Our family Thanksgiving dinner other than a time to give thanks of course, is also not complete without turkey. Some families prefer a baked ham or roast beef, but for our family it HAS to be turkey. About a month before thanksgiving we had decided that we would try a turkey dinner (roasted turkey with 9 side dishes) ordered from a local restaurant for an inexpensive $79.99. However, the closer we came to the actual date I just couldn't bring myself to order the turkey dinner. You see I had been cooking the Christmas turkey year after year back in Malaysia and it would get rave reviews from family and friends. So yet again, four days before thanksgiving I went and got a turkey that weighed 19.71 pounds which by the way was way more than Little Miss M who at her 15 month pediatrician's visit that same day only weighed 18 pounds 12 ounces!
Many years ago my cousin taught me how to brine the turkey which makes for a very juicy and flavorful bird. I then came up with the honey lemon herb marinade which is also used for the gravy. The result was a delicious turkey with a gravy that was slightly salty, sweet and savory. This recipe may seem a little daunting especially if you have never roasted a turkey, so just read the recipe a few times to familiarize yourself and you will be fine. Alternatively you could also use two chickens, brined for not more than 12 hours.
Before you start, ensure that you have a pot or clean bucket that is large enough to hold the turkey and make sure it can fit into your fridge! You may have to remove the bottom rack, so also ensure that you don't need the space for your other dishes.
BRINED TURKEY WITH HONEY LEMON HERB GRAVY
Roasting time: 3 – 3 ½ hours
1 cup sea salt
1 cup sugar
1 gallon cold water
2 cups apple juice
2 – 3 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp marjoram
grated zest from 1 lemon
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 11-12 pounds whole turkey, neck and giblets reserved
2 cups water
1 – 1½ cup turkey stock ( this is the juices left in the pan after roasting, please note it will be very salty)
3 level tbsp plain flour
salt & pepper to taste
Brining the turkey:
Thaw the turkey in the fridge for at least 2 days. Remove the neck and giblets and set aside. Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water, immerse the turkey and add more water if necessary to cover the turkey. Leave in the fridge to brine for 18 – 24 hours
For the marinade:
Combine apple juice and honey in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until reduced to ½ cup, then remove pan from heat. Stir in 1½ tbsp thyme, marjoram, and lemon zest. Stir in butter until melted, and season with pepper (no salt as the turkey will already be salty). Cover, and refrigerate until cold.
Roasting the turkey:
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Place rack in lower third of oven.
- Remove the turkey from the brine, wash well with cold water, drain the turkey and pat the outside and inside dry with kitchen towels,
- Place turkey on a rack set in a roasting pan. Reserve half the honey butter mixture for gravy, and rub the remaining honey butter under the skin of the breast and over the outside of turkey, being careful not to tear the skin. Pour 2 cups water into pan.
- Roast turkey for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Cover entire turkey loosely with foil. Continue roasting for about 2 hours. Remove the foil, if you have a thermometer check that the meat at the breast is 160°F. Roast the turkey uncovered for another 15 minutes to brown it. Insert a bamboo skewer into the thigh of the turkey, if the juice that runs out is clear, the turkey is cooked, if not then roast for another 10 – 15 minutes. Transfer turkey to platter, loosely cover with the foil and let stand 30 minutes.
To make the sauce:
- Bring 1½ cups of water to a boil, add in the turkey stock. In a small bowl, mix the reserved honey butter and flour until smooth. Whisk flour and butter mixture into broth mixture. Stir in remaining thyme.
- Boil, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, adding water if too thick. Note that the sauce will thicken when it is cool. Season with salt and pepper to taste.