Alfred’s Thanksgiving Turkey:
Some fics bring me more feedback in the way of private e-mails and IMs than others. And We Gather Together is one of the most popular, the most common letters outlining what the writer would do to Bruce (Batman or no Batman) if he screwed up their turkey the way he did Alfred’s. The next most common topic is the brine. I know I steal a lot from Aaron Sorkin, but I swear to you, I was brining turkeys long before the West Wing episode where Bartlet talks about it. So without further ado…
Alfred’s Thanksgiving Turkey:
Brine and aromatics adapted from Good Eats, dressing adapted from Grandma Dee…
Thaw 1 (14-16 pound) frozen young turkey:
Yes, frozen. In this day and age, Alfred and the Food Channel’s Alton Brown
assure us that there is no loss of quality between fresh and frozen, and a
frozen bird is much less likely to suffer surface abrasions.
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon candied ginger
1/2 gallon iced water
One day before: Combine all brine ingredients, except the water, in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cover, cool to room temperature and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5 gallon bucket.
Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours.
Turn turkey over & refrigerate 3 more
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 Spanish onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4-6 sprigs rosemary (fresh)
6-10 leaves of sage (fresh)
A few minutes before roasting, combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Remove bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.
Place bird on roasting rack inside a wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Add steeped aromatics to the cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back the wings and coat whole bird liberally with butter.
Place rack on the lowest level of the oven and roast turkey at 500 degrees F* for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14-16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.**
*Can substitute Joy of Cooking or any other roasting instructions for unstuffed turkey or turkey breast.
With all those aromatics in the cavity, you may notice there is no room for stuffing. No matter, Alfred’s stuffing does not need to go in the bird.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet
Make fragrant with one fresh sage leaf or rosemary sprig and a sliver of garlic
Take 1 lb ground beef, ground sirloin or simply “ground meat” (do not go for the absolute leanest meat you can find as it will not release enough moisture when browning)
Brown meat in pan
Add ¼ Vidalia or Spanish Onion, chopped fine for final minute of browning
Add 2 cups medium-hard breadcrumbs
Season with salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and beaumonde to taste.
Add family specialties such as chestnuts or hard boiled egg.
Roast in shallow covered casserole alongside turkey for last 40-60 minutes of roasting.