I know we all just had turkey for Thanksgiving but I figure a lot of you will do it again for Christmas. Here’s our family’s traditional bird. It’s one of our few meals that is true to my Southern heritage, without a hint of garlic or Italian influence.
I’ve never seen anyone outside of my family use roux for turkey. My grandmother always did it that way but I have no idea where she learned it, although I suppose being a Mississippi native and then living in Louisiana had something to do with it. My mother followed suit and then so did I. Over the years I’ve changed it up a bit, mostly by adding all the fresh herbs. For us, picking on the roux after the bird comes out of the oven is a major part of our Thanksgiving tradition. We call it “the stuff” and it’s really divine. Also, the bits that fall into the roaster pan make the perfect base for gravy.
Brining has been a relatively new addition to the process. I’ve added a bunch of herbs to the brine in the past but found that they’re really not needed. The herbs in the roux and in the bird itself are plenty of flavor. The combination of brining and roasting with a roux make for a very moist and flavorful bird.
Starting with a fully thawed bird, get it in the brine the night before so it has about 12 hours to soak.
- Kosher Salt, one cup
- Brown Sugar, one cup
- Peppercorns, 1/3 cup
- Sage Leaves, optional
Combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns and sage with a gallon of water. Stir it together and let it sit for a bit and it will all dissolve without having to heat it first. Meanwhile unwrap the turkey and remove the giblets and so forth. Trim away any excess fat and rinse the bird well.
Be sure to get the packet that always seems to be stuffed in the neck cavity. The first time I cooked a turkey I was feeling oh-so-grown up and proud to be hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner. Then we started to carve the bird and discovered a little bag of turkey parts that I’d missed. Oops! Submerse the bird in the brine solution. I’ve got this giant stock put that just barely holds it all. It goes into the garage fridge for the night. A small cooler is a good alternative. Just add plenty of ice, sealed in plastic bags, to the cooler to keep it cold overnight.
Now, on to the next morning…
- Butter, two sticks
- Flour, a couple of cups
- Fresh Herbs – this prepackaged combination of Rosemary, Sage, Marjoram and Thyme was really convenient! Leave some whole for stuffing in the cavity. Snip a whole bunch more for mixing into the roux.
- Salt and Pepper
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it just starts to sizzle. Stir in the flour, starting with about a cup. Cook and stir, gradually adding more flour, until it becomes a thick paste and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cook until it’s just starting to brown but be careful not to let it burn. This will be a very blond roux.Stir in the herbs, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let it cool.While the roux is cooling, remove the turkey from the brine. Drain it well and pat dry.Stuff a bunch of herbs into the cavity and a few beneath the skin if you’d like.Coat the bird with the roux, pressing it to get it to stick.Roast uncovered at 325. Follow your standard cooking time for an unstuffed bird. Baste every so often with the pan drippings and/or a little turkey stock.
While the turkey is roasting, simmer the neck bones in a bit of water. After the meat is cooked through, take out the bones. The bit of meat and stock will make a great addition to the gravy in a little while.When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and let it sit for a while. Be sure to taste the crusty, buttery roux!Remove the turkey from the roaster pan.Set the roaster pan on the stove. Skim any easily removed fat from the roux and drippings that are in the pan. Over low heat, stir in the neck meat/stock.Continue stirring, adding more purchased turkey stock as needed.You can carve the bird at the table if you like. We always find it easier to do it before serving.