Vaughn Good is not a huge fan of turkey: He plans on smoking a duck this year.
Growing up, Good recalls large family gatherings with his grandma in Oklahoma. She served ham and beans instead of turkey, and chocolate sheet cake instead of pumpkin pie.
When asked for his take on Thanksgiving turkey, Good relied on the brine he uses for the hams sold at his year-old restaurant. Turns out the recipe, which features brandy and pure maple syrup, works just as well on poultry. So does redeye gravy, made from bacon fat and coffee, and typically served with country ham.
Tips: Don’t skimp on brine ingredients. Choose pure maple syrup. A bargain brand of syrup is likely to lend an undesirable corn syrup flavor.
If refrigerator space is an issue, use a cooler to hold the turkey and add ice as the alternate gallon of water.
With coffee’s bitterness and earthiness as a counterpoint to the sweetness and saltiness of brined turkey, the complexity of the food doesn’t need competition from the wine. What it needs is an enabler: fruitiness. A tried and true choice is Beaujolais, especially a very good one.
These wines show fruitiness but also tanginess, like cranberries (I told you Beaujolais is common with turkey). These wines most often see used barrels, if they see oak at all, but the coffee flavors will give the wine something of the aromas and textures of new barrels.
That’s why I recommend a higher-quality Beaujolais: Those are generally labeled as “Beaujolais Cru.” Look for Cru (or vineyard) names such as Brouilly, Morgon, Moulin-A-Vent, Fleurie and the like. Most of the producers you can find in our area are generally good, so don’t feel like you have to specifically ask for Jadot, Duboeuf, Lapierre, Diochon and the like.
— Doug Frost, Special to The Star
Maple and Brandy Brined Turkey With Redeye Gravy
Makes 1 (10- to 15-pound) turkey
For the brine:
3 cups brandy
3 cups maple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
4 bunches fresh thyme
8 bay leaves
1 gallon water plus 1 gallon ice water, reserved
For the garlic-herb compound butter:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped sage
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
For the turkey:
1 (10- to 15-pound) fresh unprocessed turkey, rinsed and patted dry, giblets and neck removed
1 small bunch thyme
1 small bunch sage
1 large peeled shallot
5 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat side of a knife
For the gravy:
5 tablespoons rendered bacon fat (a pound of bacon equals about 1 cup fat)
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups duck or chicken stock
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup brewed black coffee
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
To make the brine: In a large stockpot, combine brandy, maple syrup, sugar, kosher salt, thyme and bay leaves with 1 gallon water. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 gallon of ice water. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate until completely cool.
In a large nonreactive container, add your turkey to the brine. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged in the brine using a clean plate. Refrigerate for 12 to 16 hours.
Remove your turkey from the brine and place on a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack. With a clean towel pat the surface dry. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours before cooking. This allows the skin to dry so it will brown and crisp while roasting.
To roast the turkey: Make the compound butter by mixing all the ingredients in a mixer fitted with a paddle.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is getting to temperature, allow the turkey to come to room temperature; this will make it cook more evenly and allow the skin to get crispy.
Stuff the cavity with thyme, sage, shallot and garlic. Tie the legs together with cooking twine and tuck the wings under the bird. Stuff 6 tablespoons of herb butter between the skin and the breast and massage to spread evenly. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons butter on the outside of the bird.
Roast for 30 to 45 minutes until the skin begins to brown then lower the oven to 325 degrees. You are shooting for an internal temperature of 165 degrees, approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Keep in mind that it will carry over 5 to 10 degrees while resting. Rest meat for 30 to 40 minutes covered with a foil tent.
To make the gravy: In a 2-quart sauce pot over medium heat, melt the rendered bacon fat. Add the minced shallot, and saute until tender and translucent. Whisk flour into bacon fat and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from scorching. Add stock a cup at a time, continuously whisking to avoid lumps. After adding all the stock, add thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil until the gravy starts to thicken. Turn to a low simmer and add the coffee. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf to serve.
Per serving, based on a 10-pound turkey, light and dark meat, with skin: 789 calories (46 percent from fat), 37 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 267 milligrams cholesterol, 36 grams carbohydrates, 61 grams protein, 1,760 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.