Keep your Thanksgiving turkey moist with this easy-to-make recipe from Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Holiday Meal.
Brining turkey, or soaking it in this salt-and-sugar solution, adds moisture to the meat. It is an especially good technique to use with all-white breast meat, which can become dry with roasting.
Makes 12-15 Servings
Apple Brine (see recipe below)
Fresh whole bone-in turkey breasts, 2, about 12 pounds total weight
Unsalted butter, 9 tablespoons, at room temperature
Yellow onion, 1, unpeeled
Large carrots, 2, unpeeled
Canola oil, ¼ cup, plus more for brushing
Reduced-sodium chicken broth, 1¾ cups
Dry white wine, ½ cup
Fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon
Make the Apple Brine as directed in recipe further below.
Pat the turkey breasts dry with paper towels. Immerse the turkey breasts completely in the stockpot with the brine. If needed, invert a small plate on top of the turkey breasts to keep them submerged. Alternatively, if using a brining bag, put the turkey breasts in the bag, slowly pour the brine in over them, close the bag (squeezing out the excess air), and place in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate the turkey breasts in the brine for 12-24 hours, turning them occasionally in the brine. Drain and discard the brine. Cover the turkey breasts with fresh, cold water and let stand at room temperature, turning once or twice, for an additional 4 hours. Drain the water and pat the turkey breasts dry. Trim any excess skin from the turkey breasts.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.
Use your fingertips to spread 1½ tablespoons of the butter over the skin of each turkey breast, distributing it as evenly as possible. Quarter the onion and coarsely chop the carrots. Select a flameproof roasting pan just large enough to hold the turkey breasts. (For more information on choosing the pan, see below.) Lightly brush the roasting rack with canola oil and place the turkey breasts on the rack. Scatter the onion and carrot pieces in the pan around the turkey. Roast, rotating the pan’s position on the oven rack from front to back once for more even cooking, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the chicken broth, the remaining 6 tablespoons butter, the white wine, ¼ cup canola oil, and the lemon juice. Warm the broth mixture over low heat until the butter has melted. When the turkey breasts have roasted for about 30 minutes, baste them with some ofthe broth mixture.
Continue to roast the turkey breasts, basting about every 30 minutes with the remaining broth mixture and then with the accumulated pan juices, rotating the pan’s position and stirring the vegetables in the pan occasionally, until the breasts are well browned and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast away from the bone registers 165°F (see recipe), about 2 hours total roasting time. (Turkey breast is very lean, so it dries out and toughens easily when cooked beyond 170°F.)
Using tongs, transfer the turkey breasts, skin side up, to a carving board(a cutting board with a groove to capture poultry juices). Let the breasts rest for 10 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil if needed to keep them warm. This resting period, which allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the flesh, is a key element in achieving a juicy turkey breast.
If you like, place the roasting pan with the pan juices and vegetables over 2 burners to prepare the Herbed Citrus Gravy (see recipe), Giblet Gravy (see recipe), or Pan Gravy (see recipe).
Have ready a warmed serving platter. Hold a carving fork in one hand to brace one of the turkey breasts. Using a thin, flexible carving knife, cut the breast meat away from the rib cage in a single piece. Working across the length of the breast, cut the meat against the grain into slices about ½ inch thick. As the slices are cut, arrange them on the warmed platter. Repeat to carve the second turkey breast and serve right away.
Choosing The Pan
Using a heavy roasting pan will help keep the juices from burning. Avoid nonstick pans, which won’t develop as many browned bits to help flavor the gravy. If you are using a disposable foil pan, buy 2 and double up for extra strength. A metal rack will keep the turkey bottom from stewing in the drippings and sticking to the pan. You can use a wire cake rack in a pinch, but a V-shaped nonstick roasting rack is best because it will also ease the removal of the turkey from the pan; be sure to oil the rack well. For a 10- to 14-pound turkey, a 14-by-10-by-2½-inch pan is best; for 16-20 pounds, choose a 17-by-11½-by-2½-inch pan; for 24 pounds and over, use a 19-by-14-by-3¼-inch pan.
The mixture of apple juice, salt, honey, and sugar used here puts a fruity, flavorful spin on the usual brine combinations. It also complements the sweet condiments on the Thanksgiving table.
Makes Brine For Two 5- To 6-Pound Turkey Breasts
Apple juice or sweet apple cider, 3 quarts, chilled
Kosher salt, 2 cups
Honey, ½ cup
Granulated sugar, ½ cup
Brown sugar, ½ cup firmly packed
If using a stockpot: Combine the apple juice, 3 quarts water, the salt, honey, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a nonreactive stockpot about 3 inches taller and wider than the turkey breasts. (A large stockpot made of stainless steel or anodized metal—not uncoated aluminum—is a good choice.) Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
If using a brining bag: Combine the apple juice, 3 quarts water, the salt, honey, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a nonreactive 7-quart saucepan made of stainless steel or anodized metal. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Holiday Meal
Lou Seibert Pappas
Photos by Lara Hata
Weldon Owen 2007
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