Difficulty Level Easy
I've been to a lot of Thanksgiving dinners in my time, some years we've had three of them. Never once have I seen the turkey brought to the table a la Norman Rockwell. Carving a turkey takes a bit of time and is a messy business and we've always opted for cutting the bird in the privacy of the kitchen. No doubt there are families who do a very formal Thanksgiving dinner with Father at the head of the table wielding the cutlery while Mother accepts the congratulations for a beautifully roasted bird, but I think times have changed somewhat and family Thanksgiving dinners have changed with it.
In my childhood and young adulthood we could easily have twenty or twenty-five people at the Thanksgiving table and my aunt would roast the largest turkey she could get. My cousins all have grandchildren now and have their own family traditions. My own family Thanksgiving has dwindled to five of us. Sometimes the thought of a huge turkey for five people is a bit daunting. My mother can no longer stuff the turkey by herself, nor can she lift the roasting pan into the oven, and family traditions being what they are, she refuses to come to my house for Thanksgiving, so it was with great excitement that I came across this idea for a deconstructed turkey from Epicurious.
Essentially the idea is to buy the turkey in manageable pieces, brine it, roast it and then serve it on a platter already carved. This solves so many problems for us. You can mix and match the turkey parts you want. Does your family fight over the legs? Buy a few more of them. All five of us prefer white meat, so I wouldn't buy any legs or wings at all, just the breast. The other fantastic benefit is that it takes significantly less time to roast than putting the bird in whole so you are saving energy.You don't have to worry about the breast drying out while the legs finish cooking, you can stagger the cooking time a bit. You can still buy enough to have leftovers, but you don't have to be overwhelmed by them. I cooked a single turkey breast for my husband and I to try out this recipe and we got the initial dinner plus a few sandwiches over the next couple of days. My husband was so happy not to have to eat any turkey casseroles.
For me, the only downside to this is a lack of dressing (or stuffing, if you prefer). However, many people choose to cook the dressing separately anyway, to avoid the problem of salmonella. Especially with a large bird, the meat could be cooked well before the interior of the bird has come to a safe temperature.
If you don't want to take the time to brine the turkey, go ahead and just roast it, however I thought brining it made a huge difference in the moistness of the meat and the flavour. My mother always over cooks the turkey (another family tradition), but I think even she would have trouble making a brined turkey dry. It was fantastic, and I'll never cook another turkey without brining it first. The recipe calls for putting the turkey in resealable bags, but I don't use stuff like that in my kitchen, so I just put it in a large bowl and it worked just fine. I also didn't put water in the bottom of the pan, most because my turkey breast wasn't that big and it didn't cook for very long at all.
|To brine turkey|
|1||turkey breast on the bone|
|1/4 cup||kosher salt|
|1||head garlic, cut in half|
|2||dried bay leaves|
|4||sprigs fresh thyme|
|2||large whole sprigs fresh sage|
|2 teaspoons||whole black peppercorns|
|2 teaspoons||allspice berries|
|1/4 cup||fresh celery leaves|
|To roast turkey|
|3 tablespoons||unsalted butter, melted|
|2||large sprigs sage, plus several whole sprigs for garnish|
|2 to 3 cups||low-sodium chicken broth|
|1/4 cup||unsalted butter|
|1/3 cup||all-purpose flour|
|Freshly ground black pepper|
To brine turkey
To roast turkey
To make gravy
Less is More Thanksgiving