In a special week-long Thanksgiving series on “Today,” expert chefs share recipes on how to cook a turkey five ways. Roasted turkey and gravy may be the tradition, but down south a little deep frying goes along way. Here with a recipe that will get your family gobbling is Patrick Mould, executive chef of The Louisiana School of Cooking in Saint Martinville, La. Check them out below.
THE PERFECT THANKSGIVING TURKEY: BRINED AND HICKORY SMOKED
Serves 12 to 14
Advanced preparation: 16 hours for brining the turkey.
Let’s face it, a lot of bad turkey gets served every Thanksgiving. The problem has less to do with human error than with avian anatomy. The reason is that the delicate white meat of the turkey breast cooks faster than the dark, rich meat of the legs and thighs. So if you cook a turkey to a safe temperature (180 degrees), the breast is almost guaranteed to dry out. There is a way around this problem, however: brine the bird and roast it on the grill. A barbecued turkey has at least four compelling advantages: the low slow heat cooks the bird through without drying it out; it offers the haunting flavor of wood smoke; it takes the fuss and mess outside (liberating your oven for stuffing, roasted chestnuts, and other essential side dishes); and most importantly, it gives you an excuse to spend the afternoon outdoors, beer in hand, bonding with your barbecue buddies. As for brining, this means nothing more than marinating the bird overnight in salt water. By the mystical process of osmosis, the brine moisturizes the meat, adding succulence as well as flavor. For a New England touch-and northern earthy sweetness-I like to add a fillip of Vermont maple syrup.
Tip: The key to brining is not to overdo it. Too much salt or excessive soaking will give the turkey the unnatural texture and flavor of commercial lunchmeats. You’ll need a big pot for brining-I use a stockpot. In a pinch, you could brine the turkey in a clean plastic garbage bag. Note the use of a water filled zip top bag to keep the bird completely submerged.
1 12 pound turkey
For the brine:
1-1/4 cups salt
1 quart hot water
4 quarts cold water
1 cup maple syrup
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a cleaver
5 bay leaves
4 strips lemon zest
4 to 6 tablespoons melted salted butter
Maple red eye gravy
The night before, unwrap the turkey, remove the giblets from the main and front cavity, and wash the bird inside and out.
Make the brine. Place the salt and 1 quart hot water in a large deep pot and whisk until salt crystals are dissolved. Whisk in the cold water and maple syrup and add the onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon zest, and cloves. The mixture should be no warmer than room temperature: if it’s hot or warm, let cool. Add the turkey. Place a large zip top bag filled with cold water on top to keep the bird submerged. Place the turkey in the refrigerator and let marinate overnight.
Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in center and toss the wood chips on the coals. If using a gas grill, place the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium. If using a smoker, light and set it up according to the manufacturers instructions and preheat to 275 degrees.
Place the turkey on the grate over the drip pan away from the fire. Brush with melted butter. Indirect grill until cooked, 2-1/2 to 3 hours. (Use an instant read thermometer to test for doneness-the turkey is ready when the thigh meat is 180 degrees.) If using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals and wood chips every hour. Baste the turkey with melted butter every hour. If the skin starts to brown too much, tent the bird with foil. On a kettle grill, you’ll probably need to tent the sides closest to the piles of coals. If using a smoker, you’ll need to cook the bird about 3-1/2 to 4 hours.
Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the following gravy.
MAPLE RED EYE GRAVY
Makes 3 cups
Turkey is only as good as the gravy you spoon over it. This may be about the best gravy you’ve ever tasted, enriched as it is with smoked turkey drippings, Madeira, and for an unexpected touch, splashes of coffee and maple syrup. Note: the easiest way to defat the turkey drippings is to use a fat separating gravy boat (the sort whose spout comes off the bottom). Fat rises, so when you pour off the drippings, the fat stays in the gravy boat.
2 cups turkey drippings
1 to 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup Madeira wine
1/4 cup coffee
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Strain the turkey drippings into a fat separating gravy boat. Wait a few minutes, then pour the drippings into a large measuring cup, stopping when the fat starts to come out. Add enough chicken stock to obtain 3 cups.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook until a dark golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the Madeira, coffee, cream, maple syrup, and the turkey drippings with stock. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, whisking steadily. Simmer the sauce over medium heat until richly flavored and reduced to about 3 cups, 6 to 10 minutes. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
You’ll need some special equipment to deep fry a turkey. Many people start with a turkey frying “kit” which contains most of the equipment needed for this cooking process. These kits are sold in many supermarkets and other retail outlets. The equipment includes the following:
A burner that hooks to a propane gas tank to heat the oil
A propane tank hose and regulator
A large pot - typically with a 30 quart capacity with stand
A lifting rack to lower the turkey safely into the hot oil and remove it from the pot
A deep-frying thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil
A meat thermometer
Marinade and injector
Oven gloves or mitts
At least three gallons of peanut oil
Paper towels to remove excess moisture from turkey
A 10 to 12 pound fresh or completely thawed turkey
Always start with a fresh or completely thawed turkey... never use a frozen or partially frozen turkey as it will cause the hot oil to foam and possibly spill. Be sure to remove the giblets and neck from the interior of the turkey before frying.
Mix and load Cajun Marinade into an injector. Use about one ounce of marinade for every pound of turkey. Inject marinade into breast, thighs and drumsticks at several points to evenly distribute throughout the bird. Let stand at least 10 minutes prior to cooking.
Most recipes recommend seasoning only on the outside of the turkey. However, Chef Mould finds it just darkens the outside of the turkey and lessens the eye appeal. Since you’ve injected the turkey, you’ve already captured the seasoning on the inside.
If you are not ready to fry the turkey, cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
Heat the oil
Heat the oil to 350F. This typically takes about 45 minutes. Make sure to use the deep-frying thermometer to monitor oil temperature. Never leave the oil unattended. Peanut oil will begin to smoke at about 425F. If the oil begins to smoke, check temperature and lower the heat immediately.
Once the turkey has been prepared and marinated and the oil reaches 350F, it is time to place the turkey in the pot and fry it.
STEP ONE: FRYING THE TURKEY
Place the turkey in the basket, breast side up. Lower the turkey into the hot oil very slowly and carefully while wearing thick gloves or oven mitts. The oil will froth and bubble as it goes in. Be careful the oil doesn’t spill over.
Keep the oil between 325 and 350F. Allow the turkey to cook four minutes per pound (48 minutes for a 12-pound turkey).
STEP TWO: REMOVING THE TURKEY
After the turkey has fried for the allotted time, shut off the gas to the fryer. Using the oven mitts, lift the fryer basket from the oil. Allow the oil to drain from the bird while holding the basket over the pot.
STEP THREE: INSERT MEAT THERMOMETER
Move the basket quickly to a nearby area that has been lined with paper bags or a pan catch in order to avoid dripping oil. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh. It should register at least 180F. You can return the turkey to the fryer if necessary, and cook for an additional five minutes to bring it up to the required temperature. Step Four: Wrap the fried turkey in aluminum foil and let stand for about twenty minutes before carving.
Carry-over cooking will finish cooking the turkey outside the oil, bringing it up to the proper temperature and allowing the juices to circulate back through the meat.
STEP FIVE: CLEAN UP
Allow the oil to cool completely before moving the cooking pot or attempting to strain or store the oil.