Sunday, November 25, 2012

Heritage Roast Turkey

Sorry but no photos on this one. I'm recuperating and on crutches from a hockey leg injury the next few weeks so it was enough to get this done, and even that due only to an amazing amount of help from my wife. However since this turkey turned out so damned good, and was an amalgamation of ingredients and steps from various sources with my own spin added, I figured I'd better get it logged. I have to give credit to Martha Stewart for a fair amount of the steps but I deviated in several places from her recipes.

We'd been roasting organic turkeys the past few years but I thought it'd be interesting to try the heritage brand I'd seen at El Cerrito Natural Grocery this year. I asked for the smallest one but they gave us a 14-pounder. We brined it overnight from Tuesday-Wednesday, then chilled it in the frig overnight Wednesday-Thursday, then roasted it for just under 3 hours.

The turkey turned out to be a bit gamier but in a good way. There is not nearly as much breast meat but it was extremely moist and had, for lack of a better description, more of a turkey flavor. If you haven't tried a heritage turkey and are willing to risk the somewhat higher cost of one, I highly recommend it.

Ingredients and Directions:
14 pound heritage turkey

Brine and Chilling:
2 1/2 gallons water
1 1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup refined white sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
4 whole allspice
5 juniper berries
handful of fresh thyme branches

Two days prior to the roasting (Tuesday), fill a large stockpot with the water. Add the salt and sugar and stir thoroughly to dissolve completely. Add the garlic, thyme, allspice, and juniper berries to the water.
Take the turkey from its bag/box, clean it, then pat dry with paper towels.

Put the turkey in a large brining bag, then, with the bag in a sink, add the brine water to cover the turkey. Carefully close the bag trying to get as much air out before sealing. Put into a plastic tub then into the frig overnight.

The next day (Wednesday), take the bag with the turkey out of the frig and, in a sink, take the turkey out of the bag. Wash the turkey thoroughly patting it dry with paper towels. Put the turkey into a pan large enough to hold it and then put the pan into the frig without any covering. Allow it to sit again overnight.

Roasting Prep:
kosher salt
whole black peppercorns (enough of each to coat the bird)
3 lemons, pierced several times with a fork
1 apple, cut into quarters
handful of thyme branches
handful of fresh oregano branches

The next day (Thursday) take the turkey out of the frig and allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. 
Pound the salt and peppercorns in a mortar to a coarse mix. Rub the salt-pepper mix inside the turkey cavity and all over the outside. Bend the ends of the wings under the body of the turkey. Stuff the cavity with the fruits and herbs. Sew the cavity shut with a large needle and butcher twine, then with another length of twine, tie the knobs at the ends of the legs together. Place the turkey breast-side up on a rack in a large roasting pan adding 1 quart of water into the bottom of the pan.

Roasting and Basting:
1 large piece of cheesecloth to completely cover the top of the turkey
3/4 bottle white wine
2 sticks of unsalted butter cut into 1-inch cubes

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat then allow to cool a few minutes. Add the melted butter into a large bowl with the wine and mix. Soak the cheesecloth thoroughly in the butter/wine mix for a few minutes.
Drape the soaked cheesecloth evenly over the turkey covering the entire breast and as much of the legs and wings as you can. Put the turkey in the oven and cook at 450F for 30 minutes.
At the end of the first 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 375F and baste the turkey with the drippings in the pan (continue to baste after every 30 minutes until the turkey is done). After 2 hours remove the cheesecloth from the turkey and allow to cook the remainder of the time uncovered. The turkey is done once the internal temperature reaches 145-150F.
For this 14-pounder the total time was about 3 hours. I took the temperature with an instant-read thermometer at a few various places in the bird to get a good idea of the general internal temperature. My rule is that I once I confirm that no section is below the final temperature I'm looking for, the cooking is complete.

When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven. Turn the oven temperature down to as low as it can go. Move the turkey into another pan, tent with foil, then put back in the oven to keep warm while it rests and you make the gravy. Move the pan in which you roasted the turkey onto a couple of adjacent burners on the stove.

turkey drippings
1 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used a Madiera)
2 cups chicken/beef/vegetable stock, simmering in a saucepan
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
fresh-cracked black pepper

Pour the drippings from the pan into a fat separator and allow to sit and cool for about 15 minutes so that the fat can separate.
Meanwhile heat the roasting pan over medium-high heat. Once the drippings are starting to sizzle add the wine and loosen the remaining dried and browned meat juices with a wooden spatula. Separately, add 1 cup of the warm stock into a mason jar with the flour and shake thoroughly to make a slurry, making sure the flour is completely incorporated into the stock. When the wine in the pan is simmering add the slurry to cook and stir for a few minutes to incorporate it so that is no lumps of flour remain.
Add the rosemary, salt, and pepper, the remaining stock, then the drippings from the fat separator making sure to stop once you've added all of the de-fatted liquid. Stir to cook and combine while the mix reduces a bit. Strain the contents into a saucepan, place the saucepan over a medium-high heat then reduce further to the final consistency you like.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and serve with the turkey.

There are several places here where you can of course substitute ingredients and/or steps on your own - this is a description of how I did it. People argue about brining vs. not brining but it's always turned out meats much moister for me when I've done it. The addition of water to the pan in which the turkey roasted was important as the heritage bird doesn't seem to drip as much as the conventional ones I've roasted. You could use stock too but water worked fine for me and the drippings were very tasty at the end. Taking off the cheesecloth 2/3 way through the cooking time yielded just the right amount of crispness to the skin visually, texturally, and in taste. Tucking the wings under the body of the turkey and sewing the cavity shut prevented any charring of the ends. Stuffing the fruit and herbs in the cavity added to the ultimate flavor significantly without the added concern of a bread stuffing being cooked enough or, alternately, the overcooking of an unstuffed bird. Critical to allow the bird to rest tented at least 30 minutes before carving. If you don't have a fat separator, get one. Otherwise you'll have to take the time to carefully skim the fat from the drippings which is key to a tasty and clean gravy.

Like I mentioned, it turned out so well, I wanted to have it written down in order to work from again and hopefully share the love with others.

Let me know if you try this and how/if it works out for you. Happy Holidays!

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