Herb Brined Turkey with Classic Stuffing
Soaking your Thanksgiving turkey overnight (or longer) ensures that the meat will stay moist after roasting. The aromatic herbs add extra depth and flavor to your turkey. The process of brining helps to keep meat juicy as it penetrates much deeper than a marinade. My family always buys a fresh turkey for thanksgiving, meaning it has never been frozen. While we usually have to put the order in a few weeks ahead of time with the local butcher it is well worth the extra effort. Fresh is always better.
1 Fresh (15 to 17 pound) whole Turkey (neck and giblets discarded or removed and reserved for stock)
For the brine:
7 quarts water
1 ½ cups coarse sea salt
6 bay leaves
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
For the stuffing:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup finely diced celery
1 bag stuffing bread
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon dried sage
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
3 cups chicken broth
5-gallon container (stockpot, tub or bucket)
Enough room in the refrigerator to hold a 5-gallon container
For the turkey:
One to two days before you are planning to roast the turkey, bring water, salt, bay leaves and remaining herbs to a simmer in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir constantly until the salt has dissolved, then remove the pot from the heat and let cool. If the water is too hot when you add the turkey, it may poach it.
Place the turkey in the 5-gallon container. Add the brine, making sure the turkey is completely covered, if it is not totally submerged, weigh it down with a plate. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to two days, turning the turkey once.
One hour before you are ready to roast, remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 45 minutes, this allows for the turkey to cook evenly. Heat the oven to 350°. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Tuck tips of wings under bird. Add stuffing using recipe below to the inside of the turkey. Pour 4 cups of water into the bottom of the pan.
Roast the turkey uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from oven and baste the turkey with the juices from the pan. Add more water to the bottom of the pan if needed to keep it at ¼-inch. Continue cooking and basting the turkey every 30 minutes for about 4 hours until the internal temperature of the turkey registers at 165°. Transfer to a cutting board and the turkey let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Note: If there isn’t room in your refrigerator for such a large container, put the turkey and brine into a 5-gallon plastic brining bag, seal or tie shut then put the bagged bird into a cooler filled with ice, replenishing it as needed to keep the temperature at 40 degrees.
For the stuffing:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and allow to melt, then add the onion and celery, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. In a large bowl combine the stuffing bread, onion, celery, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, salt and pepper. Add the stock ¼ at a time until the bread is hydrated. Add the stuffing to the turkey. Heat oven to 350° and cook any remaining stuffing in a 3-quart glass baking dish until top is lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
Serves 10 to 12.