Re-posted from November 2009...
My Thanksgiving dinner kicks ass. Ask anyone who shows up at my door on Turkey Day and they'll tell you it's the best they've ever had...just like their Mother's only better, they'll say. That's because mine is just like my Mother's, only better.
Mom made a pretty awesome spread for Thanksgiving. Then she made the EXACT same meal for Christmas. Like I've said before, her repertoire was tasty, but short. Anyway, over the years I've improved on most of her very traditional Thanksgiving menu which features all the usual suspects. And that's the way I want my Thanksgiving dinner. I can experiment with new recipes and ideas all year long, but once a year I make this rocking-good turkey dinner, and I look forward to it. It makes it special, to have it just once a year...
I have had turkey prepared in just about every fashion, but my favorite is brined. I don't do a fancy brine with lots of stuff in it, just salt and water. It brines over nite in a clean 5 gallon paint pail that ONLY gets used for this task, and it makes for the juiciest turkey EVER... And the tastiest skin!
This is the solution I've been using for 10 years now, from Fine Cooking magazine:
2 c. kosher salt to 1 gallon warm water
If you're using Morton's Kosher Salt, its denser, so reduce to 1 1/2 c. for each gallon of water.
Right in the bucket, stir together with your hand to make sure the salt breaks down...go ahead, stick your whole arm in there! Submerse your clean, FRESH [ It's gotta be fresh and minimally processed. If it's been injected with another solution, it could get REAL salty.] turkey into the bucket...that's only 3/4 full of brine so it doesn't overflow! If you live in a climate like mine, it's usually cold enough on the eve of Thanksgiving to put the bucket right outside and cover with a heavy plate or board [so the critters don't get it]. In the morning drain and rinse well, then roast with your preferred method. I pat mine dry, slather it with butter, dust it with fresh ground pepper, surround it with quartered onions drizzled with a little olive oil, then throw it in a preheated 400 degree oven for 1/2 an hour, then reduce the heat to 350. Roast the proper time per per/lb. guidelines. By the way, I've given up "tenting" and basting. Don't bother!
While the turkey is roasting...rinse the gizzards and neck, and place in a small sauce pan with a celery heart and leaves, a quartered onion,, a whole clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns, 1 tablespoon rubbed sage, a couple of bay leaves, and cover with chicken stock. Simmer for an hour, then pour through a sieve and discard the innards and bits. While the turkey is resting, combine the liquid with the turkey drippings. If you've got a big crowd, you can add a little more chicken stock accordingly. Thicken with either a paste made from butter and flour, or the way Mom did it, with cornstarch and a little milk stirred together until there were no lumps. Bring the combined liquid to a boil, then add the thickening agent, whisking briskly until it reaches your desired consistency.