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Spiced-Cured Roast Turkey

This brined turkey comes from back in the day before brining was a buzzword among home cooks, when any such undertaking was largely the stuff of restaurant chefs. Oh, how times have changed.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC More Than The Sum Of Its Parts Note

Chef Mark Peel suggests you ask the butcher to remove the legs and thighs from the rest of the turkey, but to be sure not to separate the legs from the thighs. Go on. It ensures even cooking—and also means there’s no intimidating moment of reckoning at the Thanksgiving table with all the in-laws staring at you as you carve the darn bird. Talk about a recipe that wields more than the sum of its parts.

Spiced-Cured Roast Turkey Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 20 H
  • Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • For the brine
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1 1/3 cups kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons cracked whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed juniper berries
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 16 to 18 pound turkey (see Note)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ounces rosemary branches
  • 4 cups rendered chicken fat

Directions

  • Make the brine
  • 1. In a very large stock pot, combine the water, kosher salt, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, allspice, juniper berries, and the cloves, and bring to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the brine until chilled, about 4 to 5 hours.
  • 2. When the brine is completely chilled, place the turkey parts in the brine, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
  • Make the turkey
  • 3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • 4. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with a paper towel. Place the turkey breast in a large shallow roasting pan, breast side up. Season lightly with fresh ground pepper, then cover it with the whole branches of rosemary. Eliminate any extra thick sticks of rosemary by stripping off the leaves, using only the leaves.
  • 5. Roast the turkey breast for approximately 3 hours until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads at least 160° to 165°F (70° to 73°C).
  • 6. Meanwhile, make a confit of the turkey legs and thighs by placing them in a saucepan that will hold them both without overlapping but without much extra space. Pour in the chicken fat, which should almost cover the legs. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. The foil should not touch the legs, as the spot where the foil touches the legs might burn.
  • 7. Place in the oven with the turkey breast if possible. Remove from the oven when the meat is tender, about 2 hours. Keep in a warm place until serving.
  • 8. To serve, remove the legs from the chicken fat and slice the meat from the thigh but serve the leg as is. When the breast is removed from the oven, bring the pan outside. Light the whole rosemary branches on fire outside, because of the smoke and fire danger. Brush off some, not all, of the ashes from the burnt sticks, placing the rosemary back on the breast, and bring it back inside. Allow the breast to rest at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving in the usual fashion.
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