Deconstructed Holiday Turkey with Sage Gravy

Deconstructed Turkey To Brine or Not To Brine….

Growing up, my mother did not brine our turkey for Thanksgiving. She did it the old fashioned way: slather on the butter, stick it in the oven, and torture the family for hours with the scent of roasting bird.

Our turkey always tasted good, but then again we ate Thanksgiving dinner which means we didn’t eat until 6:30 or 7:00, so we were all about to chew our arms off. I don’t recall the turkey ever being super dry, but I was a kid. All I cared about was how many mashed potatoes I could stuff in my mouth at one time. And then there’s gravy, the other food group.

Nowadays there is a national dry turkey emergency. There are so many versions of Thanksgiving Turkey Brine that it can be hard to choose—especially when you consider “trying” a brine means you have to cook a small turkey or a turkey breast. Not everyone wants to take time to do that unless you’re psycho, like me.

We go through a lot of turkey in my house. My sons will only eat turkey sandwiches for school lunch. Roasting a turkey or turkey breast can be better overall than buying a pound of the sliced turkey from the meat counter: not only can it be more economical, it just tastes better.

I have roasted turkey both ways; I have brined, and I have gone rogue and just thrown it in the oven. I must say I prefer the brine especially for sandwiches. And let’s face it, the meal is good, but it’s all about the leftovers. I am particular about which brine I use. Some are too sweet, or too citrusy, or just plain weird. I like a brine that will enhance the flavor it and keep it moist, not change the taste of the turkey too much.

I have two favorite brines. The first one is a mix that we sell here, at the store (which makes life that much easier). It is made by a local company, KL Keller Food Ways, and the 1 lb. pack is enough to brine a 14-18 pound turkey. The blend contains sage, coriander, bay, black pepper and a little bit of chili flakes but don’t worry, it’s not spicy. It IS very good and is available in the meat department for $8.99.

My other favorite is a sage brine recipe I found in Bon Appetite for a Deconstructed Holiday Turkey with Sage Gravy. I don’t usually do the whole recipe but I do use the brine. I think it is the most “traditionally turkey” tasting brine if that even makes sense. Try it out on a turkey breast if you don’t want any surprises on the 27th.

Deconstructed Holiday Turkey with Sage Gravy
Epicurious  | October 2006
by Ted Allen

To brine the turkey
1 (6 1/2 to 7 pound) turkey breast on the bone
3 turkey drumsticks (about 2 1/4 pounds total)
2 turkey thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
1 head garlic, cut in half (do not peel)
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 (from 1 bunch)

To roast the turkey
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Leaves from 2 large sprigs sage, plus several whole sprigs for garnish

For the gravy
2 to 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Brine the turkey
Rinse turkey parts and place in doubled 2 1/2-gallon resealable plastic bags (or large stockpot). Add salt, honey, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, sage, peppercorns, allspice, and celery leaves. Add enough cold water to cover turkey or about 3 quarts. Press out air, close bags, and place in large bowl or other container to protect against leaks. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Roast the turkey
Preheat oven to 425°F. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.

Remove turkey parts from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and place, skin side up, on racks set in 2 medium roasting pans (be sure to leave space between parts for air circulation). Pour 1 cup water into each pan. Drizzle turkey parts with melted butter and scatter with sage leaves. Place 1 pan on each oven rack and roast until beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.

Lower heat to 400°F, switch positions of pans, and rotate each pan 180°. Continue roasting until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast, avoiding bone, registers 165°, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Transfer turkey parts to platter and tent with foil.

Make the gravy
Pour pan juices into 4-cup glass measuring cup, let stand until fat rises to top, 2 to 3 minutes, then skim off and reserve fat.

Set 1 roasting pan across 2 burners, add 2 cups chicken broth, and bring to simmer over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Add simmering broth to pan juices in measuring cup, then add additional chicken broth, if needed, to equal 4 cups liquid.

In medium saucepan over moderately low heat, melt butter, then whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth mixture and any collected juices from platter holding turkey, then raise heat to moderately high and boil mixture, uncovered, until thickened, about 8 minutes.

Season gravy with salt and pepper to taste. Carve turkey pieces and garnish with sage; serve with gravy.

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