Sage Brined Roasted Turkey
SERVES 10 TO 12 WITH LEFTOVERS
Turkey can make or break Thanksgiving. Over the years, I’ve played around with the best way to get a beautifully browned, juicy turkey and discovered that brining and proper roasting and basting techniques are the answer. The little bit of extra effort involved in brining results in a succulent, juicy turkey. Start brining the turkey the day before. If you can’t fit the turkey in the refrigerator while it’s brining, use a large cooler. My family enjoys stuffing cooked inside the bird but if you prefer to roast your turkey unstuffed, less roasting time is required.
12 cups water, divided
1 cup kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 bunch fresh sage leaves
4 cups ice
1 (16–20 pound) fresh turkey, neck and giblets removed
1¼ cups unsalted butter or dairy-free butter alternative, divided
2 cups Chardonnay wine
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
-Cornbread Sausage Stuffing
1. The day before roasting the turkey, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and sugar and stir to dissolve. Add apple cider vinegar, dried sage, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns and fresh sage and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 5-gallon pot or bucket. Add the remaining 8 cups water and ice and let cool completely. Rinse the turkey and place breast side down in the brine. Place in the refrigerator or a cooler (with ice in the cooler) and brine the turkey for 12 to 18 hours. If brine doesn’t completely cover the bird, turn the turkey every few hours.
2. The morning on the day you plan to serve the turkey, remove it from the brine. Rinse it well with cold water (make sure to rinse inside the turkey, as well) and pat dry with paper towels (inside and out). Let the turkey sit for 30 minutes.
3. Melt 1 cup butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the wine, stirring to combine. Set aside.
4. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack on the bottom.
5. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon pepper in the neck and large cavity of the turkey. Stuff both cavities lightly with as much stuffing as they hold but do not over pack. Rub the turkey with ¼ cup softened butter and sprinkle with remaining 1½ teaspoons pepper and poultry seasoning. Place the turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up. Fold the wings under the bird, fold the neck flap under and secure with a toothpick and tie the legs together with a piece of kitchen string.
6. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters and soak in the wine and butter mixture. Gently squeeze out most of the liquid and place cheesecloth over the breast and half way down the side of the turkey. Spoon more butter-wine mixture onto the cheesecloth.
7. Place turkey in preheated oven, legs first, and cook for 30 minutes. Baste the turkey with more butter-wine mixture. Then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake another 2½ hours, basting the turkey every 30 minutes with the butter-wine mixture. If too much liquid fills the roasting pan, remove it with a turkey baster and add it back to the butter-wine mixture.
8. Remove and discard the cheesecloth. Place the turkey back into the oven, breast side in. Baste again. Continue to roast for another 1 to 1½ hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F, basting every 30 minutes. If the breast starts to get too brown, loosely place a piece of foil over it.
9. When the turkey is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and place it on a serving platter, covered loosely with foil. Let it rest 30 minutes before carving. Remove the toothpick and string. Scoop the stuffing out of both cavities and place it in a serving dish.