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Dry Brine+(relatively) High Heat=Best Turkey Ever (long)

LindaMc | Nov 25, 2005 08:58 AM

The slightly modified Zuni approach I took with my turkey gave me both the best-tasting turkey I've ever eaten, AND the easiest Thanksgiving day in the kitchen!

I got a 14-lb "heritage" turkey from a vendor at my farmers' market. I can't remember whether it was an American Bronze or a Red Bourbon. The farm is quite far away so it was frozen when I picked it up on Saturday. I had hoped to start the dry brining process (just S+P) on Tuesday morning, but there were still frozen bits, so I wasn't able to do it until Wednesday morning. I was concerned that would not be enough time because I've found with Zuni chickens that longer brine= better tasting bird. I also neglected to cover the turkey as per Zuni chickens (I'm used to wet-brining turkeys and letting them dry uncovered in the fridge, so I didn't even think about covering until I took it out of the fridge yesterday).

After a very lazy and unchaotic morning and early afternoon (the opposite of our usual Thanksgivings), I heated the roasting pan before putting the turkey in. I didn't use a rack but I did scatter some shallot and garlic cloves into it first. After a lot of mental back-and-forth I decided to go with a steady 425 degrees, thinking that this would be high enough to provide the benefits of high-heat roasting while being less likely to overcook the bird. No stuffing, no trussing. I cooked it for 1 hour 10 minutes on its back, flipped it breast-side down for 20 minutes, then finished for about 20-25 minutes breast-side up again. At this point the turkey was a gorgeous golden-brown, the legs were starting to fall away from the torso, and it was done. I never had to use foil, and there was almost no splattering and no smoke in the oven.

We let the turkey rest for a half-hour while heating up the stuffing and other side dishes (roasted green beans, roasted sweet potatoes with thyme and hot pepper, brussels sprouts with mustard sauce) heat up. Then we carved, put the meat and the cranberry-quince sauce on the table, and dug in.

It's hard to describe just how delicious this turkey was. It had a slightly "gamy" (I mean this in a good way!) flavor, I think owing to the breed. But it was moist and incredibly flavorful, and the garlic and shallots roasted with the bird were heavenly. A two-year-old guest, who is a very picky eater, loved the turkey and had 3 or 4 portions. All of the adults agreed it was the best turkey we had ever eaten. And my husband, for whom stuffing is a practically a religion, proclaimed the turkey the best part of the meal, followed closely by the cranberry-quince sauce (from the November Gourmet).

I am thankful to this board and fellow Chowhounds for putting me onto the Zuni cookbook (is it merely a cookbook, or something more transcendant?!) and giving me the best Thanksgiving dinner I've ever made or eaten! I hope you all had similarly enjoyable meals and I look forward to reading about them.

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