dry-brined turkey with orange

dry-brined turkey with orange

The bird only fit for one month of the year is back! December is of course month of the turkey (I’ve tried to buy a turkey at other points in the year and it costs a fortune).

I’d been very pleased with brining a whole turkey last year and was all set to do the same again. Just as I filled my enormous container ready to bath, I started flicking through a few online articles just for any interesting ideas. I came across this article comparing brining techniques by the impressive J. Kenji López-Alt. Most surprisingly of all, he advocated so-called “dry-brining” based on some detailed research. Crucially, you get an easy recipe that promotes succulence and flavour without diluting the turkey taste. And this is certainly what you get. The turkey comes out crisp, tasty and moist and is easily the best way to eat it. Brilliant.

I combined it here with some orange flavourings to bring out the best of the meat and add a festive zing. It could easily be adapted with another citrus fruit or left out altogether. I’ve also paired it with Jamie Oliver’s sensational get-ahead gravy with some turbo-charging flavours, which is definitely becoming an annual tradition in my house.

Many thanks to Jen at GolinHarris for the turkey and seasonal ingredients. The turkey was an excellent Seldom Seen bird and was truly delicious.

Dry-brined turkey with orange (serves millions, as turkey always does):

For the gravy:

1kg chicken wings / drumsticks etc

1 bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

1 onion, quartered

1 celery stick, chopped

1 glass white wine

1 tablespoon flour

1 Knorr chicken stock pot

For the turkey:

5kg turkey

Table salt

1 large orange

  1. The gravy can be made well in advance and frozen until required. To make this, preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the chicken pieces, herbs and vegetables and roast for an hour. Bring on to the hob over a medium heat and add the wine. Scrape away at all the crusty goodness on the bottom of the roasting tray for a minute and then shake over the flour. Stir well for a further couple of minutes, and then add the stock pot and enough boiling water to cover. Bring to the boil and then simmer for another 30 minutes, before straining into a freezer bag. Freeze until needed.
  2. For the turkey, untie the turkey and remove all the gubbins you get with it. Dust the turkey generously with salt so there is a fine layer over all of it. Grate the zest of the orange liberally all over too (retain the orange halves). Cover loosely with a tea-towel and put in the fridge overnight to let the salt do its magic.
  3. The next day preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the turkey from the fridge and remove the excess salt – do not rinse it under the tap as you will be losing flavour here. Instead use a damp kitchen towel to wipe off the excess. Cut the orange as necessary and stuff inside the cavity. Grind over plenty of pepper and put in the oven.
  4. Meanwhile, in a pan add turkey trimmings, giblets etc and cover with water. Simmer for 45 minutes to make a light turkey stock.
  5. After an hour and a half, check the turkey temperature at various points of the bird, looking for it to go over 70°C. Check every half hour until ready, and cover well to rest before carving.
  6. While the turkey rests, warm up the gravy. Add resting juices from the turkey, any interesting bits from the resting, and add the turkey stock. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Carve the turkey and serve with lashings of gravy, and of course plenty of roast potatoes.


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