Wonderfully moist, brined Thanksgiving turkey

If you have never brined a turkey before, you really must try this turkey recipe I found this recipe in Southern Living Cooking for Christmas 2012.

This is a special edition presented exclusively by Dillard’s that I picked up on a shopping trip with my sister-in-law, Antoinette.  While visiting she mentioned that she loved to shop there and while she was in the dressing room I was looking around for something to keep me busy and found this wonderful cookbook at the checkout counter.

I sat quietly browsing through the book and in no time found at least ten recipes that I would love to try so decided to purchase it.  A bonus was learning that $5.00 of the purchase price would be donated to the Ronald McDonald House.  The inside cover of the cookbook reads, “Merry Christmas from all your friends at Dillard’s.  We are proud to support the Ronald McDonald House.  The purchase of this book helps families of seriously ill children have a comfortable haven near their child”.  How extraordinary that I could buy a great looking cookbook filled with tasty sounding recipes and part of the purchase price went to a wonderful charity.  I thought that was just wonderful!!!!

I was planning a Thanksgiving dinner for nine of our friends and neighbors and was looking for a new recipe.  After cooking the same, what I considered a traditional turkey for over 25 years, have been experimenting with new recipes for the last few years.

I decided to make the Roasted Turkey Stuffed with Hazelnut Dressing recipe.  It just looked yummy.  So, I marked the page and put the book away until just a week before the holiday.  When it was time to shop for all my dinner ingredients I realized that the turkey had to be brined.  Brined? I thought.  I knew about brining but had never used this technique myself.  I love learning new techniques and thought, why not.

I purchased a 20lb. turkey and thawed it in the refrigerator 4 days before preparing.  The recipe calls for the brining to be done 48 hours before cooking but I only did it for 24 hours.  (Not because I thought I would be better but because, oops, I forgot to read the recipe correctly.)

Roasted Turkey Stuffed with Hazelnut Dressing:


1 (18-20-lb.) whole fresh turkey*

3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup kosher salt

1 (18- to 20-qt.) food-safe plastic container**

4 cups hot water

4 cups ice cubes

¼ cup black peppercorns

1 (1-oz.) package fresh thyme

6 qt. cold water

Hazelnut Dressing

1 12/ cups coarsely chopped hazelnuts or pecans

1 ½ cups butter

2 medium-size yellow onions, chopped

8 celery ribs, chopped

16 cups assorted day-old bread cubes (such as pumpernickel, sourdough,

Rustic white and wheat; about 3 loaves)

Salt and pepper to taste

Remaining ingredients

Wooden picks

Kitchen string

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. pepper

2 cups water

Garnishes: pomegranates, hazelnuts, kale, kumquats

  1. Prepare Turkey: Remove giblets and neck.  Combine dark brown sugar and kosher salt in plastic container.  **(I used plastic oven roasting bags). Add 4 cups hot water to container; stir until sugar and salt dissolve.  Add ice cubes, peppercorns, and thyme; place turkey in brine.  Add cold water to cover (about 6 qt.).  Weight turkey down using a case-iron lid, if necessary.  Cover and chill 48 hours.
  2. Prepare Hazelnut Dressing: (I used pecans).  Preheat oven to 350°.  Bake hazelnuts (pecans) in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring hallway through.
  3. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions and celery, and sauté 10 to 12 minutes or until tender.  Add bread cubes and hazelnuts; stir to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let cool completely (about 1 hour).
  4. Remove turkey from brine; discard brine.  Place turkey, breast side down, on a work surface, and spoon 4 to 5 cups dressing into neck cavity, pressing firmly.  Replace skin over neck cavity, and secure using wooden picks.  Turn turkey over, and spoon remaining dressing into body cavity.  Tie ends of legs together with string; tuck wing tips under.  Pat turkey dry with paper towels.  Brush turkey with 3 Tbsp. olive oil; sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. salt and 2 tsp. pepper.  Place turkey, breast side down, on a rack in a large roasting pan.  Pour cups water into pan.
  5. Bake at 350° for 2 to 2 ½ hours.  Turn turkey over, breast side up.  Bake 2 to 2 ½ hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thigh registers 180° and center of dressing registers 165°, shielding with aluminum foil during last hour of baking.  Let turkey stand 20 minutes before carving.  Garnish if desired.

