I love turkey. It is dependable, versatile, affordable, and delicious cooked in so many great Cajun and Creole interpretations. But for many cooks, a turkey sandwich is about as close as they get to the bird all year long. And anxiety sets in as the calendar rolls around to September, October, November, and finally the big day arrives–time to panic. Relax, and let my recipe for Cane-Brined Roast Turkey come to your rescue.
Fresh or frozen? Butterball or the better buy? Fried or smoked? Stuffed or au naturel? Injected or basted? It’s enough to make any novice cook pack the family in the minivan and make a run for the nearest turkey day buffet. But we are better than that, and by reading this blog, you are an adventurous and fearless cook that is ready to take on the turkey task. Ready for Cane-Brined Roast Turkey.
Truth be told, roasting a Thanksgiving turkey takes time and talent, two things that many home cooks are in short supply. I admit: it’s hard to master the art of a dish that only comes around once a year, and I’ve seen more than one dried-out turkey disaster in my archive of holiday horror stories. But that’s in the past; let’s talk turkey.
A must for moist turkey is the brine, and I’ve discovered a Cajun recipe secret for Cane-Brined Roast Turkey. Simply put, Louisiana sugarcane molasses (I use the Steen’s brand) is the key to a Cajun brine that imparts deep dark rich flavor and ensures moist meat every time. There is something about the smokiness of molasses that works in penetrating flavor into a fat bird. I stuff my Cane-Brined Roast Turkey with flavor only (no stuffing), and fresh lemon, parsley, and sage add just the right fragrance to the meat. And I rub the bird all over with seasoned butter that builds layers of flavor and creates the ultimate crispy skin. Brined, buttered and baked in a hot oven, this Cane-Brined Roast Turkey is just a few short hours away from your dinner table.
So, get out your roasting pan and cinch up your apron; it’s time to cook up a Thanksgiving dinner to remember.
- 2 cups table salt
- 2 cups sugarcane molasses
- 1 cup Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 (18-pound) whole fresh turkey
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 large lemon, quartered
- 1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley
- 4 stalks sage leaves
- 2 large yellow onions, halved
- 2 large carrots, chopped into 2-inch pieces
- 4 large celery ribs, chopped into 2-inch pieces
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 large romaine lettuce leaves, for garnish
- 6 stalks green onions, for garnish
- 1 bunch red grapes, for garnish
- In a stockpot just large enough to fit your turkey, fill half way with water. Add the salt, bring to a boil and continue cooking until the salt dissolves. Add the molasses and Cajun seasoning, and stir to combine. Let cool.
- Remove and reserve any turkey parts (giblets, liver, gizzard, and neck) from the turkey cavity. Add the turkey to the brining container and add ice to cool. If necessary, weight the turkey down to submerge it. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. Using your hands, lift the skin away and rub the seasoned butter generously underneath and on all sides of the turkey. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the inside of the turkey with lemon, parsley, and sage. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
- Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil and add the onions, carrots, celery, and any turkey parts (giblets, liver, gizzard, and neck) to the pan. Position a metal rack on top and pour in enough chicken stock to cover the bottom, and remember to add more chicken stock as needed during the cooking time to prevent burning. Add the turkey with the breast side up and place in the hot oven. Lower the heat to 350ºF and let cook.
- After 1 hour, check to see if the turkey is cooking properly and that there is plenty of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Total cooking time at 14 minutes per pound should be a little over 4 hours. Once the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF, remove from the oven. The meat should be done and the skin should be crispy and browned. Move the turkey to a platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.
- Remove all the vegetables and turkey parts, and strain the cooking liquid from the roaster into a saucepan. Add any remaining chicken stock. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Add a knob of butter combined with a tablespoon of flour to the pan. Stir to incorporate while it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish the platter with romaine leaves, green onion stalks, and grapes. Before carving, present the roast turkey on the center of the table. For serving, slice one side of the turkey at a time, and serve with the gravy on the side.
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