This turkey technique will knock your socks off. It's called dry brining and will make your bird incredibly juicy and tender with only about 2 1/2 hours cooking time!
Our bird and, um, some slight problems with carving space...
Can it really be true?, you ask. Yes, it can. And if trust is not your forte, well, you might just have to make this turkey this week or for Christmas this year and see for yourself! Or even sometime in between. After all, turkey really is the bird that keeps on giving - turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey quesadillas, turkey pot pie... turkey is a very effective way to feed a small army without a ton of extra work - at least with this recipe... I discovered it in an issue of fine cooking magazine that I bought at the airport to keep me entertained on one of my 11 hour flights from LA to Munich. Truly incredible (the recipe, not the flight, although it wasn't bad either, as far as overseas flights go). Give it a shot and let me know how it turns out.
One word of caution however - this is a DO-AHEAD recipe! The turkey needs to soak up the dry brine for at least 24 hours, if you have 3 or 4 days, even better!
Dry brined roasted turkey with fresh herbs
(adapted somewhat from the Oct/Nov 2010 issue of fine cooking magazine)
DO NOT BE DAUNTED by the lengthy descriptions here. They are purely for the sake of explanation. The actual doing it part goes really fast.
This recipe is for a 16-lb. turkey. Our turkey weighed in at almost 18 lbs., which was fine because you can adjust the salt brine by using 1/8 oz. of salt per pound. Also, you can increase the amount of herbs you use, just be careful not to overdo it too much. If you decide to up the amount of herbs, add a little more olive oil to keep the mixture spreadable.
Serves 8 - 10 with PLENTY of leftovers
2 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbs. fresh sage, chopped
2 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 16-lb. turkey, as fresh as you can get it
2 oz. sea salt or kosher salt
(The recipe calls for kosher salt and if you have it, use it. I couldn't get my hands on any so I used sea salt instead, but I read that kosher salt is the perfect kind of salt to use in this kind of preparation, so if you can get it, it's worth the effort! If you do use kosher salt and do not have a scale, use 1/2 cups if using Diamond Crystal and 1/4 cups if using Morton)
STEP 1: The herbs
Rinse out your turkey and pat it dry. Mix the herbs and oil in a small bowl. Carefully slide your hand underneath the turkey's skin (between the meat and skin) and loosen it from the breast, thighs and drumsticks. Rub the herb mixture on the meat underneath the skin Make sure you get it in there! When you are done, pat the skin back into place. It will look lumpy and green is spots, but that is ok.
STEP 2: Dry brine the turkey
Rub the salt inside the cavity and on the skin. Make sure you use up ALL of the salt, even if it seems like a lot. Don't worry, your turkey will not be salty! Put the turkey in a large food-safe plastic bag (like a roasting bag) and then double-bag it. Refrigerate the turkey for 3 days, turning it over every day. If you don't have that much time you can shorten this last part, but try to leave your bird in the brine for at least 24 hours, turning it once after the first 12 hours.
STEP 3: Let the bird rest
On the evening of the 3rd day (sounds biblical, doesn't it?), remove the turkey from the bag and pat dry. If you are planning to stuff the bird, you might want to give the cavity a quick rinse at this point and then pat it dry as well. Put the turkey in your roasting pan and plop the whole thing back into the refrigerator, unwrapped, so that the turkey can air dry overnight.
STEP 4: Roast the turkey
Take the turkey out about 1 hour before you want to start roasting it so it can get rid of the chill. You can stuff it at this point, too, if you are planning to cook the stuffing in the bird. Heat the oven to 425° F. Place the turkey in the roasting pan on a rack in the bottom third of the oven. No need to cover with tinfoil. Roast at this temperature for 30 minutes and then reduce the heat to 325° F. Roast for about another 2 hours until an instant-read thermometer reads 170° F at the thickest part of a thigh. Baste the turkey with its juices or a little bit of melted butter for the last 30 minutes to get it nice and golden.
STEP 5: Let the bird rest, the sequel
Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes to let the juices settle (covering it in foil at this point helps keep it warm). Remove the stuffing, if using, and carve away!