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Last chance to beef up turkey’s flavor

POSTED: November 21, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Traditionally the showpiece of the holiday meal, turkey tends to intimidate.

Each year, cooks across the country fret about how to cook it. And they shouldn’t.

For some, it has been a year since they last tackled a whole turkey, and they’ve forgotten how to roast it. Others simply crave new flavor twists. And, yes, we know, some even dread the whole fowl process.

We can see why. November food magazine covers and inside pages are loaded with Norman Rockwell-like turkeys — perfectly golden brown birds. Such high expectations put cooks on the spot.

Now, however, is not the time to reinvent turkey, but rather a time to enhance it.

Today we’re offering some simple tried-and-true flavor options for roast turkey with brining, herb butter and seasoning blends.

If it’s your first Thanksgiving as the cook, go for the sure-fire method of brining. We picked up on the brining trend years ago and have never looked back. Naysayers think it’s a chore because it requires you to soak the turkey overnight. But brining creates a juicy, moist and flavorful bird.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, brine the bird and then rub it with an herb butter inside and out.

And if you’re up for something different, go all out with a favorite rub or seasoning mixture.

It’s the lure of different flavor combinations, such as the Smoky Seasoning or Mustard Glaze options, that can put a new twist on your holiday bird.

Don’t want to roast a whole turkey? Roast it in parts — legs, thighs and breasts. Many grocery and specialty stores sell turkey pieces. Roasting them separately, many sources say, means everything cooks evenly.

How to butter the bird

Compound butters are a simple way to add flavor to your holiday turkey. You can make them with a variety of flavor combinations such as fresh herbs, spices, seasonings and aromatics. Softened butter is mixed with the flavorings and then smeared under and on top of the skin. Try using parsley, marjoram, thyme or rosemary, adjusting the amounts to taste. Also include salt and fresh cracked black pepper or your favorite all-purpose seasoning.

Aromatics like chives and garlic do particularly well. Citrus zest will give it a bright flavor, while spices such as a mix of chili powders, cumin, smoked paprika and coriander will punch up the flavor.


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