So I already let you in on my favorite Thanksgiving Hot Cranberry Salad recipe last week, but you’re probably wondering about the main event: the turkey. If you’re a fan of healthy, hearty cooking like I am, it’s time to get excited. Let me introduce you to one of my personal favorite chefs, Gavan Murphy, aka the Healthy Irishman. He’s a graduate of the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland and is known for his seasonal, organic, farm-to-table cuisine. His brined and roasted turkey recipe is to-die-for, and since he’s going to be a regular contributor to my site, you can look forward to a lot more where this came from. Enjoy!
Roasted Turkey by Gavan the Healthy Irishman
For most people, the holidays are all about eating, drinking and lots of leftovers—especially turkey (we end up having turkey sandwiches out the yin yang for days afterward, don’t we?). But think about this: The average Thanksgiving meal, including appetizers, booze, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, buttered bread and dessert, can add up to more than 4000 calories! And that’s just on Thanksgiving, not including the following days in which we pig out on leftovers. As they say across the pond, holy crap! Luckily, I have some tricks up my sleeve for making your Thanksgiving meal healthier without sacrificing flavour.
Let’s talk turkey. Choosing a turkey can be confusing with all these new labels out there, so how to do you know what the best option is for you? I’ve made it easier to navigate through the labels here so you can purchase the perfect turkey.
Now that you’ve decided on which turkey you are getting, let’s talk about how to cook it. I find that when it comes to cooking birds (of the feathered variety that is) a lot of people cook the daylights out of it so they won’t poison anyone. What you end up with is a dry, flaky and overcooked bird, which is just not tasty. I have a solution that will change your turkeys forever. My favourite way to build flavour for a turkey is to brine it the day before cooking it. Basically, brining is soaking the meat in salted water, which helps add flavor and keeps the meat moist during roasting. Brining also provides a temperature cushion during cooking, so if your tendency is to overcook it, brining will help lock in the juices so it won’t taste like rubber. Another note on brining is that brined meats tend to cook faster than un-brined meats, so keep your eye on the internal temp about 2/3 of the way into your normal cooking time.
Note: Remove the giblets before brining, but make sure you keep them for my healthy gravy recipe.
10 lb. organic turkey breast
enough cold water to cover bird
1½ cups cup kosher salt
9 bay leaves 3 tbsp peppercorns
2 bunches fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, sage)
4 lemons – zested
Dissolve salt in the water. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Submerge turkey, breast side down. Make sure the cavity of the bird fills with the liquid as you are submerging it. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, drain, rinse and pat dry with paper towel, inside and out. Discard the brine.
Brining can be done with a whole turkey or just the breasts, which are the leanest cuts.
Note: Once the bird’s out of the fridge, let it stand at room temp for an hour before roasting.
10 lb. brined turkey
4 carrots – roughly chopped
4 parsnips – roughly chopped
2 white onions – roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic
1 large wedge fresh ginger – roughly chopped
2 lemons – halved
Fresh thyme and rosemary
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 325° F. Mix all vegetables together and lay on roasting pan. These will be used as a base for roasting the turkey, which prevents the meat from sticking to the oven tray and will infuse a bit o’ flavour into the bird while cooking. Season your turkey with salt and pepper inside and out. Drizzle olive oil all over the bird and massage it into the skin. Stuff the lemons, fresh thyme and rosemary into the cavity before roasting. Lay the seasoned turkey on the vegetables and place in lower shelf of the oven. The turkey will take around 2½ hours to cook. Figure 15 minutes per lb cooking time. When fully cooked, internal temperature should be 165° taken from the thickest part of the thigh using an instant-read thermometer. (Buy one, it’ll make your life easier.) When out of the oven, lay a sheet of foil loosely over the bird and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Note: If the skin of the bird is getting too brown while roasting, just lay a sheet of foil over the top while it’s in the oven.