16 November 2007

Frugal Foodie: To Brine or Not to Brine?

That is the question for the Big Bird of Thanksgiving! So my super duper cohort is having a Thanksgiving dinner this Saturday, and I am in charge of the turkey! Now, I have a bit of a reputation of being into cooking, and I do not want to disappoint. No bland, dry turkey here! I have heard a lot about the flavorful, succulent benefits of brining turkey but have never tried it myself (actually I am quite familiar w/ brined meat; my favorite fried chicken in the world at Ad Hoc is brined).

For those of you unfamiliar w/ the term, I'm talking about soaking meat in a brine ( i.e., a salt solution) which results in a moist, flavorful flesh. Basically, the process is a genius utilization of one of the most basic principles of chemistry: molecules follow a concentration gradient from high-to-low. So when you brine something, there is a high concentration of both water and salt on the outside of the meat. Via osmosis, the salt/sugar and water flows into the meat. Subsequently, the protein structure breaks down, water/salt/protein molecules intermingle, and a new matrix structure is formed in which the water and seasoning is retained in the bird as it cooks.

Picture and information courtesy of Cooks Illustrated's free "Basics of Brining"

Anyway, I am always up for a cooking adventure, so BRINE IT IS! This is the recipe I am considering, but I may change my mind. I'll update you on what the final verdict is and how it turns out (complete w/ pictures, siempre!). Pretty nervous about it turning out ok...so wish me luck!

Good Eats Roast Turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

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