When I had the retail shop we offered Brined Turkey with All Purpose Gravy every Thanksgiving. We offered 12 pound or 14 pound turkeys and they had to be pre-ordered. What a production that was! We had a special 55 gallon plastic trash can that was bought new and stored each year just for the purpose of brining the turkeys. The can would be scrubbed and sanitized each year. Next the turkeys would be cleaned and washed. One by one into the can they went.
The recipe for the brine came from Cooking Light magazine but I don’t know what year. I still get that magazine, although I had cut out a lot of others for lack of reading time. I admire them for the change they made years back when they realized a tablespoon of cream or a pat of butter would not undo a person and would often add so much to the flavor and mouth feel of the recipe. They also are still the only magazine I know that publishes weights for baking recipes. Anyway, I sound like a commercial for them, but it’s a great magazine as far as I am concerned.
Brining meats adds moisture, flavor and a much better end product. It is perfect for turkeys or turkey breasts as they can be rather dry after roasting, especially if it isn’t pumped up with liquids before hand, which product I discourage. The original recipe calls for skinning the turkey breast but I leave it on as an additional safeguard to keeping it moist. The breast will be roasted standing up. It will brown considerably if it isn’t lightly covered with foil due to the honey and brown sugar. The brine is very straight forward, using thyme, honey, brown sugar a lot of salt and pepper plus water. We made huge batches of brine and submerged the turkeys under it for a day. After removing them, they were patted dry, the skin was oiled and they were placed in disposable roaster pans to be taken home and roasted – instructions included. People who had never roasted a turkey were elated (if they followed the instructions that were enclosed) and came back year after year for the turkeys they could roast on Thanksgiving day.
For this blog, I chose a six pound bone in turkey breast. There are only the two of us and a whole turkey is impossible, although we did have roasted turkey, Hot Browns (a Louisville, KY specialty sandwich) and turkey pot pies out of the breast. I am considering pork for our Thanksgiving! I can’t tell you how moist and flavorful this breast was and the meat stayed that way for days in the refrigerator as I worked my way through way too much turkey for two.
Because gravy is such an integral part of Thanksgiving dinner, a way had to be found to make one without the bones for the initial turkey dinner. I later made a great turkey stock with the carcass of the roasted turkey that was the base for the turkey pot pies. But that is for another day. This is a really good all purpose gravy whose taste can be altered by what stock and wine are used. Browning the vegetables and a little wine are the keys to making a really good gravy using low sodium broth from the store.
I served this with Pesto Mashed Potatoes and Glass Carrots for a modern twist on a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. For dessert, be sure to take a look at the Pumpkin Mousse Torte for an easy make ahead finish to your dinner.
So whether using a turkey breast or a whole turkey consider using a Brined Turkey with All Purpose Gravy this year and see if it isn’t one of the best Thanksgiving dinners ever.
Brined Turkey Breast 7 cups of water, divided
2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (50 grams or 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups ice cubes
1 6 pound, bone in turkey breast
2 tablespoons oil
Combine 2 cups of water, pepper, thyme, salt, honey and brown sugar in a saucepan.Bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Cool to room temperature. Add the remaining water and set aside.
Rinse the turkey breast and place it in a deep pot, such as a stock pot. You can also use a 2-gallon zip lock bag but be sure to place it in a 9x13x2 inch as I found this method, which was suggested, leaked. Add the ice to the container holding the turkey and add the brine. Refrigerate for 24 hours, turning several times. If refrigerating it is a problem, put the container in a cooler and pack ice around it.
When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the turkey and discard the brine. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels, but do not rinse. Line a pan with deep sides with foil. Spray the foil. Rub the oil over the turkey skin and place it in a pan. Roast for about 2 1/2 hours or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees. Tent with foil if it browns too quickly.
Allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered with foil, before slicing
All Purpose Gravy 3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cups diced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
3/4 cup chopped onions
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups low sodium broth*
1/3 cup wine*
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the carrots, celery and onion. Cook over medium heat for 12 to 5 minutes until deeply browned. Add the flour and stir it in until browned but not burned. Add the remaining ingredients except the salt.
Bring to a boil;lower the heat to medium low and reduce to about 1/3. I measure the reduction by putting a skewer in at the beginning and marking it. I check it periodically by putting it back into the liquid to see if it has reduced enough. Strain the gravy and add the salt. If the gravy is too thin, thicken with a beurre manie.
Add to the liquid a little at a time, whisking in and bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 minutes to make sure it thickens and removes any starchy taste from the flour. Add a bit more to thicken as necessary. Any leftover can be frozen for later use in anything that needs to be thickened at the end of cooking.
This all purpose gravy can be made days before and refrigerated. Reheat to serve.
Pesto Mashed Potatoes - I made mashed potatoes as usual, then added pesto to taste. I used 2 tablespoons to 2 large potatoes mashed with milk, butter, salt and white pepper.
Glass Carrots – I used baby carrots and blanched them just until barely tender. I added about 1 cup water to a skillet and about 1/3 cup sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the carrots. Boil off the liquid until it is syrupy and coats the carrots. They will look like glass.
*Any combination of stock can be used. All chicken, half chicken and half beef, all beef. I use white wine with the chicken stock and red wine with the beef. Be sure to use low sodium or the gravy will be too salty. 4 cups = two 14.5 ounce cans.