Turkey Day in February

Turkey with Brussels Sprouts

Turkey with Brussels Sprouts

Like most American mothers, I cook turkey once a year. One of those years I cooked it twice, in order to test recipes before the big day. I quartered the bird and prepped it four different ways. The munchkins thought they were in heaven and of course, promptly chose completely different quarters as their favorites.  So, I’ve pulled the best parts of each recipe to combine into one.

This year I bought one of the “after holiday special” birds. It wasn’t until I pulled it out of the freezer  that I realized just how “special” a bird I’d picked up. Mind you, I only like dark meat, so when I read the defrosting label “breast meat only”, I blanched.  The recipe I’ve settled on takes two days of prep and here I was defrosting a bird I wouldn’t want?

Today was the day of reckoning with this recipe and I have to say, I ate every bite. It was good white meat. good

Turkey with Brussels Sprouts

Day One, Brine:

  1. a 9-12 lb turkey
  2. 1 cup kosher salt
  3. 6 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  4. 5 cloves garlic
  5. 3 apples, each of a different variety
  6. large cooler

Thaw turkey completely before starting. Crush garlic and add to a large stockpot of water.  Add rosemary and bring to a boil, then add salt, stirring until dissolved. Chop three apples into bite sized chunks. In a separate pan, dry roast apple pieces for 1 minute on medium high, stirring often to prevent burning.

Fill the bottom half of a large cooler with ice and pour the brine and apples into the cooler.  Test the water, replenishing with ice as needed until the brine is cold.  Quarter the turkey and soak in the brine overnight. (I like to do this when there is snow outside as I just set the whole cooler on the back patio.)

Day Two, The Rub:

  1. 2 Tbls. fennel seeds
  2. 2 Tbls. whole coriander seeds
  3. 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  4. 1 Tbls. dried sage and chili powder
  5. 2 glass 9″x13″ baking dishes

Roast fennel, coriander, and peppercorns in medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and fennel seed begin to darken, 2-3 minutes.  Pour spices into spice grinder or small coffee mill.  Cool and then grind spices finely and pour into tiny bowl, mix in dried sage.

Remove first turkey quarter from brine and allow to drain over sink for a moment, then place in a baking dish.  Rub spice blend under skin. I peel back any membranes as well to make sure I am rubbing directly into the meat so the spices will penetrate the whole piece.  Pull the skin back over and repeat with the remaining three pieces. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.

Day three, baste and bake:

  1. 1/2 cup butter
  2. 1/8 cup fresh sage
  3. 1/8 cup fresh rosemary
  4. zest from one orange
  5. 3 large carrots
  6. 1 fennel bulb
  7. 2 lbs Brussels sprouts
  8. 1 cup apple cider

Arrange four baking dishes in your oven before starting to make sure they fit before starting this step. I used 2 9″x13″ and two 8″ x 8″ pans and they fit fine.

Preheat oven to 375.  Melt 1/4 cup of butter and stir in sage, rosemary and orange zest.  Place each turkey piece in it’s own pan and baste entire top with butter mixture.  Arrange each pan in the oven and bake for one hour.

Clean and half the Brussels sprouts and fennel.  Slice the carrots and fennel into half inch pieces.  Remove turkey from the oven and add the Brussels sprouts to the pans. Cover whole pan with foil and return them for another hour.

Remove turkey quarters from the oven and remove meat to a large bowl or plate for a moment. Scoop sprouts to a large bread loaf pan. Add carrots and fennel and then strain the juices from the meat dish and pour over the vegetables.  Return meat to oven. Test the smaller pans for doneness with a meat thermometer.  (The smaller pieces should be done about now. Keep them covered with foil on top of the oven.)  Salt the vegetables and add the remaining butter in chunks over the vegetables. Cover vegetables with foil and place in oven.  Roast until the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each turkey piece reaches 165F, about 1/2 hour longer for larger pieces. Once removed from the oven allow to rest 30 min or so for internal temperature while tented with foil to rise an additional 5- 10 degrees and to reabsorb moisture.

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