This recipe gives you triple insurance against the dreaded dry bird: You brine the turkey, rub butter under and over its skin, and lay bacon on top. Choose a fresh turkey—and read the label to make sure it hasn’t been injected with a saline or flavor solution—to ensure a juicy and perfectly seasoned holiday centerpiece.
Courtesy of Southern Living Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang, Oxmoor House 2012.
|2 cups medium-flake kosher salt||1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage|
|2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar||1/2 teaspoon table salt|
|3 tablespoons black peppercorns||1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper|
|1 tablespoon mustard seeds||6 slices bacon (not thick cut)|
|1 (12-pound) whole fresh turkey||Garnishes: roasted carrots, fresh bay leaves|
|1 cup unsalted butter, softened||Kitchen string|
|2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley|
Combine first 4 ingredients and 2 qt. water in a saucepan, and cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat. Divide liquid between 2 large (10- to 12-cup) bowls; add 4 cups ice cubes to each bowl and enough cold water to make 10 cups of brine in each bowl. Stir until ice melts and both mixtures are completely cool (about 5 minutes).
Remove giblets and neck from turkey, and reserve for another use, if desired. Place turkey in an 18-qt. food-grade plastic container or stockpot. Pour brine into cavity and over turkey, covering turkey completely. Place in refrigerator. Cover and chill 24 hours, turning turkey once halfway through.
Combine butter and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl.
Preheat oven to 350°. Remove turkey from brine, discarding brine. Rinse turkey well, including cavity.
Starting at neck, carefully loosen and lift skin from breast and drumsticks using your fingers. (Do not totally detach skin.) Rub 3⁄4 cup butter mixture under skin; carefully replace skin. Tie ends of legs together with string; tuck wing tips under. Place turkey, breast side up, on a lightly greased rack in a roasting pan; rub remaining butter mixture over skin.
Roast turkey at 350° for 1 hour and 45 minutes, basting with pan juices every 20 minutes during last 45 minutes of cooking. Remove from oven, and lay bacon slices, crosswise, over breast and drumsticks.
Return turkey to oven; roast 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion of thigh registers 170°, basting every 15 minutes. Let stand 30 minutes before carving. Garnish, if desired.
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