I think that out of all of the wild game that's out there, some of the most misunderstood is turkey. I won't dive into all of my feelings right now on how or why I feel this way, but I will say that a common misconception is that turkey breasts are flavorless and dry. And contrary to what many people think, that's the furthest thing from the truth if you prepare it correctly. The same is true for most things, isn't it?
Because turkey is so lean, the method in which you prepare it is critical. Placing it in a brine for a day does wonders to help keep the bird juicy and will make it drastically more tender on your plate once cooked. And although this method isn't rare among poultry and pork Culinarians, it hasn't been as widely broadcasted within the wild game world.
Brines vs. Marinades: How are they different?
For the longest time, brining baffled me. Why would I want to place something in a watery looking bath for a day when I could place it in a bowl of thick and flavorful looking marinade? The easiest way to think about the difference between the two is that a brine helps to keep a sufficient amount of moisture within the meat, while breaking down fibers, which result in a juicy and tender end result. I should also mention that brines meat tends to cook a little quicker than something that is not brined. A marinade on the other hand is all about adding flavor to meat, while making it tender at the same time. Moisture vs. flavor.
So, if you're sitting there with some fresh turkey in the freezer from this past season(first of all, congratulations), here's an easy recipe to boost your inspiration to prepare more gobbler dishes, other than waiting for Thanksgiving!
Ingredients for the brine:
1 Lemon, peeled
1 Orange, peeled
1/4 cup of Oregano(fresh if you have it!)
2 TBSP whole peppercorns
4 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 Bay leaf
1/3 cup Brown sugar
3/4 cup Kosher salt
5 cups water
Ingredients for the rub (combine all ingredients):
1/4 cup of Extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP cracked pepper
1.5 TBSP Smoked paprika
1 TBSP Chili Powder
1 dash of Cayenne Pepper
2 TBSP of Honey
To make the brine, add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Once all of the sugar and salt is dissolved, remove from the heat and let cool. It's important to let the brine cool completely before adding to the turkey, otherwise the meat will begin to cook.
Once cooled, place the turkey breast in a large Zip-loc bag or any other type of brining bag and add the cooled brine. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Once brined, take the meat out of the brine and rinse under cold water to remove any of the citrus peel and other herbs. Place on a paper towel and let dry.
After the turkey is dried, place on a roasting rack and rub generously with the rub.
Place into a preheated 450 F degree oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lower the heat to 350 F and cook until the internal temp hits 165 F. By doing this, the skin will begin to crisp up quicker and you won't dry the meat out. If you want to add another dimension of flavor to the skin, brush 2 tablespoons of honey on the skin with about 10 minutes left to cook. It will bubble and give you some great added flavor.
Let rest, slice and enjoy.