Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dry Brine Roasted Turkey... Via Kathy Vegas

For the last few years all I see are people swooning over the wet-brining of this meat or that, or the fried turkeys, which each sounded like a big pain in the pa-tootie to me. Then, I met a new blog friend on Foodbuzz who used to be a professional chef. Not only has she changed the way I cook, but she has also rocked my world with this Dry Brine recipe for turkey. She goes by kathyvegas on Foodbuzz and she lives in THE Las Vegas (as opposed to Las Vegas, New Mexico...). Her blog is called Las Vegas Food Adventures and she is an amazing chef who just so happens to give excellent restaurant reviews as well. She's innovative, daring, imaginative, and explains her process to the T on each and every recipe. I am so totally in awe of her expertise and I want to be just like her! (Okay that sounded just a little stalker-ish. Sorry!)

I'll admit I was a bit scared to try something new on a major holiday. However, she posted a recipe for Dry Brine Roasted Turkey, stating that she really doesn't even like turkey but she will eat it this way any time. I just wondered how could I get a better recommendation than that? I was sold. So I decided to go with it for Thanksgiving 2009. We've tried other ways of cooking our turkey since then, but nothing else even compares. So, we're doing the dry-brine again this year.

I have to tell you that my dearest hubby was breathing down my neck and watching everything I was doing like a hawk. That makes me crazy, but this time I was ready to prove him wrong for once, so I just kept shooing him out of my way, keeping to my recipe from Kathy.

He even went so far as to go to the Butterball web site and print out a chart that showed how long to cook a turkey per pound, which I totally ignored, as I stuck to Kathy's recipe. I was only a tiny bit worried, but Kathy had even emailed me with a few extra tips, so I was locked in on the Dry Brine. The only thing I did different was stuff the cavity of the bird with chopped fresh garlic, celery and onion, which also lends a nice flavor to the meat.

I cannot begin to tell you how easy the recipe is. I've never had it so easy in my life. And, the biggest surprise of all? Kathy said the internal temperature deep within the thigh (and not touching the bone) should be 165 degrees. The Butterball web site said it should be 185 degrees internal meat temperature. That is the 20 degrees that makes the difference between dry white meat and succulent white meat. Huh? Who knew? I am telling you the absolute truth when I say it was truly the most succulent turkey I've ever had the pleasure of eating in my entire life. Best of all? I MADE IT! First time ever that I received (sincere) compliments on my turkey. I wasn't even sure how to react because I was in something like a haze of euphoria. It was quite a heady feeling.

And, this is the most excellent recipe I will ever give you.

Dry Brine Roasted Turkey By KathyVegas:

"I’m already on record as a pumpkin pie hater, I might as well publicly announce I feel the same way about turkey. I understand how people are inspired by the look of a gargantuan perfectly browned Norman Rockwell bird as the centerpiece of a holiday meal. I just don’t understand how so many folks actually like the taste and general lack of moistness of the darned things. I much prefer roasting a large capon (always juicy and tender), but cave into peer pressure every couple of years and give turkey another try.

I’ve had turkey prepared in every way imaginable-injected & deep fried, smoked, crock-pot cooked, spatchcocked & grilled…and with every imaginable spice combo on earth. To date, I’ve only found one way to make a turkey palatable and that would be brining. But not wet brining in an unwieldy vat of salt water, but dry brining.

Brining works this way…soaking in a salt water solution draws the moisture out of the bird initially but then is reabsorbed into the cells of the flesh, seasoning and moisturizing during the process. The salt works to make the turkey retain water as it roasts. The scientific name for this is diffusion and osmosis. I also feel that dry brining improves the texture of the meat (unlike wet brining). Dry brining is easier and far less messy than the current darling of cooking shows, wet brining. The recipe and dry brining technique are straightforward. This is the method I use and I highly recommend it (unless you are roasting a nice plump already juicy capon):

Dry Brine Roasted Turkey:

For a 12 pound “natural” whole thawed turkey (not Kosher which is already salted) you will need
½ cup kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoon granulated white sugar (optional but definitely not needed-seasonings such as garlic, herbs, spices, citrus peel, wine, etc.)

Thaw, wash and dry the turkey with paper towels well. Combine the salt and sugar and gently work about a teaspoon under the skin of each breast and thigh as far as possible without tearing the skin.  I carefully use the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle to gently separate the skin from the meat to reach way under the skin. Rub another teaspoon all over the outside of the bird and evenly sprinkle the remainder in the cavity.

Place on a rack, loosely covered with plastic wrap in a large pan (the pan you will be roasting the bird in will do) for 12-24 hours.

To roast, rinse the bird well inside and out under cool water to remove the excess salt and dry the skin and cavity very well with paper towels. The dryer the skin, the crisper the skin will become. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the tips of the wings under the bird. Rub the bird all over with softened butter. Place the bird in a 425 degree oven on a rack and roast for 30 minutes.

After the first 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees and baste every 30 minutes with additional butter or pan drippings for approximately 2-3 hours or until the internal temperature taken in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer;  juices from inside the cavity will have no trace of pink. Don’t rely on that pop-up thermometer that comes with your turkey.

Remove the turkey from the oven, place on a large platter, uncovered, to rest while you make gravy with the pan drippings. Resting allows the meat juices to redistribute and makes carving easier."

I sincerely hope that if you try this method, it fulfills all your dreams of the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!