By Martin Musialczyk
Hello, fellow Dolphinos. Quite a bit has occurred in the last couple weeks.
With all the love in the air, some of you may want to spend Thanksgiving in the comfort of your own home with your roommate, a couple friends, or maybe just yourself. Perhaps it means you want to curl up in your favorite cashmere blanket and catch up on some recorded Westworld itching to be viewed, which in all fairness, needs to be done ASAP.
This article is written to all the lone wolves out there who are not entirely interested in cooking an ostrich-sized turkey that won’t even fit into most conventional home ovens. The focus will be on how to prepare a restaurant-quality turkey for one, two or three people without having to spend a fortune.
Ever wonder why chicken tastes better in a well-run restaurant than at home? Most restaurants use the method known as brining. It’s the process of adding flavor using a salinated water solution which enables flavors you wish to impart into the meat using osmosis … Zzzzzzzzz … Holy cannoli, I believe I just fell asleep. Sorry.
To put it simply, the salt in the solution frees the meat up to release some of its water, which increases space in the meat to accept flavors you want to reintroduce. Water comes out, flavor goes in … You know … science.
With all that mumbo jumbo tomfoolery out of the way, let’s talk about how to brine a part of a turkey. Yes, I just stated “part.” There are no laws currently in the books that say you have to cook a whole bird to suggest “Thanksgiving.”
Give it a couple months and who knows, President-Elect Trump, our Great Leader, may want to change it, but for now, IT IS STILL LEGAL. Of course I’m kidding, he’s going to Make America Great Again.
(Step 1) Central Market as well as many other stores in the area sell turkey separately in parts, like the breast, thigh, drumstick, etc.
Let’s focus on the turkey breast for the sake of argument. It will run you about $9. Solid price compared to the small business loan one would have to take out to afford some of the higher-end whole turkeys. All jokes aside, I am not joking at all.
Measure 3 cups of water into a small pot. Add ¼ cup of light brown sugar, ¼ cup of a non-iodized kosher or coarse salt, two cloves of garlic that you lightly smashed to show it who’s boss and to let the flavor out, one bay leaf, about six peppercorns, and a nice pinch of some dried herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary, and place all of them into a pot of water. Bring the brine to a gentle boil and after the brown sugar and salt completely dissolve, cut the heat.
Allow the flavored solution to cool slightly before putting it into the refrigerator. When the brine has cooled down to the internal temperature of the fridge, place the turkey breast and the brine into a plastic gallon size zip-lock bag. Make sure to get as much air out of the bag before sealing it so that the brine is allowed to surround as much of the breast as possible.
(Step 2) After it is sealed, place the bag into a bowl just in case the bag springs a leak. Place it back into the fridge and allow science to perform its magic for the next 24 hours.
(Step 3) An hour before you plan on cooking the turkey breast, take it out of the brine and place it on a plate. Take some paper towels and dry the breast as much as you can. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour to let air dry a bit more in a cool part of the kitchen.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a little olive oil on the skin of the turkey and sprinkle a little coarse, non-iodized salt and pepper on it. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a sheet pan or broiler pan and place in the top half of the oven.
(Step 4) Set the timer to 15 minutes and allow it to roast. When the timer goes off, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees and set the timer to 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 degrees. Take it out and let it rest on the counter for about 15 minutes (carryover temperature will continue to bring it up to the proper 165 degree temperature) before slicing it widthwise in half-inch slices.
If there are any leftovers, you can eat it cold with some mayonnaise as is or slice it up thin and make some awesome turkey sammiches. Enjoy.
Look forward to seeing you next issue.
Steps to flavor country:
1. One raw turkey breast.
2. Bring water, brown sugar, salt, bay leaf, peppercorns and dried herbs to a bowl to dissolve the sugar and salt. Cool down and place the breast into the solution. Allow to brine for 24 hours.
3. Take the breast out of the brine and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper to season.
4. Place turkey breast in a preheated 400 degree oven. After 15 minutes, decrease oven temp to 350 degrees and allow to cook for another 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees. Take out of the oven and let it rest for ten minutes before slicing it into half-inch slices.
5. Thanksgiving-ing harder than most of your fellow classmates. [cue Westworld intro music] Ahh.