Sunday, September 19, 2010

Delicious Turkey Recipe

In honor of Kai's brother's long belated birthday, we had a turkey dinner yesterday.  It's what he asked for this year after the turkey dinner we had for the holidays.  I don't cook meat at home very often because I'm nervous it won't turn out.  We're not completely vegetarian, but were for many years and so I never really became skilled at cooking meat.  We mainly eat vegetarian at home, but I cook salmon once in a while and then about once a year a turkey.  I was terrified the first time I cooked a turkey at home.  I meticulously followed the recipe to make sure I wouldn't ruin it.  After all, a turkey dinner is a fairly large undertakting for someone who doesn't regularly cook meat.  So many people were counting on a nice turkey dinner, and it was up to me to deliver it.  Talk about a nail biting experience!  Thankfully my first experience was a success.  

Last year I looked around for a different recipe because I've heard people talk of all different ways to cook a bird and wanted to try something different.  I stumbled onto Martha Stewart's page and found a great recipe.  The secret to this one is really 2 parts:  first of all it soaks in a seasoned Riesling brine for 24 hours which cleans, moistens, and flavors the the turkey.  It's probably the most moist turkey I've ever had.  But that is also in part due to the second step which requires covering the turkey with a soaked cheesecloth and basting every half an hour.  The cheesecloth turns completely black and I thought for sure I was ruining the turkey the first time I made it, but when I took it off, the turkey was beautifully golden and so extremely moist.  So, here's the recipe.  It's pretty long and detailed.  The first step is the brining, then of course the baking.  It uses a Riesling brine mixture that completely cooks out while the turkey is baking but gives it a nice flavor.  

Happy Baking!! 

Step 1: Brining the Turkey:

What You'll Need:

Soaking a turkey overnight in a solution of salt and water ensures moist results. When you add aromatics to the brine, the resulting roast is also infused with a subtle character all its own. Follow our instructions to prepare a perfect brined turkey for your next feast.
Makes enough brine for one 18- to 20-pound turkey

7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), patted dry, neck and giblets reserved for stock, liver reserved for stuffing
1 bottle dry Riesling
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme
Tools and Materials 5-gallon brining container (tub, stockpot, or bucket)
Large brining or oven-roasting bag
Refrigerator (or a cooler with ice)

Step 2:  Cooking the Turkey: 
              1 Turkey Brine

  • 2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 parsnips, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, cut into 6 wedges
  • 2 white turnips, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, plus 4 tablespoons, at room temperature
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper


  1. Remove turkey from brine. Discard brine. Pat turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Place carrots, parsnips, celery, onion, and white turnips in bottom of a roasting pan. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Fold wing tips under turkey. Let stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
  2. Place rack on lowest level in oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine melted butter and white wine in a bowl. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters and cut into a 17-inch, 4-layer square. Immerse cheesecloth in the butter and wine; let soak.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper inside turkey. Fill large cavity loosely with as much stuffing as it will hold comfortably; do not pack tightly. (Cook remaining stuffing in a buttered baking dish at 375 degrees.) Tie legs together loosely with kitchen string (a bow will be easy to untie later). Fold neck flap under and secure with toothpicks. Rub turkey with the softened butter and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper.
  4. Lift cheesecloth out of liquid and squeeze it slightly, leaving it very damp. Spread it evenly over the breast and about halfway down the sides of the turkey; it can cover some of the leg area. Place turkey, legs first, in oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, baste cheesecloth and exposed parts of turkey with butter and wine. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 2 1/2 more hours, basting every 30 minutes and watching pan juices; if the pan gets too full, spoon out juices, reserving them for gravy.
  5. After the third hour of cooking, carefully remove and discard cheesecloth. Turn roasting pan so that the breast is facing the back of the oven. Baste turkey with pan juices. If there are not enough juices, continue to use the butter and wine. The skin get fragile as it browns, so baste carefully. Cook 1 more hour, basting after 30 minutes.
  6. After the fourth hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke into a bone. The temperature should reach 180 degrees (stuffing should be between 140 degrees and 160 degrees) and the turkey should be golden brown. The breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not yet fully cooked, baste turkey, return to oven, and cook another 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer turkey to a platter, reserving pan juices. Let turkey stand 30 minutes before carving.


  1. MMMMMMMMMMM........Looks so good! could almost smell it. Now you hopefully have turkey leftovers-sandwiches with cranberry sauce!! Your making us hungry!!! Love ya HUGS!!!

  2. GUARANTEED the most fabulous turkey ever....just wish I'd gotten a bite!!!