Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thanksgiving in January

Ahh... so here we are halfway through January and I'm finally going to write my turkey post. That's totally normal right? Well I had already mentioned I was going to follow PW's Turkey Brining and Turkey Roasting recipes. I had found a decent FRESH (this was really stressed by PW) 13 lb turkey during our Thanksgiving food shopping trip which incidently didn't cost me a dime thanks to my job and some coupons.

So on Thanksgiving Day (since we were actually having our Thanksgiving dinner on the day after Thanksgiving) I started on the turkey brine. It took about an hour to mix up and it ended up looking just like hers so we were off to a good start.

Then her next step was to cool the brine. Just like that. So simple, right? Nope. It took FOUR HOURS for the brine to get down to room temperature. First I stuck it in the freezer and all the steam promptly began to melt everything that was in there. Clearly we don't have an industrial grade freezer but apparently Ree does. So I decided to put it outside on the porch since it was a chilly 42 degrees outside. I kept the lid on so nothing would get in like a bug or a leaf. Those were not in the recipe. Well leaves were but probably not the kind that might fall in there. After TWO HOURS of sitting outside, the pot was still hot to the touch. So I transferred it to a different pot and 2 hours later, the brine was finally cool enough.

At this point, I was beginning to have my reservations about Ree.

Luckily, I had started everything a bit early so there was still plenty of time for the turkey to brine for 16 hours. I didn't use a brining bag because we had regular roasting bags leftover from last year and guess what? It's the exact same thing. It's like buying a Ziploc sandwich baggy versus buying the cheaper ones that just fold over on the top.

So the turkey was in the fridge and the brine was working it's magic.

Friday morning rolled around and I began the roasting process. The thing that worried me was that Ree didn't have a total time on there of how long it would take. She just said "baste every 30 minutes until it reaches this temperature". I'm paraphrasing there. I guesstimated that it would take 4 hours for the 13 lb turkey and it ended up taking almost 5. Once again, helpful time limits would've been good but I suppose I can't slight Ree for forgetting that little detail...

Freshly stuffed and ready for the oven
I was nervous about removing the foil and letting the turkey just roast all bare and naked in the oven because I've heard that can really dry out the top layer of meat, but I trusted PW and her brine and her instructions so I did as the recipe said and removed the foil.

Oh, I also stuffed the turkey and I think that's why the time was so funky also but to me stuffing HAS to go in the turkey and soak up all the good juices and it's just so yummy that way. In fact, now I want some. How much longer until Thanksgiving?

About halfway through the cooking time
Basting the turkey with butter. LOTS of butter.
Well, I won't bore you with what I did in those 5 hours but it did include my infamous cheesy mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry and biscuits, all the while pulling the huge turkey out of the oven and basting it with melted butter every 30 minutes.

Side note: I bought 2 boxes of butter and ran out after I had finished all my Turkey Day cooking. Ree must buy it by the bucket loads if she cooks like that all the time.

I had already made my {also} infamous Cherry Oreo Cheesecake the day before and I was so very glad that dessert was one less thing to cook. Plus cheesecake is ALWAYS better if you let it refrigerate overnight.

She says to roast the turkey until the internal temperature reads 170 degrees. We actually pulled it out after 5 hours when it still read 155 and I think that was perfect. It was thoroughly cooked with no pink spots and the breast of the turkey would've gotten too dry, in my opinion, if we had let it get to 170.

When the turkey finally did come out of the oven, it was lovely. It was in fact very juicy and I could definitely taste the difference between a plain turkey and a brined one. It was a hit with everyone and we all lived happily ever after.

Side note: I also did tackle the gravy but I did not follow her recipe because at this point I was hungry and ready to eat food and didn't want to spend 45 minutes following her steps. I just started with the juices in the bottom of the pan and added flour and the leftover water from boiling the insides of the turkey alternately until it was a good thickish watery gravy and that turned out to be a hit too! With avid gravy lovers, I might add.

Well there you have it. I will probably brine again next year and I might even do PW's recipe again but I'll probably prepare the brine much earlier so it has time to cool and I'll probably start the turkey earlier knowing now that it takes a long time to cook. But all in all it was a success and this time, Ree did not let me down.

Next, Christmas post! I must warn you that this does not have a happy ending. Or pictures. Oops. Also, I warn you that I use the word "next" very loosely here. I mean it took 3 months to get a Thanksgiving post up... Let's not have exceedingly high expectations, mm'kay?