Monday, April 9, 2012

Brining, burning, dropping and drinking!

How to make the best turkey by brining, catching on fire, dropping on the floor and carving drunk…

I wanted to brine a turkey for Easter.  Never done it before, only seen it done before and never had the pleasure to taste one before, so what the hell…Then I got it into my head that I wanted to BBQ this brined bird, but alas our gas grill is kaput so the next best thing, my charcoal grill and the 3 huge logs of cherry wood someone gave me last fall…I’m a genius I think to myself with an egotistical smile spreading across my face.  I call my friends and there are now 5 coming over for dinner.  Too bad my hubby is going to miss the fun!

What to do first? Obviously put a call into my butcher at Black Angus and have them set aside a small fresh turkey, about 10 pounds.  I’ll pick it up Saturday morning.

I get the turkey home Saturday morning and I realize I don’t have any salt for the brine…duh.  I have celery salt though…here’s my brine recipe for a 10ish pound fresh turkey.

2 cups celery salt
10 bay leaves
10 whole cloves
10 whole garlic cloves, smashed
2 large onions cut into large pieces
A handful of coriander seed
A handful of fennel seed
5-10 Star Anise
Some pepper corns
Some juniper berries (optional)
Some chicken stock

Mix all ingredients and warm the liquid until the salt dissolves.  This liquid must be cold before pouring over the turkey as you don’t want to warm the turkey, which could cause some nasty bacteria to form.

I split my turkey down the back and pressed it flat so it would cook faster on my BBQ but you can leave it whole.  Remove giblets and set aside to make the gravy.  Place turkey in garbage bag and pour in brine, pour in enough water to cover the bird.  Place bag in bucket, then in fridge for 12-16 hours.

Remove turkey and rinse thoroughly so the bird isn’t salty.  Discard the brining liquid.  Put the bird in the fridge uncovered for at least 2 hours so the skin can dry out (makes for a crispier skin if you are roasting in the oven).

Now my story gets interesting.  I traipse down into our basement and find 2 hatchets.  Roll one of my huge chunks of cherry wood out the back yard and start chopping away.  I was doing a pretty good job too.  Although one chop got a little violent…Let me set the scene:

I’m rather little, so I swing my axe pretty high and it comes down with a lot of weight or else the axe will bounce off the wood like a rubber ball against a dog’s forehead.  So I give her a swing, miss the wood, the axe goes in between my legs and slips out of my hands, flies up and across the yard and ends up wedged in the neighbour’s fence…fortunately there wasn’t a cat or squirrel in the vicinity at the time.

I decide after about 30 minutes of chopping I have enough wood to host a Burning Man party.  I fill the bbq with newspaper and set it on fire, cover with charcoal then light the paper on fire again, and again, and again… finally the charcoal catches so I start to stack the cherry wood into the fire.  Then have to go into the house to get more paper and more matches, this goes on for about an hour.  Finally I have a roaring fire and the neighbourhood is full of smoke.  The grills go into the bbq and I throw on the turkey, not thinking that maybe I really should have waited until the fire went out and coals just kept the place warm.  I close the lid go in the house and fill up my wine glass and 10 minutes later decide to check on the bird – well it’s on fire.  Yup ON FIRE.  So I pull it off the fire and am able to put out the flames, well the skin sure looks nice and crisp, and I remember then and there that I have to let the flames go out before bbqing.  I take the bird into the house and put it in the oven and go and deal with the bbq.  Finally the flames are out and it is perfect for cooking.  I have to then refill my wine glass because it ended up on grass when I realized the turkey was on fire…

I take the turkey out of the oven and as I do so, I realize there is a hole in my oven mitts, the tray is pretty hot and burning a hole through my index finger and so I had to drop the turkey on the floor.  All I can say is I’m glad I just vacuumed 5 minutes previously.  The cat comes in and helps me lift it back onto the tray and cleans up the floor.  Thanks Goober for being so helpful now go refill my wine glass!

Finally the turkey is on the charcoal, I then decide to sit in the back yard, wool blanket on my lap, warmth from the bbq and study for my chef exam when it starts to rain – sigh.  One hour later the turkey is done.  I roast some carrots, make a Tarte Tatin  The rest is delicious history and one of the best turkeys I have ever eaten!  Even the dog Jack and the cat Goober stood patiently side by side while I was drunkenly trying to carve the turkey.

P.S.: Here’s my recipe for LOTS of Gravy:

Put in a sauce pot all the giblets, cut up carrots, an onion or 2, I used the tops off fresh fennel, you can also use celery, some red wine, bay leaves, thyme and finally cover with water.  Bring to a boil and turn down to medium.  Let simmer away, when the liquid has reduced by half, add cold water, do this 2, 3 or 4 times, the more times you reduce by half and add cold water the richer your gravy.  To thicken, mix together equal amounts by weight of butter (no margarine) and flour, add a little at a time until your desired thickness!  mmmmmm