The Perfect Bird: Carmellini, Serfer, and DaSilva on How to Roast the Best Thanksgiving Turkey
|Moist, flavorful meat and a crisp, browned skin make for a perfect roast bird|
It's an annual Thanksgiving frenzy. It's an exhaustive search for the final answer to a seemingly simple question: What's the most reliable, most intelligent way to roast a whole bird?
So, Short Order sought the advice of three Miami toques: Andrew Carmellini of the Dutch, Danny Serfer of Blue Collar, and Paula DaSilva of 1500 Degrees. Our mission was simple. We didn't want to master a fabulous sous vide or break any basting barriers or stomp on stuffing's dreams. We just wanted a good turkey. And here's how to make it.
Begin with a good bird: Carmellini recommends a heritage turkey. They have better flavor, but they will also be slightly tougher than other varieties. DaSilva's preference is a free-range bird, but another option is to look for an organic or hormone-free turkey.
Estimate the right amount of turkey per person: This is simple. Estimate about one pound of turkey per person, so a 12-to-14-pound bird will feed about 12 people. But if you're already dreaming of turkey sandwiches, it's best to calculate about a pound and a half per person.
Large birds are tough to cook (let alone carry to and from the oven). If you're dealing with a big crowd, opt for two small turkeys instead of one 18-pounder.
Brine or no brine?: Carmellini is a firm believer in brining. "I am pro-brine! It's the only way to go. It will always make a juicer bird. It's science," he says. DaSilva agrees: "I like to brine our turkeys simply because it helps in layering and forcing more flavor into the meat before roasting."
But Serfer has a different opinion: "I find that when you brine the turkey, it doesn't brown as nicely and you lose a bit of the sear on the skin."
Let's leave this up to time. If you can plan ahead, make a brine composed of one gallon of cold water and about one cup of kosher salt (for a 12-to-14-pound turkey). Add brown sugar, peppercorns, citrus zest, herbs, and spices (fennel, coriander, juniper berries, etc) if you'd like. If the turkey isn't completing submerged, add more water in the same proportion to salt. Soak for up to 24 hours. Then remove from the brine. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
Butter (or bacon) up the bird: Serfer rubs room-temperature unsalted butter on the bird. He recommends a whole pound of churned cream, but you could get away with as little as half a stick. Just make sure the turkey is coated evenly.
If you're feeling more extravagant and don't feel like roasting the bird whole, try one of Carmellini's suggestions: He separates the breast and roasts the sections wrapped in bacon. Then he braises or confits the legs. The back and neck are reserved for sauce.