Lemon, Garlic & Sage Turkey
Courtesy of Chef John McGannon, wildeats.com
Over the years, we have dedicated this column to big game meats. Well, we are changing that up this time so you know how to cook the most delicious Thanksgiving turkey ever! Keep in mind, the following recipe can be used for wild or domestic turkeys. The only difference being wild turkeys need to be dry-aged for three days.
Turkey has a tendency to be dry and flavorless. One sure way to keep that bird moist and bursting with flavor is to use a brine, which is simply a solution of salt, sugar, herbs and spices. When a piece of meat is soaked in a brine, the salt-sugar combination is absorbed and creates a matrix. The matrix stops internal moisture from escaping during the cooking process. By adding complimentary herbs, spices and citrus, you can create a very flavorful and moist dish. The actual herbs and spices you use should be relative to your personal taste or what is available in your neighborhood store or garden. I like to use a lemon, garlic and sage rub. Keep in mind you will need roughly one pound of uncooked turkey per person.
1 gallon warm water
1 cup kosher salt
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 jalapeno chopped into small pieces
1 lemon cut into slices
1 lime cut into slices
½ cup WildEats Lemon Garlic & Sage Rub (or you can add your own dried spices/herbs)
2 bay leaves
1 onion cut into slices
1 gallon ice water
18 lb. turkey (fresh or defrosted)
1-2 cups of mayonnaise
Blend all the dry ingredients and add them to the warm water. Mix well. Once the ingredients are dissolved add the ice water, mix and when the water is cold, add the turkey.
Line a plastic milk crate or similar sized container with a large garbage bag. Add the turkey and brine, and tie off the top of the garbage bag. Make sure the turkey is completely submerged in the brine. If not, add more water, salt and sugar.
For a medium to large turkey, brine in the refrigerator for three days. Smaller items like pheasant, chicken breasts or pork chops can be done overnight.
If your refrigerator is too small, you can put the crate in a cooler packed with a lot of ice. If you use this method be sure and keep the cooler full of ice.
After three days, remove meat from the brine. Allow the turkey to dry on a rack, uncovered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Place the turkey breast side up on a roasting pan. Take 1-2 cups of mayonnaise and smear it all over the turkey. Yes, mayonnaise! Most people will baste their turkeys with butter, which is about 90 percent fat. Mayonnaise has the same fat content. The advantage with mayo is that once you coat the bird, your work is done. The mayonnaise will continue to baste the bird as it breaks down during the roasting process. With butter, you have to baste every 20 minutes until the bird is done.
Place turkey in the pre-heated oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Then turn down the oven to 325° F and continue to roast for roughly 21⁄2 to 3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160° near the leg bone. Once you’ve reached this temp, remove the turkey from the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. This allows the juices to permeate throughout the meat.
Once you try brining white meat, you will never cook it any other way. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who have supported RMEF over the years.
John McGannon is a RMEF life member, host of wild game cooking seminars at Elk Camp and owner of WildEats Enterprises.