Any dish that reaches a certain level of ubiquitous use around the holidays runs the very real risk of receiving a bit of push-back – and I’m afraid that the trusty turkey is approaching that unfortunate eventuality. Now, whether the turkey itself is to blame, or whether its mistreatment in kitchens around the world is the true culprit, is a verdict whose determination I’m more than happy to leave in the hands of others, but what I do know is that the slow deterioration of the poor turkey’s street rep is pretty much undeniable.
On the upside, however, I come bearing some great news! We’ve assembled a quick and easy three-step solution that will guarantee that gathered friends and family will be lining up for seconds if you follow these tips the next time you decide to take on the challenge of roasting a bird around the holidays. Not only will these three easy tips ensure a moist and flavoursome end product, but they’ll also make your holiday turkey a better food match for the wines you love to drink.
Picking Your Turkey
It used to be that the only real place most of us shopped for turkeys was bent over the freezer unit at the grocery store, attempting to figure out something about what might be inside that plastic vacuum sealed package. But as we’ve seen in many respects lately, the variety of choices we have today when it comes to getting our hands on a great turkey is better than ever. With an increasing number of find butcher shops out there, the holidays bring us a perfect time to pay one of these establishments a visit to procure our holiday bird. And rather than being forced to try and guess what might await as our turkey emerges from its deep freeze and plastic wrapping, we can rely on an expert to tell us a bit about the range of options to choose from. A good butcher will help you pick the right size bird, of course, and can provide some great tips on how to prepare the bird for roasting, but most importantly, in my view, you might be surprised to discover just how many “varieties” of turkey there are to choose from. Different types of turkey offer you choices in terms of flavours, the relative ratio of white meat to dark meat, and even fat content, moisture and cooking time – making this a potentially tasty choice, if you’ve asked the right questions.
Spices, Herbs + Brines
Now that we’re on the right path to securing the perfect bird, let’s talk about the ways that we can make that bird taste its best. For starters, brining has become an increasingly popular choice, but I find myself to be a bit of skeptic when it comes to “trends” such as these. That said, after having brined my first crack at a holiday bird a few years ago, I now consider this to be an absolute “must-do” step, both for the impact that brining contributes to a moist and tender final product, but also for the opportunity it creates to get more flavour into the bird. Whether we’re talking about that crunchy delicious skin, or the meat itself, a 24 bath in flavoured liquids can’t help but yield a tastier final product. Of course salt, sugar and water form the basis of any brining solution, but also give some thought to the addition of fresh herbs (I prefer rosemary and thyme), spices, fruit juices – or my secret weapon: a splash of maple syrup. I find that maple syrup adds a delicious sweet and smoky flavour, and its slow absorption into the skin of the bird also helps the skin caramelize to a beautiful dark brown colour. And speaking of the skin, creating a bit of separation between the skin and breast meat creates a perfect pocket where you can stuff some additional agents of flavour like fresh herbs and spices, or better yet, a good dose of compound butter (flavoured as your choose).
Decadent + Flavourful Sauces
When it comes to just about an other type of protein – be it fish, chicken, seafood or red meats, thoughtful and well-made sauces are usually a star component of any serious recipe. That said, when it comes to the tried-and-true holiday turkey, we’re all to willing to settle for a pretty basic pan gravy – or worse yet, a sauce who finds its origins as a powder in a packet you purchase at the grocery store. I suppose both these options add a bit of salty moisture to your sliced turkey, but they sure don’t add much more. Why not draw upon some festive and seasonal flavours as inspiration for a taster, more complex and better made sauce treatment for your turkey? As you’ll see from the recipes, below, anything from apple cider to bacon, or from caramelized sweet onions to compound butters made from fresh herbs like sage or rosemary can take your sauce to a much tastier destination. Charting a course to your final stop in flavour-town is easy – and requires only a bit of creativity and very little preparation to achieve something delicious.
[ Recipes ]
Tuscan-Style Turkey Alla Porchetta: RECIPE
Wine Match: Dry Riesling from Germany, Alsace or Canada
Roasted Turkey w/ Sage Butter + Apple Cider Gravy: RECIPE
Wine Match: Richer Barrel-Aged Chardonnay or White Burgundy
Rosemary, Thyme, Tarragon + Sage Butter-Basted Turkey: RECIPE
Wine Match: Barrel-Aged Godello from Bierzo or Valdeorras
Thyme + Applewood Smoked Maple-Brined Turkey : RECIPE
Wine Match: Pinot Gris from Alsace, British Columbia or U.S. Pacific N/W
Bacon Roasted Turkey w/ Sweet Onion Gravy: RECIPE
Wine Match: Lighter Red Burgundy or Richer Gamay/Cru Beaujolaishttp://winetrader.ca/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=8994&type=image&TB_iframe=1