As most of you know, Thanksgiving is fast approaching. With thoughts of recipes, shopping lists, and home-baked pies swimming in my head, I can't help but think of Bob. Who is Bob? Bob was very special to me. Bob was my very first Thanksgiving turkey.
I remember it clearly. I was standing over the sink early one Thanksgiving morning and I was looking at Bob with disdain. I pulled him out of the tub of icy cold water and proceeded to reach my hand up inside his posterior to extract his organs (thank goodness they came wrapped neatly in a little plastic bag). This was an experience horrifying enough to make me consider vegetarianism for more than an hour. Oh, believe me, I thought about setting Bob free. I told him to fly South — "just follow the other birds," I said. But Bob just looked at me as if to say "I've been plucked. Do you really expect me to go out in public like this?" And since Bob had suffered enough humiliation for one day, I decided that I owed him at least, one delightful last meal. So I finished cleaning him (a disgusting experience), slapped him into a roasting pan, shoved some stuffing where the sun don't shine, then drizzled on some melted butter with fresh herbs and seasoning. Then off he went, into the oven, only emerging every so often for a quick basting of melted butter and seasoning. Finally, some hours later, Bob was ready to eat.
Poor Bob — rest his soul — he was not one of those fancy corn-fed or free-range turkeys, but he was delicious.
The secret to a great turkey: a salt water brine. Think of it as a sort of cold raw turkey soup. Okay, don't think of it like that — it sounds way too gross. I actually got the idea of using a brine from a local radio host (check out Rob's recipes on robarnieanddawn.com). Maybe you should check out his description of a brine:
A brine is simple a seasoned salt-water bath that the turkey soaks in for 6-12 hours prior to cooking. The brine adds some flavor, but most importantly provides a chemical method to keep the meat tender and juicy while cooking.
Below is his recipe. I followed it pretty well, just added a little poultry seasoning to the mix along with the fresh herbs.
Raw whole turkey
5-gallon bucket (like from Home Depot)
3-pound box of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns
2 gallons chicken broth (water mixed with bouillon cubes is fine
1-gallon ice water
1 whole bunch fresh thyme, torn roughly
1 whole bunch fresh oregano, torn roughly
1 whole bunch fresh sage leaves, torn roughly
1 whole bunch fresh marjoram, torn roughly
1. Clean the raw turkey and remove the neck and giblets.
2. In the bucket, combine the cooled (room temperature) broth with the ice water, salt, pepper and fresh herbs and mix well.
3. Place the turkey in the bucket, breast side down and cover the bucket. Leave it sit somewhere cool, I usually use the garage (unless it's summer time obviously).
4. After at least 6 and no more than 12 hours, and prior to cooking your turkey, remove the bird and rinse it with cool water, then proceed with your cooking prep.
* I have some fears about leaving my turkey "in the garage." If you are cooking a smaller turkey, you can actually soak it in a large pot in the fridge. I left mine in over-night. You could also try the bucket method, just remove some shelves in your fridge.
So now you know the story of Bob and why he was oh, so special. On Thanksgiving day, think of Bob and all the other turkeys that sacrifice themselves for tradition. And make the best darn turkey dinner that you can.