A lot of people like to deep fry their Thanksgiving turkey. A lot of people are fat and stupid. I’ve had fried turkey. It doesn’t taste a lick different except blander, chewier, and at the loss of all that delicious skin. And even if you do it properly, forces beyond your control (hidden pockets of moisture) may cause that hot oil to flare up in flames, or explode grease all over you at 350° F.
No, in the McGinley house, I stepped up to all my chicken knowledge and assumed the mantle of turkey chef this year. And there was only one way to do it: BRINE.
I made a pretty simple brine: salt, sugar, chopped onion, some peppercorns, a fat garlic clove sliced all along the surface to let the flavor and oils out, but not chopped into separate pieces. Also in there: some bay leaves, a sprinkle of mustard powder, a little fresh squeezed orange, and just a splash of white balsamic vinegar with truffle oil that I found in ma’s cupboard. I doubt it did anything, but you don’t stumble across that kind of firepower and not use it.
And there you have it: brine, brine, brine away for a full day beforehand in a massive ziplock bag (and supporting pan). This beast weighed all but the official 19 lbs, so I had to wrestle that plus two gallons of water into the fridge.
Mom’s got a new oven smart enough to make the whole meal by itself if it only had robot hands with cartoon gloves, but we decided to play it safe, simple and traditional: bake at 325 for five hours, with time out of the oven for basting. An aluminum sheet went over at about halfway through just to keep the top from burning, and that surely helped keep it moist.
Oh, and I might have glazed it with local honey and maple syrup at a couple of intervals. Not much, just to keep it safe.
I had to fight to make the stuffing inside the bird rather than the microwave, and I’m happy to say the best results for the world won out. And because I’m overkill, I put a sliced apple and a sliced orange inside the cavity first. Don’t judge me, it was my first turkey, I needed to guarantee tender meat.
All the other dishes were supplied by the rest of the family. It was a darned near perfect Thanksgiving, but for all the suddenly absent loved ones. There was supposed to be twice as many people as this.