Friday, November 13, 2015

Alsatian-Brined Turkey with Riesling Gravy

Mmm. Bird

Mmm. LOTS of bird.
Story time! 

Back in the fall of 2004, I was straight out of college. My undergraduate fraternity was doing a magazine fund raiser. While I was tempted to point out that what a horrible fundraiser it was (which I assumed was a lesson we all learned back in the sixth grade), I bought a couple magazines to be supportive instead. Because I am a nice guy like or I felt horribly obligated. One of the two.

Having subscribed ever since, Food & Wine has been a huge part of culinary growth and this was in one of the first issues I received. I find the magazine strikes an excellent balance in my opinion. There are interesting and challenging recipes like today's. That said, most of the time I get most or all of the ingredients at the larger chain groceries and I do not need to special kitchen utensils. 

If I had a point (which I am pretty sure I do not), it is this is a damn fine bird. Damn fine.

Honest doc, I will start that low sodium business... after Thanksgiving.

5 quarts plus more cold water
1 1/4  cup Kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup dried chopped onion
2 tablespoons caraway seeds (in two spice bags)
2 tablespoons black peppercorns,lightly crushed
2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed
6 bay leaves
(1) 18-pound turkey (less neck and giblets)
2 1/2 cups (2) bottles Riesling
1 large onion, quartered
1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or if you are motivated make your own turkey stock)

About one week before turkey day, begin thawing the turkey in the fridge (see Butterball's thawing calculator, but keep in mind you need extra thawed days for brining).

About three days before turkey day, in a large pot, bring 4 cups of the water to a boil. Bag the caraway seeds half each in two spice bags (bagging is optional, ie you can just throw them in if you like). Add 1 1/4 cups of kosher salt, the sugar, mustard seeds, dried onion, the bagged caraway seeds, peppercorns, juniper berries and bay leaves. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar completely. Remove the pot from the heat. 

Line a large stockpot or bucket with 2 very large, sturdy plastic bags (make sure they are unscented trash bags). Put the turkey into the bags, neck first. Pour the warm brine over the turkey. Add 1 1/2 cups of the Riesling and 4 quarts of the cold water. Seal the bags; press out as much air as possible. Refrigerate.

On turkey day, preheat the oven to 350°. Drain the turkey, scraping off the spices, then transfer it to a large roasting pan and let it return to room temperature. Discard the brine. 

Add the quartered onion, the garlic and 1 cup of the water to the pan and roast the turkey for 1 1/2 hours. Add water has necessary to keep the base of the pan moist (eventually the fat will do that for you). Roast for about 1 1/2 hours longer, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into an inner thigh registers 165°. Cover the breast loosely with foil during the last hour of roasting to prevent it from browning too quickly. 

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Strain the pan juices into a measuring cup and skim off the fat; reserve 3 tablespoons of the fat. In a bowl, mix the reserved fat with the flour until a paste forms. 

Set the roasting pan over 2 burners and heat until sizzling. Add the remaining 1 cup of Riesling and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Strain the wine into a medium saucepan and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the reserved pan juices and bring to a boil. Whisk in the flour paste and simmer over moderate heat until the gravy thickens slightly and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the turkey and serve with the Riesling gravy on the side.

This is no small amount of effort. That said while it is a lot of work, it is not hard work (well except maybe carving the bird). This does not require any special skills or tools (unless you count roast pans and buckets). Anybody can do this bird. Just take your time and double check things as you go.

No small amount of space either.
Come to think of it, it is not small amount of anything really.

Make sure you have unscented trash bags or you will be a last minute grocery run like me.

I decided Lysol was not the turkey flavor I was going for.

Speaking of effort, do not get lazy on the "scraping off the spice" part. This is a lot of effort, but it is worth the effort to not bite into these spices later.

Beautiful bald birdy.

The gravy is the best part of this meal. Do not skip it (as I have foolishly done). Serve with mashed potatoes (duh, gravy), on the turkey, on sandwiches of left over turkey, snort it, hell bathe in the damn stuff. Just do NOT skip it. It is simply my favorite part of this meal.

Juniper berries are the only ingredient you cannot get at the grocery store (well at least before I moved to the Puritanical hell that is Pennsylvania, where they only sell wine and unionized, government run stores). Amazon has them, as does Penzeys.

This part stinks by the way. As in it actually smells bad. Windows are your friend.

Absolutely to die for. Simply amazing. Skip the boring turkey, do not bother to fry your turkey, and brine that SOB!