Time To Talk Turkey

Tired of chewy, dry turkey every Thanksgiving? There's an easy solution, according to Tori Ritchie -- immerse the bird in some brine, which will keep it moist and juicy.

And this year the "hot" turkey ingredient is apple cider. Tori has incorporated it into her brine; she says the cider makes the turkey brown beautifully and taste almost sweet.

You can make your brine (a simple mixture of water, salt and cider) a couple days before Thanksgiving if you wish. You can also buy a pre-made brine mixture that you just add to water. Once your turkey has brined the appropriate amount of time, you just pull it from the mixture and dry it off. Tori then rubs a mixture of butter and herbs over the bird to add yet another layer of flavor and richness. If you don't want to mess with the brining process, you can jump straight to this step.

If you do brine the turkey in cider, you'll need to tent the bird with foil after the first 30 minutes of cooking to keep it from getting too browned. Allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Some other turkey thoughts: Tori believes fresh turkeys are far superior to frozen. You should plan on preparing 1 1/2 lbs of turkey per person if you want leftovers. Remove your bird from the fridge 1 to 1 1/2 hours before roasting to bring it to room temperature.

And, finally, Tori never stuffs her bird; she believes this allows the turkey to roast more evenly and eliminates any worries about contaminating the stuffing.

Happy roasting!

Cider-Brined Turkey

Tori says: "Soaking the turkey in a saltwater brine produces tender, juicy meat, but the pan drippings may be a bit salty for making gravy. You can still prepare a delicious gravy by using our turkey gravy base. To add rich flavor, simmer the turkey neck, tail and giblets in the stock you plan to use for the gravy, then add pan drippings to the finished gravy to taste."

1 jar turkey brine -- apple and spices, prepared with cider and water according to package instructions
1 fresh turkey, about 16 lb., neck, heart and gizzard removed (reserved, if desired)
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tsp. chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, parsley and sage
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Prepare the turkey brine and brine the turkey according to the package instructions.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off and discard the excess fat. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

In a bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together the butter, herbs and pepper until well blended. Spread the butter mixture evenly on the outside of the turkey. Truss the turkey as desired using kitchen twine.

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Loosely tent the turkey with foil, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and continue roasting, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices.

After about 2 1/2 hours of total roasting time, begin testing for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh, away from the bone. The breast should register 165 degrees F and the thigh, 175 degrees F. Total roasting time should be 3 to 3 3/4 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Serves 12.

Make-Ahead Tips: Prepare the brine mixture (but do not add the turkey) up to 2 days in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

(Williams-Sonoma Kitchen)