*Frozen whole turkey, thawed, may be substituted.

Note:  Depending on the size of your turkey cavity, you may have leftover dressing.  Stir ½ to 1 cup chicken broth into remaining dressing, and place in a lightly greased 11 x 7 inch baking dish.  Bake the dressing at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

This turkey was so moist, so flavorful, from the very first bite  John Morelli asked, “Mary, how did you cook this turkey?   It is so moist and flavorful, it is so good”.  And that my friend was the consensus from around the table.

The rest of the meal was awesomely delicious too.  We dined on foods  that were both traditional and not so traditional giving the dinner a wonderful eclectic flavor.  Dishes included  a taste of Italy with a dish filled with cheese raviolis and meatballs; a tangy oil and vinegar slaw and a deliciously, smooth, creamy, and nutty lime Jell-O mold; a great sweet potato soufflé and an apple stuffing;  a traditional green bean casserole and,  a wonderful plate of shrimp cooked with Old Bay seasonings and beer.  I provided the roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, Parker House rolls and dessert.

There was so much food!!!!! Now, add to that a table filled with lively conversation abd playing Thanksgiving trivia, it was truly a wonderful Thanksgiving.

The only sad thing to report is that when the first guest arrived she said, “Boy, I am starving”.  Upon hearing that, I kicked into high gear setting the food table, getting everyone drinks and totally forgot to take pictures of the food before it was served.  I did however, get a picture of one side of the turkey before it was carved so you could enjoy the turkey’s beautiful, golden color and a few of the desserts.

Two other couples I had invited already had dinner plans but joined us later in the afternoon. New to the group, Rick, Mary, Dennis and Connie introduced themselves and then settled in  joining in our Thanksgiving celebration.

I heard back from Mary the next day saying that they had such a good time and thanked us for having them share in our neigborhood Thanksgiving celebration.  “You certainly have a nice group of neighbors, who have such great stories and good sense of humor!  Thanks again, you made our day even more special,” Mary wrote.

The general consensus from everyone was that they had a wonderful time sharing Thanksgiving with good friends all expressing that it made their day that much more special.

We had a wonderful time sharing our Thanksgiving holiday with friends old and new and look forward to sharing many more in the future.

Next I will share with you the wonderful dessert I prepared for this holiday dinner.



This entry was posted in apple stuffing, brined turkey, casserole, Celebrations, Cookbook, Dessert, Food, green beans, lime Jell-O mold, meatballs, pasta, potatoes, ravioli, Recipe, shrimp cooked in Old Bay Seasoning and beer, slaw, sweet potato souffle, sweet potatoes, turkey, Uncategorized, Vegetables and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Wonderfully moist, brined Thanksgiving turkey

  1. Randy says:

    That Turkey was so yummy. The white meat was very moist. What a delicious Thanksgiving with all those sharing their great food. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

  2. Genny says:

    I couldn’t decide what I liked best — everything was delich! Yours was only the second time I’ve experienced a moist turkey (the first time was one I made using apple juice in the pan while the turkey cooked). My plate was full and I wanted to get some seconds, but my belly had no more room! I didn’t have anything else to eat for the rest of the day.
    This was the first time I’ve experienced a taste of Italy at Thanksgiving — and I’m Italian!! And I’m still mystified as to how the sweet potato casserole got so light and airy.
    Thanks for inviting us to join you–very kind and generous of you & Randy. Love you.

    • Hi, Genny–I agree, everything was wonderfully delicious! We were so happy that so many of our friends were able to join us this year for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone outdid themselves with their contributions of food all so different, all so tasty. We hope there will be many more such dinners as the years roll by. Love you too! Mary

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