Some folks scoff at the choice to brine their holiday turkeys, but once we began doing it in my family, it's been prepared that way ever since. I've noticed that no matter which oven I've cooked a brined turkey in every year, the sugars and aromatics in the liquid do most of the work and basically act as a bit of cooking insurance for a delicious bird with crispy, bronzed skin and juicy meat inside, every time.
Once I began roasting a few turkeys a year whether for work or events, I found this combination for the brine to be most favorable. The applejack provides a little edgy flavor and works hand-in-hand with the maple syrup and apple cider. Roasting the andouille sausages along with the turkey at the end makes for absolutely delicious pan juices.
Technique tip: If you're like my family and want to eat right away once dinner is served rather than wait for the turkey to be carved by the slice, there's one tip I have. (And please keep an open mind.) Cook the turkey the night before, carve and store the meat in a container with the pan juices and cooked sausages. When you warm it up the next day, the meat will be tender and tasty, and the extra time you get to spend with everyone will make up for the lack of table centerpiece.
- 1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 cup kosher salt, plus more
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 small onions, 1 sliced for brine and 1 quartered for roasting
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup applejack liquor
- 12 ounces sparkling cider
- 8 ounces cola
- 1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, defrosted
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds andouille sausages, sliced to the edge and 1/2-inch thick
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound white button or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup turkey drippings, skimmed and strained
- 4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium vegetable, turkey or chicken stock
- 1-2 tablespoons gochujang
- 1 teaspoon hondashi (Japanese granule soup stock powder)
- 1½ tablespoons white miso paste
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
For the turkey:1.
On a low heat at the bottom of a large pot, toast the black peppercorns, thyme, ground allspice and smoked paprika for about 2 minutes to release their oils. Shuffle the pot or gently stir them around with a wooden spatula every 30 seconds or so to make sure the spices don't burn. When 2 minutes are finished, turn off the heat.2.
To your large pot, add kosher salt, brown sugar, sliced onion, garlic, bay leaves, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, applejack and about a gallon of water, and bring to a low boil.3.
Let the liquid simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Once the brine is cooled, add in the hard cider and cola.4.
Place the turkey in a plastic brining bag or a lined, clean bucket or storage container that's big enough to hold it. Carefully pour the brine over the turkey, making sure it's completely submerged. Refrigerate or hold the turkey in a cold area for about 8 hours or overnight. If the turkey is already completely covered, discard any excess brine that may be leftover. If it needs a little more, just gradually add in some cold salt water.5.
Preheat your oven to 450 F.6.
Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine.7.
Remove giblets and neck from the insides and set aside (for whatever delicious thing you'll want to make with them later!). Bind the turkey legs together with kitchen twine.8.
Season the cavity of the bird with salt and pepper, and place in the remaining quartered onion.9.
Place turkey in a roasting pan and roast it at 450 F for 30 minutes (it might get a little smoky in the oven but will only be temporary).10.
Then, lower the oven heat to 325 F and let it continue roasting. Calculate your cooking time: The turkey will roast for 15 minutes per pound, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh registers somewhere between 160 F and 165 F.11.
At 30 minutes until the end of roasting, take out the turkey from the oven and place on a heat-safe surface, shutting the oven door to preserve the heat inside as much as possible. With tongs, carefully place the close-sliced andouille sausages in the roasting pan around the turkey. Then, carefully put your turkey back in the oven to roast for the remainder of its time.12.
When your turkey's done, carefully remove it from the oven, loosely cover it with foil and let the turkey rest about 25 to 30 minutes before carving, reserving the drippings for the gravy. Separate sausage slices and serve along with the turkey.
For the gochujang-mushroom gravy:1.
In a small saucepan over low heat, toast the ground black pepper, thyme, smoked paprika and mustard powder for about 2 minutes, shuffling the spices in the pan every 30 seconds or so to help toast them all thoroughly.2.
After the spices are done toasting, raise the heat to medium-low heat add in the olive oil and shallots, tossing them with a wooden spatula to cook all together. Cook the shallots in olive oil until they're golden-brown, add in garlic and cook for another minute.3.
Add in your sliced mushrooms and stir to cook until the mushrooms shrink considerably and cook out their liquid.4.
Add in the cornstarch and continue whisking until it's completely absorbed.5.
Add in your turkey drippings and continue whisking, occasionally shaking out mushrooms from the whisk. Gradually pour in the stock, cup by cup, and keep whisking to smooth out any cornstarch lumps.6.
Then, add in the gochujang, miso paste, hondashi and sesame oil, whisking until the miso paste and gochujang have dissolved, and let the gravy come to a low boil.7.
Once the mixture comes to a boil, set the heat to low and let it continue to simmer, whisking occasionally for about 5 minutes, until it's thickened and reduced down.8.
Remove the gravy from the heat (discarding the thyme sprigs, if using) and serve hot.