover loosely with tinfoil and let it rest for a good 30 minutes. Slice and enjoy!
EDITED 11/17/08 – Please note that this recipe is for completely submerging a 24-26 lb bird. My workplace is notorious for it’s generosity when it comes to a free turkey for Thanksgiving. Obviously if you use this recipe for a much smaller bird you are going to have a lot of left over brine. It can be safely frozen and used later. The brine is wonderful for chicken, pork shoulder, any game meat, etc. Feel free to experiment.