Cider Brined and Grill Roasted Turkey

Do brine or not to brine?
In my opinion, brining is worth it – all you need is time. Follow these steps, and you will have an unfailingly moist and flavorful turkey with a crisp and crackly skin.

Brined, Air-Dried, and Grill-Roasted Turkey

My favorite way to make a turkey is to brine it – not dry brine, but in a liquid, for 24 hours. Then I remove it from the brine and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to dry out. This ensures that the skin will not be soggy, but sufficiently dry of moisture so that it will roast, or in this case grill, to crispy perfection. Before roasting, I allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour, to ensure even cooking, and then I roast it on the grill. The grill? Yep. Not only am I partial to my gas grill for all sorts of cooking, I only have one oven. So when the holidays roll around and the kitchen and its appliances kick into overtime, I rely on my handy outdoor grill to step in for roasting. It’s simple to do over indirect heat, much like the indirect heat of your oven. Just pay attention to the temperature, and rotate the turkey for even cooking. The added bonus is that the grill will burnish your turkey a gorgeous mahogany color, a hue I have never achieved in my kitchen oven. So there you have it.

The turkey pictured is a 20 pounder, but generally, I roast a 16 to 18 pound bird. My family and I don’t like stuffings, so I fill the cavity of the turkey with handfuls of herbs, a quartered onion, and a quartered lemon, while taking care not to pack in too much. Once the turkey has finished cooking and while it’s resting (for at least 30 minutes) I remove the herbs and wedges and replace with a fresh bunch of herbs for decoration before carving. This step is necessary in order to show off the gorgeous results – and, boy, are they gorgeous.

So, go ahead and work these simple steps into your pre-Thanksgiving plan. You can do one step a day: Begin on Monday with the brine and finish with grilling on Thursday for a spectacular Thanksgiving turkey. It’s worth it.

Cider Brine:
3 quarts water, divided
1 quart apple cider
1 cup kosher salt
1 medium onion, quartered
1 small bunch fresh sage and/or rosemary sprigs
3 garlic cloves, smashed but intact
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
Peeled zest of one orange

To brine the turkey, you will need enough space in your refrigerator for a container large enough to hold your turkey submerged in the brine. This can be cumbersome, but it’s worth it, in my book.  I have used a plastic storage box in the past, but now rely on a cooler, in which I pour the brine directly to cover the turkey. I then leave the cooler outside overnight (note: this is only practical if the outside temperature is as cold as your refrigerator).

1. Make the brine: Combine 1 to 2 quarts water, the salt, onion, sage or rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and the orange zest in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and add the remaining water and the cider; cool thoroughly (or chill overnight).

2. Brine the turkey: Place the turkey in the brine. If not fully submerged, then add more water to cover. Refrigerate overnight.

3. Air-dry the turkey: Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry inside the cavity and outside. Place on a rack in a large roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

4. Grill the turkey: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting or grilling. To grill: Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat (325°F). Grill until thoroughly cooked, rotating the turkey every hour and basting every 30 minutes or so with pan juices. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Cranberry Sauce 2.0
Add a little zing to your sauce

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without cranberry sauce. And while I have nothing against the traditional sugary cranberry combination, I find I crave an extra depth of flavor in the standard sauce – and so I devised this chutney. What I like about chutney is it’s a combination of fruit and savory ingredients, and not timid about incorporating herbs, spices, and even a kick of heat. In other words, it nails many of the flavor senses (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, heat) that, to me, yield a more satisfying mouthful.

In this chutney, dried figs add a mellow, nutty sweetness, and fresh ginger and orange add perfume and zing, all of which balance out the cranberries’ natural astringency, while allowing them to remain the star of the show – after all we’re talking Thanksgiving here.

The good news is that this chutney is not exclusively for the Thanksgiving table. It also makes a great condiment for other fruit-loving proteins such as pork, duck, and lamb. I like to serve it as an accompaniment on a cheese platter as well, or dabbed on goat cheese-smeared crostini.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes about 2 cups

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

1. Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

Cranberry Fig Chutney

~ Cranberry, Fig & Rosemary Chutney ~

Thanksgiving dinner is simply not complete without a cranberry sauce. While I have nothing against the traditional cranberry-sugar combination, I often find missing an extra layer or kick of flavor – so I devised this chutney. Chutneys are concoctions of sweet and savory fruit, spices and herbs, resulting in a well-rounded mouthful that pops in your mouth. This recipe is not heavily weighed down by too many spices, so the humble cranberry shines through – which, of course, is a requisite for Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

This chutney is not just for the Thanksgiving table. Use it as a condiment for roasted pork, duck and chicken. It’s also delicious when served as a condiment on a cheese board, or dabbed on crostini with soft goat cheese. Makes about 2 cups.

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger (I use a microplane)
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

Place the figs in a small bowl. Pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes. When the figs are ready, place the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).