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.

Wined and Brined Pork Rib Roast

Wined and Brined Pork Rib Roast

Round 3 Charcutepalooza challenge: The Brine – and a Pork Rib Roast

I love brines. Give me an extra 24 hours, a box of sea salt and some spices, and I will happily submerge poultry and meat in a liquid bath. A long soak adds moisture to the protein while it brines for hours or even days, ensuring succulent results. This  month’s Charcutepalooza challenge dictated a brine, and I chose pork for several reasons. Lean pork meat can easily dry out, so it is a perfect candidate for moisture inducing brines. I also confess that I like pork best when it’s fortified and embellished with strong umami flavors and marinades, smoothing out the pork’s, er, porky flavor.

To this brine I added white wine, inspired by a pleasant memory of an exquisite roasted pork saddle we enjoyed at Incanto Restaurant in San Francisco. While a recipe was never divulged, Chef Chris Cosentino shared with us that he marinated the pork in wine for several days. And he knows his pork – which rocks. So, inspired by this memory and Charcutapalooza, I made this pork rib roast.

Wined and Brined Pork Rib Roast

If possible, let the pork brine for several days. I brined this roast for 4 days, and the results were flavorful, juicy and tender. Serves 8.

For the brine:
4 quarts water, divided
1 – 750 ml. bottle dry white wine
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup coarse sea salt or kosher salt
8 sage leaves
4 rosemary sprigs
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 pork rib roast, with 8 bones

For the roast:
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 sage leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine 1 quart water and remaining brine ingredients (not the pork) in a pot large enough to hold the roast. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat, stir in remaining 3 quarts of water and cool completely. Add pork. If pork is not entirely submerged, add additional water to cover. Cover pot and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 4 days.

Roast the pork:
3 hours before roasting, remove the pork from the brine and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and refrigerate, uncovered.
Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Smash garlic, rosemary, peppercorns and sage leaves in a mortar with pestle. Whisk in mustard, lemon juice and olive oil. Smear the paste all over the pork. Place on a rack in a baking pan. Roast in a preheated 400 F. oven until an instant-read thermometer registers 140 F. Let the pork roast rest 20 minutes before carving. Serve garnished with sage leaves and lemon wedges.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and now partnering with Food52. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Holiday Entertaining: Salmon Gravlax

Holiday Entertaining: Salmon Gravlax

You say Christmas, and I say Gravlax. The holiday season is not complete without executing a recipe for home-cured salmon gravlax. Don’t be daunted. This is an entertainer’s dream. The salmon is easily prepared in advance and stowed in the refrigerator to cure for 2 days. All you need to do is unwrap and remove the spice cure, slice and serve. The results are the essence of Nordic cuisine: minimal and elegant. Fennel, dill and pepper fleck the meltingly soft salmon which tastes of the sea. How can you argue with that?

Gravlax (gravlaks in Danish and Norwegian or gravad lax in Swedish) literally means salmon in a grave or hole.  During the middle ages fisherman would salt salmon and let it ferment by burying it in a hole above high-tide line. Nowadays it’s not necessary to bury salmon in sand, but, rather in salt and sugar and banish it to the refrigerator.  The salmon will cure over several days, during which the salt and sugar will turn into liquid, creating a brine.

Salmon Gravlax

Serves a party.

Salt and sugar are necessary ingredients for curing, while fresh or dried herbs, peppercorns, citrus or spirits are frequently added to the brine for additional flavor. This recipe adds dill, fennel, peppercorns and akavit for flavor and spice. Choose a fish which is very fresh with a firm consistency. I use an Atlantic fish, such as Loch Duart Salmon.

One side of salmon, about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) with skin, pin bones removed
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
10 ounces (350 g) sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup fresh dill sprigs, chopped
1 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
1/4 cup Akavit or vodka

Lightly toast the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar and finely ground to a powder. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the salt and sugars. Rub the fish all over with the spices mix.

Line a long baking pan or dish with plastic wrap.  Place half of the dill sprigs and half of the fennel fronds over the plastic wrap.  Arrange the salmon, skin-side down on the herbs.  Sprinkle the Akavit over the salmon. Top with the remaining dill and fennel. Cover with additional plastic wrap, sealing the fish.  Place a heavy pan or tray on the fish. Weigh down the pan with cans or bottles.  Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

To serve, remove the fish from refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap. Pour off the collected juices and wipe off excess brine and dill.  Slice diagonally from one corner of the salmon towards the center of the fillet.

Fold a slice of gravlax on toasted brioche bread or white bread.  Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice and smear a spoonful of Honey Dill Mustard on the fish.  Garnish with a dill sprig.

Honey Dill Mustard

1/4 cup honey mustard
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup chopped dill sprigs
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify.  Stir in the dill, pepper and salt.