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Friday, November 09, 2007

Cranberry and Zinfandel Brined Turkey

Every year I try to do something different — and, of course, delicious — with the Thanksgiving turkey. Last year I stuffed one with sausage and figs and rolled it up like a roast (Joe's deboned it for free!); the year before we ordered a turducken up from Louisiana after Katrina ravaged the area; the year before that we made a turkey that was brined in a fabulous rosemary, juniper berry and spruce branch concoction from the Wine Spectator (I'll post that one soon) then grilled on a rotisserie.

Last year I ran across a recipe that I wanted to use but didn't, because I had already decided on the boneless turkey stuffed with sausage and figs. But this year I'm making it, by golly — if for no other reason than I'd like to drink Zinfandel with Thanksgiving dinner!

Cranberry and Zinfandel Brined Turkey
Serves 12

2 750 ml. bottles Zinfandel
4 cups 1 gallon apple cider
1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup honey
1 cup kosher salt
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh sage
2 sticks cinnamon

1 18-pound turkey, preferably free-range and hormone free
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
6 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 onions, coarsely chopped

To prepare the brine, combine the wine, cider, cranberries, honey, salt, rosemary, peppercorns, sage and cinnamon in a large pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Let the brine boil for about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool and refrigerate until it reaches about 40 degrees.

Place the turkey in a very large container, then pour the chilled brine over to cover. Refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.

To roast the turkey, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove turkey from the brine and drain well; discard brine.

Combine carrots, celery and onions in a roasting pan. Set turkey on top of the vegetables (do not season turkey with salt and pepper, as the brine has seasoned it). Roast turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 155°F in the breast meat, tenting it with aluminum foil if it starts to brown too much, about 4 hours.

Let the turkey rest 5-10 minutes before carving; internal temperature should rise to 165°F. Carve and serve warm.

Adapted from "Caprial and John's Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking Together," by Caprial and John Pence (Ten Speed Press)
M. Zane Grey, 2:31 PM