Although I am not American, I lived there long enough to fall in love with Thanksgiving. When I married my American husband I embraced the tradition like it was my own. With no family traditions to speak of yet, it’s been liberating to hijack recipes and ideas from other families so that we can gradually form our own. Our two little girls hold dual citizenship and I make it a point to educate them on American history and culture. Even with us living in Ireland this year, we will be having a big feast with lots of other American expats joining us, including my best friend from Texas who recently moved to Germany. I couldn’t be more excited!
It’s never too early to start to planand this fool-proof recipe will make sure your turkey is perfect, even if you overcook it. A quick note on the bird itself. Some people are willing to pay for an organic or free range turkey and I myself have done so, but honestly, I cannot tell the difference taste wise. I remember last year being particularly frustrated at paying €50 for a free range turkey from my butcher only to find a bigger generic bird on sale at the supermarket for €14.99. Obviously there are animal husbandry concerns, but if that’s not something that bothers you, by all means, go for the generic bird, as taste wise, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Brining is something I tried last year both at Thanksgiving and Christmas (in Ireland we do Turkey for Christmas) for the first time. I will not be going back, as the resulting roast was incredibly succulent, tender and flavoursome. Even if you overcook the bird, the brining will ensure the flesh remains moist and tender.
In terms of cooking time, everyone’s oven is different, but the times given below should suffice for a 15-20 pound stuffed turkey.
This stuffing recipe is my Mom’s traditional Irish breadcrumb stuffing and is a family favourite. It’s easy to prepare well in advance and have ready for the turkey when it comes out of the brine. The picture at the top is of my Thanksgiving turkey from last year, which was a huge success.
For the Brine:
- 1 15-20lb turkey
- 2L / 8.5cups apple juice/cider
- 2 large onions, roughly chopped
- 2 large apples, roughly chopped
- 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 4 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- 6-8 star anise
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- 3 bay leaves
- 6-8 sprigs thyme
- 1 cup* rock/kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1L / 4.25 cups water
Mix all brine ingredients together in a large pot and heat until salt and sugar have melted. Allow to cool.
Rinse and pat turkey dry. Place in large basin, cooler or other container. Pour brine over turkey and allow to rest in cool place for 12-24 hours. If the brine doesn’t cover the turkey completely, turn it half way through the soaking period.
For the stuffing
- 2 cups mashed potatoes
- 6 cups breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup sausage meat
- 1 egg
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped thyme leaves
- salt and pepper to season
Mix all stuffing ingredients in a large bowl. Add additional breadcrumbs if too moist. It should hold together in a stiff mashed potato type consistency. Refrigerate until ready to stuff turkey.
To Roast Turkey:
- 1 package of bacon
- 1/2 lb soft butter
- Handful chopped fresh herbs
- salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 220C/425F.
- Mix butter with herbs and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove turkey from brine. Rinse and pat dry.
- Stuff both cavities with prepared stuffing.
- Use toothpicks to hold the cavities closed, if necessary.
- Pull the skin from the turkey breast and rub the butter between the skin and flesh. Use your fingers to push the butter as far back as possible. Rub any remaining butter over the top of the skin.
- Lay the bacon on top of the turkey covering the entire breast and any of the legs that you can.
- Cover with foil leaving a bit of room at the top, like a tent.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- Turn oven down to 170C/325F and bake for 4-5 hours.
- Remove bacon from turkey and leaving foil off, turn oven back up to 200C/400F. Bake for a final thirty minutes, basting the turkey several times.
- Remove turkey from oven and put on serving platter.
- Reserve roasting dish for gravy. Allow to rest for at least 15 or up to 45 minutes whilst preparing gravy and any other side dishes.
For the gravy
- 2 glasses of white wine
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/2 L / 2 cups Chicken Stock
- cream to taste
- Using the roasting pan, place it on a ring or two of your stove.
- Add the wine to the pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to remove any fond (sticky bits) on the bottom on the pan.
- When the wine has almost evaporated, add the flour and whisk furiously to get it combined. Gently add in the chicken stock whisking constantly.
- Bring to a boil. Add any juice that has come from the turkey while it has been resting. Add additional stock if too thick.
Before serving, check for seasoning and whisk in cream, if desired.