I did a trial run of our Thanksgiving turkey this past weekend. Not that I'm actually hosting Thanksgiving, but ya know, in case of an emergency, I can make a turkey. Are you all in awe? I've actually made a full turkey one other time, about 3 years ago. There are times when I get overly ambitious and this was definitely one of those times. I decided that I wanted to host Thanksgiving for our small group. While others contributed side dishes, I still managed to squeeze 13 adults and some 5 odd children into our kitchen/living room. It was a little manic. Lots of fun, but more than what I could handle on my own now.
And the turkey I made was much more intense than the one I did this past weekend.
Here's instructions on the intense version, complete with brining, compound butter and aromatic vegetables and herbs.
2 c brown sugar
2 c kosher salt
Handful of whole allspice
Add enough water to dissolve the brown sugar and salt. Place turkey in a large container (I have a stock pot that will hold a turkey) with enough room to cover the entire turkey with water. Throw in the allspice and squeeze juice the lemons and add rinds. Cover turkey with water and place in the fridge. The turkey should be rinsed and thawed before this process begins. Don't forget to remove the bag of gizzards and misc turkey pieces from inside the body cavity. You can brine your turkey up to 24 hours ahead of time.
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of each, rosemary and thyme
Soften butter to room temperature and mix in rosemary and thyme. Using a small spatula, shove the butter into random places between the skin and meat. This is somewhat gross. This is done after you've brined your turkey for the allotted amount of time.
Roughly chop 1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots, and 4 cloves of garlic.
Stuff all of these into the empty cavity of the turkey. You won't eat these later, they are just used for flavoring the turkey. Salt and pepper the turkey and then start the baking process.
That's the labor intensive version. This past weekend, the shortened version. My brine was composed of 2 c kosher salt, 2 c dark brown sugar, water and some lemon juice out of the bottle. The turkey sat in the brine for about 5 hours. No compound butter, no aromatics. Just brine and some S&P. Easy stuff and the turkey was fantastic. It wasn't super dry like some turkeys can be and it had a nice flavor.
Now I always use a turkey bag, I think that it really shortens the cooking time and it doesn't really hinder the flavor at all. With the turkey I made this past weekend, the actual cooking time was right at 3 hours for a 12 lb turkey. I'm mythbusting the concept that turkeys take the entire day to prepare.
Let's get it through everyone's heads right now - turkeys are friends, not foes! Everyone can make a delicious Thanksgiving turkey without spending all day in the kitchen. Don't be afraid, I believe in you!