Last Thanksgiving post! This turkey was part of my West Asian Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted to serve it without gravy, so I gave it a good dose of spice to make up for the lack of sauce.
I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. Gravy is the best part of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t think of a credible way to make a “west asian” gravy, so I left it out. But coming from a gravy lover, this works, plus with the ultra creamy tahini mashed potatoes, it’s really not necessary.
Turkey has a bit of a “taste” that not all of us are fond of, and this spicy rub is the perfect way to bring out the good flavours while masking the bad ones. Turkey breasts also have a tendency to dry out, so I always brine my turkey first, which keeps the meat moist and ensures that it’s well seasoned throughout.
This year I used a fresh heritage turkey, and while I’m not entirely convinced that it’s worth the 3x price difference, it was certainly very tasty. I’d say the biggest difference is that the meat had a bit more texture (in a good way) and flavor than your standard butterball turkey. It also seemed to have less fat.
1 turkey (I used an 8lbs heritage turkey)
for the brine
1 G water
2 C kosher salt (or 1 C table salt)
3/4 C brown sugar
for the rub
4 cloves garlic pressed
4 tsp kosher salt (or 2 tsp table salt)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs harissa
Since I have a very small fridge, I used a washed plastic garbage bag placed inside an ice chest to brine my turkey. Just put a few ice packs down at the bottom, place a clean bag inside the ice chest and fill with the brine solution. Wash your turkey inside and out and place it in the brine filled bag. You may need to double the amount of brine depending on the size of your turkey and ice chest. Then just tie the top and let it brine for 4-6 hours.
When you’re ready to roast it, take the turkey out of the brine and rinse it off inside and out. Pat it dry with paper towels and allow it to continue air drying at room temp for about 30 minutes. Place your oven rack at the lowest position and preheat to 450 degrees F. Prepare a v rack by covering the rack in foil and poking holes in the foil with a knife. This allows the turkey to drain without leaving rack marks on the turkey.
For the rub, just combine all the ingredients in a bowl. If the mixture is too pasty, just add some more olive oil to thin it out. Place the turkey on the rack and rub the inside, outside, top, bottom and sides with the harissa mixture. You can also carefully separate the skin from the breast meat near the main opening in the turkey and spread the mixture all over the breast and thighs. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey, then tuck the drumsticks into the skin at the tail to secure.
With the breast-side down, put the turkey in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the back side of the turkey is nice and brown. Remove the turkey from the oven then using tongs, silicon oven mits, or wads of paper towels, flip the bird so the breasts are facing up. Turn down the oven to 325 and continue roasting until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F.
Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. This gives the meat a chance to “relax” and reabsorb some of the moisture that would be lost if you cut into it right away. Carve and serve with Fiery Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce as well as these other fixin’s.