Netflix, during the stay-at-home months of the pandemic, became a primary entertainment source for families huddled together day and night with few other options than surfing the net or watching television. A positive takeaway from all this screen time was the effort many put into teaching themselves to cook. Perhaps the single best cooking series we devoured during the pandemic was Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat series in which she succeeds on her claim that the book will help home cooks in "mastering the elements of good cooking." 

Her totally unassuming and easy to follow food science explanations coupled with an understanding of the simplicity home cooks seek in cooking delicious meals for their families provides a road map for exploring the techniques she presents when preparing other recipes. Perhaps the most sensational recipe in her 462 page cookbook is her buttermilk brined roasted chicken--a recipe we turn to monthly with consistent and impressive results every time. So, why not try the approach with the Thanksgiving turkey. A few adjustments to the technique (given the size differential and fat composition) and a gorgeous bird is ready in no time and with very little effort in preparation or cooking. This recipe does not work with a bird over fifteen pounds with ten to twelve pounds the sweet spot. D'Artagnan Foods offers a gorgeous restaurant bird raided by Green Circle that is hormone and anti-biotic free. Taking a simply prepared turkey and dressing it up with a bouquet of flowers is such an easy and gratifying way to present a celebration centerpiece. Foraged greens, a bit of colorful seasonal fruit (we used persimmons), and some autumn colored flowers made it so difficult to cut the turkey--we finally did and the juicy meat and crispy skin were exactly what we had hoped to recreate using Nosrat formula for perfect roast chicken.

cuisine American
difficulty Easy
season Fall & Winter
serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

12 to 14 pound turkey 3 quarts buttermilk 3 tablespoons kosher salt Seasonal herbs, flowers, and fruit for cavity display

Directions

  1. Pour the buttermilk into a tall narrow stock pot. Stir the salt into the buttermilk.
  2. Add the turkey. Cover and let brine for at least 24 and no more than 72 hours.
  3. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat excess liquid off with a paper towel (do not rub or attempt to remove all of the brine). 
  4. Remove any racks above the center rack in the oven (depending on size of the oven and the turkey, the rack may need to be moved down one level). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. (400 degrees F. if using convection).
  5. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 2 hours (this is important as the turkey will not cook without browning too much if the turkey is straight from the refrigerator).
  6. Place the turkey in an oval gratin or another shallow roasting dish into which it fits snuggly. Place the gratin dish on top of a quarter sheet baking tray.
  7. Tightly cover the wings with foil. Place foil over the entire turkey and tuck the foil securely around the perimeter of the roasting pan so that the turkey is not touching the sides of the dish directly. 
  8. Slide the turkey into the oven and center on the rack.
  9. After 30 minutes, turn the turkey so the other side is facing the back of the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees F.  (350 degrees F. if using convection).
  10. Continue cooking for 1.5 hours. Remove the foil from the turkey and if the turkey seems not to be browning deeply enough place the turkey in the oven to continue cooking and browning until the skin is a deep caramel color and the juices run clear when a knife is inserted between the leg and thigh down to the bone (the internal temperature of the turkey at this point should be 170 degrees--the turkey thigh area will continue cooking to 180 degrees when removed from the oven and tented with foil). If the turkey is browning nicely, continue to cook until a meat thermometer reaches desired doneness indicated above.
  11. Remove the turkey from the oven, tent with foil and let cool to room temperature. Place the gratin dish on a serving board or other decorative platter with room on which to carry to the table and with room on which to lay the carved meat.
  12. Add autumnal flower bouquet and fruits to the cavity and around the serving board to enhance the Thanksgiving presentation as desired.