A bounty of protein and potassium.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service recently changed the recommendations for how high a temperature cooked poultry should be cooked to. Previously, experts recommended cooking whole turkeys to 180°F (82°C) and turkey breasts to 170°F (77°C). The new cooking recommendation is 165°F (74°C) for both. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer.
Brining Solution (You will need 2 to 3 gallons (8 to 12 L) of brining solution for an 18- to 20-pound (8- to 9-kg) turkey.)
Per gallon (4 L) of water:
1 cup (300 g) sea salt or kosher (not table salt)
1/2 cup (170 g) raw honey
2 teaspoons (4 g) finely grated lemon peel, optional
2 teaspoons (4 g) orange peel, optional
1/2 tablespoon cardamom pods, optional
1 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
1 18- to 20-pound (8- to 9-kg) free-range, not self-basting, turkey
8 sprigs each of fresh rosemary (young and tender, not woody), sage, and thyme (or other herbs of your choice), rinsed and lightly dried (should total 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups or 55 to 90 g when coarsely chopped)
2 shallots, peeled and halved
1 whole head garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, or 55 g) butter, softened
2 tablespoons (28 ml) extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup (120 ml) sherry
Prep Time: Overnight to brine, overnight again for optional drying, and thirty minutes to prepare for cooking.
Cook Time: Three hours and forty-five minutes to four hours and fifteen minutes, plus twenty minutes to rest before carving.
1. Starting with 2 gallons (8 L) of water, mix the brining solution in your roasting pan by combining all ingredients in correct proportions and stirring until the salt and honey are dissolved.
2. Rinse the turkey in plain water and pat it dry. Place the turkey in a lobster pot or large stockpot. (You can also use a plastic bucket if you line it with two or three clean garbage bags.) Pour in the brining solution to cover the turkey. If you need more brine to completely immerse the turkey, mix up another gallon. Place the turkey in the refrigerator for twelve to twenty-four hours. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse very well under running water to remove all the brine, and dry thoroughly, including the cavity.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C, gas mark 6).
4. Stem and coarsely chop the herbs, setting aside about three-quarters of them (2/3 to 1 cup or 40 to 60 g herbs). Mince the remaining one-quarter (about 1/2 or 30 g) and put into a medium bowl. Add the shallots and garlic.
5. Quarter but do not peel the lemon and orange and squeeze them gently to make a little juice, tossing the fruit and juice together with the herb mixture.
6. In a small bowl, using your hands, mix the butter with the oil until creamy. Moving carefully so as not to puncture the skin, work your hand between the turkey skin and the breast as far as you can go to create a pocket over both breasts. Smear half of the butter-oil mixture over the breasts, covering as much meat as you can reach. Place half of the reserved, coarsely chopped herbs in each pocket (on top of each breast). Do this carefully and when complete, gently reshape (from the outside) the herb “pouches” above each breast to look rounded and smooth. Salt and pepper the inside of both cavities and stuff them with the fruit and herb mixture. Tuck the wings behind the back, tuck the skin folds over the cavities to close, and truss the legs. Smear the entire bird with the remaining butter-olive oil mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slowly pour the sherry inside of the breast pockets, working it around to the leg joints.
7. Place a V rack inside of a roasting pan and cover it with foil. Poke about fifteen holes into the foil. Place the turkey on the V rack, breast side down. Bake for forty-five minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (170°C, gas mark 3). Turn the turkey bird breast side up, baste (you can supplement the juices with a few tablespoons of sherry if you wish), cover with foil, and continue to cook for two and a half to three hours more, depending on the size of the turkey.
8. Remove the foil to brown the breast and continue to cook for another thirty to forty minutes, or until the thickest part of the breast and innermost parts of thighs and wings register 165°F (74°C) on a meat thermometer. (When the turkey is done, the legs should roll loosely on the joint, and the leg juices should run clear.)
9. Let the turkey rest on a cutting board for about twenty minutes before carving.
Yield: For turkeys weighing more than 12 pounds, allow .5 to .75 pounds (225 to 340 g) per person, so an 18-pound (8-kg) turkey can serve between twenty-four to thirty-six people.