Sunday, November 20, 2011

Maple-Cider Brined Turkey with Bourbon-Cider Gravy

I hate cooking a turkey. Hate it. It's much to much fuss for something that even when it's good, is still kind of bland.

But when I came across this recipe for Maple-Cider Brined Turkey with Bourbon-Cider Gravy in the current issue of Cooking Light magazine, I knew I would be making not one, but two, turkeys this year. It just sounded so good. But probably too fancy to serve my family on Thanksgiving.

So I picked up a turkey breast and halved the brine recipe. As much as I hate cooking a turkey, I do like brining and think it is a great technique to add flavor to most meats. The brine here is full of autumnal flavors like apple cider and maple syrup - mmmm.

The turkey cooks fairly quickly and was beautifully browned and still moist. So far so good. On to the gravy. The gravy was fantastic! The apple cider takes center stage and the bourbon and herbs are subtle backup singers. I didn't halve the gravy recipe and am glad I didn't because now I have some of this delicious topping to go with my turkey on Thursday. I'll be serving everyone else a less exciting gravy - shhh.

I'm still dreading cooking the big bird on Thursday, but this recipe did help me see that turkey doesn't have to be boring.

How about you - do you love or hate to cook a turkey?

Maple-Cider Brined Turkey with Bourbon-Cider Gravy
Cooking Light, November 2011

2 quarts apple cider
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
6 (2-inch) strips orange rind
2 rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 gallon cold water

1 (12-pound) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 apple, cut into wedges
6 garlic cloves
1 rosemary sprig
1 sage sprig
1/2 orange, cut into wedges
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
Cooking spray

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup bourbon
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1. To prepare brine, combine first 9 ingredients in a large stockpot over high heat; cook 6 minutes or until salt dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add 1 gallon cold water. Cool to room temperature.

2. To prepare turkey, remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve neck. Trim excess fat; add turkey to brine. Refrigerate 18 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4. Remove turkey from brine; discard brine. Pat turkey dry. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Combine 3 tablespoons butter and 3 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon pepper) in a small bowl; rub butter mixture under loosened skin and over breast and drumsticks. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Place apple and next 5 ingredients (through onion) in the body cavity. Secure legs with kitchen twine. Place turkey on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Place neck in bottom of roasting pan; place rack with turkey in pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cover turkey loosely with foil; bake an additional 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickets part of thigh registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven; place turkey on a cutting board. Let stand, covered, for 20 minutes; discard neck and skin.

5. To prepare gravy, place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour pan drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off one bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into a small bowl, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat.

6. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add thyme and shallot; saute 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cider and bourbon; boil 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Combine 1/4 cup broth and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture, remaining 1 cup broth, and drippings to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes or until thickened. Stir in parsley and vinegar.
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  1. I think turkey is kind of an example of 'the madness of crowds'--everyone I know who is a foodie finds it bland, yet there is this mass compulsion to serve it just the same. Your recipe looks so flavorful it might make me change my mind, but since I am not responsible for cooking the big bird, I might just use it for chicken...

  2. This sounds delicious! I wasn't in charge of the turkey this year, but I might try something like this with our next chicken.

  3. Wow, what an exceptional meal! We don't really eat turkey but will definitely do this with chicken - maybe even duck breasts. Great recipe!
    Thanks again for stopping by my little spot in the blogosphere.
    :-) Mandy


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