In The Recipe Lab: Thanksgiving Turkey

09-demian-repucci-recipe-turkey-1aThe guests have finally left.  The fridge is piled high with left-overs.  But other than the emotional scars… the place is pretty much back to normal.  Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  It seems no other food is more obsessed about prior to the event and then abruptly forgotten about afterward than turkey.  It is definitely a hard bird to love.  But love it I tried.  Here are a couple photos of how my turkey turned out.  I took the advice of Gracenotesnyc and spatchcocked, yes ’spatchcocked’, my bird after following her ’simple brine’ recipe.  Overall the results were great.  The herb butter application is really great.  And spatchcocking is definitely worth the effort.  It not only shortens the cook time but also allows another rack to be left in the oven for side dishes to cook along with the turkey.  If I hadn’t done this procedure I  would have had a HUGE oven traffic jam instead of the mini one I did suffer.  Unfortunately, though, the spatchcocking did not produce a flawless bird.  Even though spreading the turkey as flat as possible to even out the cooking time did help a great deal, the enormous amount of meat on the breasts still take a lot longer than the dark meat portions to heat to 165F.  The genetically induced boob-jobs on these poor birds cause asymmetric cooking times to run rough-shod over total meat juiciness.  There is no way around this other than to debone the entire thing prior to cooking.  But!  This is where the brine comes in!  The brine worked well to help maintain moisture throughout the meat.  But!  Sadly, the brine fell short in protecting my turkey from the combat-zone conditions that were my kitchen that afternoon.  The cooking instructions in the recipe seemed a little vague to me.  And I knew that time calculation would be further complicated by my battling temperature fluctuations brought on by various side dishes being heated.  But I was not too worried as I have a digital thermometer that I could just jam in to check.  The problem that I did not see coming is the sheer amount of pies, side dishes and starchy concoctions that relatives and guests kept wanting to put in the oven.  So even though I had determined that the turkey was done, dinner time kept getting pushed back as I juggled all the yam / marshmallow casseroles and creamed corn puddings that people were clamoring to get cooked.  And with nowhere to put the turkey if I pulled it out, I just figured I would leave it in the oven a little longer.  ‘No need to worry – it’s brined!’, I thought.  Not to mention that it would get cold if taken out too soon.  Wrong. 

09-demian-repucci-recipe-turkey-2aWhen all was finally said and done the turkey turned out better than 99.9% of all the other turkeys I, or anyone there that night, had ever had.  Which is great.  But it was still a little drier than I would have liked.  Totally my fault, I guess, for not juggling oven space better.  Though, in my defense, there is no way that I could have seen all the last-minute pies and potatoes coming. But now that I am thinking about it, the brine could maybe have been a tiny bit saltier.  And with more spice such as juniper and cloves.  But maybe it would have helped to just brine it one more day.  I did a lot of brining while at St. John Restaurant but have yet to translate all the massive pork brining I did there to more domestic brining pursuits.  Either way I was excited to find Gracenotesnyc’s take on turkey brining and spatchcocking.  I am glad I did it and am thrilled with the results.  It definitely saved me from ending up with a dry bird.  If I don’t debone the whole thing next year I will definitely follow her lead again.  Overall a great success!  Thanks Grace!