On to day two: 24 hours later and the turkey has enjoyed its bath in the brine. Now for the air chill.
Some may ask, why air chill the bird for another 24 hours? Well, to half answer that, I ask you a question: have you noticed at your market or butcher that your options for chicken range not only from organic to all natural but also include the option of "air chilled"? Air chilling poultry is an alternative method of cooling the chicken down after it has been defeathered, cleaned, and processed, which is actually better for the bird, and for the consumer. See a small video here to explain.
In essence, I am doing a similar method for the turkey - removing it from the liquid and allowing it to rest not only to remove all of the liquid but also to preserve that "turkey flavor". Plus, I personally find it makes for crispier skin during the roasting process.
So, pat that bird as dry as you can get it. Set the bird on top of paper towels in a roasting pan in the fridge to absorb up as much moisture as possible. If you want to turn the turkey over after 12 hours go ahead! It will only help to remove all of the liquid still left behind from the brining.
Another 24 hours and we are ready to make the pancetta-sage compound butter to go under the skin!
It's turkey time, that's for sure. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite meals to plan for as well as to cook. FINALLY this year my mom is letting me have full reign over the entire menu, from apps to dessert, leaving the traditional and untraditional to my discretion.
And beyond the sides, salads, and stuffings (even the "ever necessary" Honey Baked Ham that always seems to find its way to our plate), the star of the meal, as in THE TURKEY, is always my favorite to make as well as execute.
Over the last few years I have experimented with what many have been referred to as "new", "innovative", and "creative" techniques to make the bird more flavorful, tender, and juicy. These include brining, using a compound butter, different temperatures during roasting, you get the point. The irony is that these techniques and methods have been around for decades, even centuries. For some reason now they are just becoming more main stream.
Whatever the case, I love to use all of these methods in creating what I think is one of the most flavorful and tender birds I have ever had. You can even use this recipe on other types of poultry, such as chicken. It's a four-day process, but I promise each step is worth it in the end. I choose a flavorful 24 hour brine, followed up by a 24 hour air chill in the fridge, followed by a schmearing of a herb and pancetta compound butter, and then after its last 24 hour rest, the turkey is ready for roasting.
This year, I wanted to share each step with you, one day at a time. If you want to follow along and make your turkey just like mine, you can shorten the brining and air chilling times, making a three day turkey rather an a four. Or, just save this recipe to practice on a whole chicken or save for next year!
DAY ONE - PICK UP TURKEY AND BRINE For a 14-20# turkey, defrosted, neck and giblets removed
4 quarts (16 C) apple cider or apple juice
1 1/2 C kosher salt (preferrably Morton)
1/3 C whole all spice berries
2 tbsp whole peppercorns
10 dried bay leaves
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head garlic, sliced in half horizontally
4 quarts (16 C) cold water
(Special equipment - 20 quart barrel or a 20 quart cooler)
Making the brine: Bring 1 quart (4 cups) apple cider, salt, all spice berries, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and garlic to a simmer to dissolve all of the salt.
Once all of the salt has dissolved, add mixture to vessel and continue to add 3 more quarts of apple cider and 4 quarts of cold water (or ice if using cooler).
Slowly submerge the turkey, leg side up (neck side down) into the brining liquid.
And let brine/marinate for 24 hours.
Next step tomorrow - we will remove the turkey and allow to air dry!
Happy first night of the Four Day Turkey Experience!