Ale Brined and Infused Roast Turkey

Saturday, December 26, 2015

It's that time of year again when even after all those hours at work, I am super stoked to whip up an amazing meal for Christmas Day. Two reasons ... one - because I would love to treat myself and the kids to a delicious feast (thereby showing them that this is doable and realistic - hey, if Mom can do it and she didn't have any formal training, so can I) and two - it gives me the chance to push the envelope. Also, since any decent place to eat outside the home would be closed for Christmas Day, we really don't have much of a choice now, do we? 

Anyway, did you hear about the hubby who went to Costco with a mandate to get (spiral) ham and instead got (sliced) ham? Well, that was how this amazing turkey came to be. And no ... I did not lose my cool at this. After all, I was at work and had to send him off on his own to navigate through a sea of desperate consumers on Christmas Eve in the second busiest Costco in Canada (he even came home with an exciting story of drama in the parking lot!).

It's interesting to note that in the wake of this store closing the next day, everyone came to shop. Or so it seemed! For some, it is probably unbearable to know that we would be robbed of the convenience of having to be able get what we want when we want it (at opening hours of course!) and therefore we showed up and stocked up.

So yes, Costco would be closed on Christmas Day, so there was zero chance of going back to get that ham that was to be our main course. Mercifully and wearily, I resigned to this unfortunate turn of events and simply thought that ham was not to be.

With only 2 hours to spare until the last open supermarket closed on Christmas eve, I dragged hubby to his third grocery store for the day. Going through the aisles, I tried to hurry ... browsed the ham section ... didn't like the looks of it. Turkey ... naah! How about salmon ... but what to do? grilled? en croute? yikes! Wandering ... wandering ... you know ... the turkey seems like a viable option at this point.

Now ... what were we to do with it? Roasted? Tandoori? Indonesian style curry? Chinese style with soy, ginger and garlic? Still weighing my options as I sat down in front of the laptop and typed in google search 'turkey ideas' and then bam! it was one of the top 5 ... Beer Brined Turkey! Score!

Easy, peasy, this is a no-recipe recipe and I hope you try it. Why? Because it makes for such a juicy, succulent turkey. Think about how nice the gravy would be ;) And even if you have your grandmother's, mother's or your own recipe, dousing meats in beer and wine really takes it up a couple of notches. And makes great conversation. Enough said!

Fresh, or defrosted turkey (ours was a tad shy of 6 kgs), cleaned, innards removed
4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup salt
1 650 ml bottle of beer (we used a red ale)
4 cups of ice
Enough water to cover the turkey

1. In your largest stockpot (or food-grade plastic bucket reserved only for food use), dissolve the salt into the stock, then add the beer and ice.
2. Submerge turkey in the bucket. If needed, top up with water. 
In the interest of food safety, maintain the temperature of the turkey under 38º F or 4º C, for anywhere between 8 to 16 hours. Add more ice and stir if it starts to warm. 
Thankfully, turkey-centered meals are in the colder months and all I do is keep said bucket in the patio. 

12 bay leaves
2 onions, quartered
4 carrots, cut into 3
4 stalks celery, cut into 3
3 lemons, quartered
1 apple, quartered

Brined turkey, cleaned and patted dry
1 650 ml bottle of beer (we used a pineapple wheat ale)
100g (1/2 cup or 1 stick) compound butter

Compound butter:
100g softened butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp sage
Combine everything in a bowl. Ta daa!

1. Arrange the oven rack so the turkey sits on the middle third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350º F. 

2. Place turkey on a roasting pan, breast side up and wings tucked under.
3. Insert a bit of all the aromatics into the cavity of the turkey, then secure the drumsticks together.
4. Spread the rest of the vegetables and fruits on the sides and bottom of the pan.
5. Pour a bit of beer into the cavity and the rest on the pan.
6. Loosen the skin on the turkey breast and work half the butter in between the skin and flesh, 'massaging' it into every nook and cranny, even into the thighs if possible.
7. Slather the other half of the butter on top of the skin.
8. Position the turkey neatly on the pan.
9. Great, now wash your hands.

1. Cut a bit of parchment paper to cover the top of the turkey breast.
Do not skip this! Otherwise the beautiful golden skin will stick to the foil. Speaking from experience, of course!
2. Now cover the whole turkey with aluminum foil, securing it to the lip of the roasting pan.
3. Carefully place turkey on the oven rack.
4. Lower oven temperature to 325º F.
5. Cook for recommended time, making sure the internal temperature (measure by inserting a thermometer into thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone) reaches 160º F or 72º C. 
For our 5.8 kg turkey, it will take 3 hours and 15 minutes.
6. An hour before the turkey will be done, carefully remove the 'tent' to allow the skin to bronze beautifully. Save the tent.
7. At the recommended time, check that the internal temperature has been reached. If not, allow 15 minutes more cooking time.
8. When done, tent the turkey again and let rest for a good hour.
A celebrity chef once mentioned that a turkey should rest as long as the time required to cook it. A wise mom concurs. After all, it gives her enough time to do the other things that require the oven :)

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