What should I do with the free turkey I'm getting at work for Thanksgiving? It's a free range broad breasted turkey- so it's from a good source. I'm thinking of just baking it- but I want your opinion on how to cook it since "stuffing/dressing" is out of the question.
Not stuffing it is not a problem. In fact, Alton Brown actively discourages people from stuffing birds (not from making stuffing, just not putting it inside the bird). I would brine and roast it. Try roasting it upside down for about half the total time and then flipping the bird (I never get tired of saying that, lol) up for the second half. It make the breast meat much moister.
I used to brine, still do my ducks, but in the last couple of years have gone the way of a salt roast - similar to a brine but completely dry. You can truly get some flavour in just a couple of hours or let it sit for a day in your fridge. Here you go from my nerd cooking file of recipes:
Herbed Salt: 1/3 cup coarse kosher salt, 1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, 1-1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage, 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, 1-teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed, 3-small bay leaves, roughly torn, 1-teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
Turkey: 1 14-to 16-pound turkey, adjust the salt measurements based on the weight of yours. 1 large onion, chopped, 1 large celery stalk, chopped, 1 whole lemon, chopped with peel, 1-teaspoon dried rosemary, 1-teaspoon dried rubbed sage, 1-teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 cup butter - I use unsalted at room temperature, 2 cups or more of stock - turkey or chicken. Veg broth flavour doesn't work as nicely.
Now to make the magic happen:
Herbed salt: Rub first 6 ingredients in small bowl to crush herbs finely. If you want, you can make this a week ahead. Cover and store at room temperature, stir in peel before using.
For turkey: Place turkey in a roasting bag; sprinkle inside and out with herbed salt. Close bag tightly and put on a baking sheet; toss into the fridge for a couple of hours up to 24. At 12 hours the flavours are really tasty.
Set rack in the lowest position in oven and preheat to 325. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat very dry. Stir chopped onion and next 5 ingredients in small bowl. Divide onion mixture between main and neck cavities. Fold neck skin under and secure with skewer and then the usual tuck the wing tips, tie the legs. Set the turkey on your roasting rack/in the pan. Spread butter all over turkey.
Roast turkey 45 minutes. Time for your first basting. Continue to roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165 to 170, basting every 45 minutes, adding stock or water to pan if dry, and tenting loosely with foil if browning too quickly, 3 to 3 1/2 hours longer. Transfer turkey to platter; tent yet again very loosely with foil and let rest 30 to 45 minutes.
That tasty bird is ready to go. Super juicy, just as good as brined.
I was thinking stuffing and wondered - do you eat white rice at all? You could saute onions in butter with rice, stock, celery, garlic, sage/thyme/parsley/tarragon/salt + pepper. add stock and you would have the flavours of stuffing without the bread. Add in chopped meat from the neck/giblets and you're kind of there. You could even do some sausage and apples for another twist. Or even omit the rice and do the same thing with the turkey bits + all the seasonings and do it all with braised kale or rapini as a veg side. Hmm..
I like dry cure/dry brine instead of the wet brine and it's much less messy and involved. Just rub inside and outside liberally with kosher salt and pepper and let it sit in your fridge loosely covered with waxed paper for a day or two, then sprinkle the top with fresh or dried thyme, tie up some sage leaves and stuff them into the cavity, leave the legs untied for more even cooking, and roast at 350 until a meat thermometer stuck in the spot between the leg and the body gives you 165. Then cover with a foil tent and let it rest for up to an hour, depending on size. If you eat it, potato starch makes excellent gravy w/ pan drippings.
We've been brining ours and barbecuing it for a lot of years because it just tastes incredible this way.Traditional roasting is delicious too, just be sure to make adjustments in your cooking time when there is no stuffing. FYI, there are lots of grain free stuffing recipes out there if you want to go that route as well...happy thanksgiving!
This is the best and easiest recipe for turkey in the world. You don't have to flip it or baste it or do anything tricky from the minute you put it in the oven to the minute you take it out. Just make sure to read the notes to ensure your turkey is the right size for the recipe and so you don't smoke yourself out of your house. Before I found this recipe, I used to wake up early to get the turkey into the oven. Now I can start it after lunch and it's ready to go (set, carved and still warm) by dinner.
I stopped stuffing my turkey years ago. The stuffing would get too gloppy and fatty from being inside the turkey.
If it's a free range turkey, brining is not a bad idea if you have the time and space. Get a huge styrofoam cooler, put the turkey in it, pour a big bag of ice over, and throw in a few handfuls of kosher salt and maybe a little sugar or brown sugar if you're into that. Cover the turkey with water (apple cider sounds like a really good option too--I just never have any in the house so never use it). And then just let it sit till the ice melts. If it's cold here, I put it outside with a lid on it. Otherwise, I skip brining. Just pat the bird dry before you season and roast it.
Sounds like you work for a great company. Enjoy your holiday.