November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Part 1: Turkey Brine Success!

Look at that Turkey.  Thanksgiving dinner was a success!  With only five people this year for Thanksgiving, we made sure to portion control what we cooked to avoid a week's worth of leftovers. This year's Thanksgiving was spent in Dallas with my sister, brother in law and my new niece so cooking in a different kitchen in an apartment also played a factor.  No brand new recipes (except the turkey brine) and enhanced current recipes. 

Thanksgiving 2010 Dinner consisted of:
-Brined turkey
-Green beans
-Brussel sprouts
-Mashed potatoes
-Apple crisp

I'll post those recipes in the coming week but first, the most important Thanksgiving defining dish: the TURKEY.

I've never brined a turkey but have heard several friends highlight their success with it.  Our maple glazed bacon turkey was a success two years ago, but I do have to admit, the white meat is always a little dry.  I received a note from a colleague for a brining recipe found on her aunt's food blog here.  I followed most of the brine recipe (few changes) but did not follow the cooking directions - I went back to the maple and bacon recipe we used in the past, which was from my friend, Linds.  You may remember her from guest blog post of delicious chocolate chip cookies.  

The result?  Ooo-eee.  The meat was deliciously tender and moist.  I don't normally like white meat but I didn't mind eating that this year because it tasted so good.  I think brining will be a must at every Thanksgiving moving forward.  Please share your brining recipes if you have done it before.

Brined Turkey Cooked with Bacon and Maple

For the brine (which you must do two days before Thanksgiving: 1 day to brine and 1 day to rest):
Recipe adapted from Carol Blonder

12-14 lb fresh turkey
8 thick slices of fresh ginger
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp allspice
6 whole cloves
3 cups apple cider
3 cups water
2/3 cup salt
2/3 brown sugar
1 orange, washed and quarter (keep the skin)

For the turkey:
Recipe adapted from my friend, Linds

8-10 slices bacon (whatever flavor you want)
2 bunches of fresh sage
3/4 stick of butter (soften to room temp)
Zest of one orange
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup white wine
1 head of garlic (sliced in half)

Brining Process (two days before Thanksgiving):
1. Put the cider, water, salt, ginger, bay leaves, spices, clove into a pot and bring to a boil.  Take off stove and let it sit until it comes to room temperature. 
2. Wash and pat dry your turkey.  Remove the gibblets and such.  Trim off any excess fat. Put it in a large zip lock bag (or a large stock pot to fit the turkey and have liquid enough to cover).  Take the orange quarters and put into the cavity.  
3. Pour the cool/room temp. brine into the bag and let the turkey sit in the fridge for 24 hours.  I flipped the bag halfway through this to ensure the brine is absorbed on each side.
4. After 24 hours, discard the brine, wash and pat dry the turkey. I covered the turkey with wrap and put it back into the fridge for another 12-24 hours. 

Turkey Day (Sorry for the lack of pictures on this part but my hands were too greasy to stop and take pictures at every stop):
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

2. Take turkey out about 1 hour prior to cooking.  Place turkey into a roasting rack - if you don't have one (like me), I used an turkey aluminum pan and used slices of potatoes and oranges underneath the turkey so it was slightly raised from the bottom of the pan since you'll be pour liquid into the bottom (pic below). Tuck the wings underneath so they do not burn.  Cut the entire head of garlic in half horizontally (don't worry about the skin) and put inside the cavity with the orange quarters you already had from the brine.
3. In a bowl, mix up the soften/room temperature butter, chopped/minced sage, orange zest, S&P.  With your fingers, gently separate the skin from the turkey around the breast area.  Taking a big spoonful of the mixed butter, put under the skin and then using your fingers (on the outside) "massage" the butter so it spreads.  Put butter into every nick and cranny you can. 

4.  Wrap the top of the chicken and legs with the bacon.  Lightly pepper.  Pour the chicken broth and the white wine into the bottom of the pan.
5. Bake in the oven at 475 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then turn down the heat to 350 degrees.  Take the chicken out real quick and baste with the maple syrup (i only baste the bacon).  Put back in oven with a sheet of aluminum foil loosely on top (so the bacon doesn't burn to a crisp) and cook for approximately 3.5 hours (for a 14 lb turkey).  Take out throughout to baste with the maple syrup - I did this three times.

6. Once done, take out the turkey and leave the aluminum foil on top to slightly cover.  Let this sit for about 15 minutes so the juices are encased within the meat.  Cut too early and the juices will flow out.  I know the turkey will look at you and egg you on to cut it and sneak a small piece but you. must. resist.  It will be worth it.

7. Slice, serve, making sure to get pieces of the bacon.  Make sure to spoon some of the juices out to make gravy! 


  1. 1) Where do you get a ziploc bag big enough for a turkey?
    2) When you say apple cider? Is that like apple juice or apple cider vinegar?
    3) Do you have a gravy recipe?

    I'm going to try this for Christmas. It has bacon. SOUNDS DELICIOUS!!!

  2. Great, it's really good!

    Bags: Mine were Hefty Onezip Jumbo 2.5 gallon bags (fit a 14 lb turkey perfectly). I know they make special turkey bags as well.

    Yeps, apple cider. Similar to apple juice but it's cider. You can buy a gallon for about five dollars at the store.

    Gravy: Yes! I took spoonfuls of the drippings and heat it with leftover bacon or onions. S&P and then 2 tsp of flour. Add in water, chicken stock or white wine. Whisk together until it comes out smooth. If you want an added kick, you can add some congnac :)