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I’m terrible at roasting birds.
In my life, I’ve made one Thanksgiving turkey (successful), roasted duck (disastrous in process; delicious to eat), and one roasted chicken.
So much as I’d like to lay some major hard-won wisdom on you about how to roast totally kickass Thanksgiving turkey, I’ve got nothing… except my reliance on Cook’s Illustrated. The year I made a gorgeous T-Giving turkey was the year I followed Cook’s Illustrated instructions. CI introduced me to the magic of brining, and if you’re wondering: Yes, it’s totally worth the added hassle. And don’t skip their “drying, uncovered, in the refrigerator” step — that’s what makes the skin crispy!
This year, I’m trying their recipe for Spice-Rubbed Roast Turkey. Here is it, in case you want to give it a go, too.
Spice-Rubbed Roast Turkey
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Turkey & brine
2 cups table salt
1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds gross weight), rinsed thoroughly, giblets, neck, and tailpiece discarded
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds (or 2 teaspoons ground coriander)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds (or 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin)
2 teaspoons mustard seeds (or 1 teaspoon dry mustard)
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
Dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large stockpot or clean bucket. Add turkey and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours.
Meanwhile, if using whole spices, toast coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds in small skillet over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant and wisps of smoke appear, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool mixture to room temperature, then grind to fine powder in dedicated coffee grinder or spice grinder or with mortar and pestle. Transfer mixture to small bowl, stir in paprika, ginger, thyme, cayenne, cinnamon,and allspice; cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
Remove turkey from brine and rinse under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast-side up on flat wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours.
Mix 1-tablespoon spice rub with coconut oil and set aside. Remove turkey from refrigerator and wipe away any water collected in baking sheet; set turkey on baking sheet. Carefully separate skin from breast meat and rub oil/spice rub mixture directly onto breast meat. Rub 3 tablespoons dry spice rub inside turkey cavity. Apply remaining spice rub to turkey, beginning with back-side up and finishing with breast-side up, pressing and patting to make spices adhere, and picking up and reapplying any spice rub that falls onto baking sheet. Tuck wings behind back and tie ends of drumsticks together with twine. Set turkey on wire rack, set wire rack on baking sheet, and refrigerate, uncovered, 6 to 24 hours.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Place V-rack in large roasting pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set turkey breast-side down on V-rack. Reapply any spice rub that has fallen off. Roast 45 minutes.
Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey leg/wing-side up. Roast 15 minutes longer. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey second leg/wing-side up. Roast 15 minutes longer.
Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey breast-side up. Roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 30 to 45 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to carving board; let rest 20 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve.