Intelligent Gourmet Thanksgiving: Aromatic Brined Turkey with Cider Gravy
“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.” – Kevin James, comedian
Binge eating on Thanksgiving is as traditional as pumpkin pie, or the New Year’s resolution to lose weight. But you don’t have to feel as stuffed as a Turkey after dinner this year. You have the power to make Thanksgiving healthier and feel good about yourself the day afterwards. If you use the recipes I’ve written about this month, you can eat your fill guilt-free – and benefit from all the nutrients on the table – starting with the turkey and gravy.
Aromatic Brined Turkey
Yield – 6-8 servings
10-12 pound thawed or fresh turkey
1 C kosher salt
1/4th mixed peppercorns
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 whole carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
Generous bunch of fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup pickling spice (whole)
1/4th tsp ground ginger
1/4th tsp ground allspice
2 gallons water
5 cloves garlic
1/4th cup olive oil
2 Tb thyme
2 Tb parsley
1 tsp sage
1 tsp rosemary
½ tsp sea salt
1/4th tsp cracked black pepper
Two days in advance: Take all ingredients (except the turkey) and add them to a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, and refrigerate.
One day in advance: Remove giblets from turkey and set aside.
Rince the bird under cold water and pat dry. Add the turkey to the refrigerated brine and allow to sit for 6 hours.
The night before: Remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry, and return to the refrigerator overnight. This dries the skin so it will crisp.
Thanksgiving Day: Preheat oven to 550. Rub the turkey inside and out with the olive oil & herb turkey rub. Put the turkey in the oven for 30 minutes, then cover the breast with aluminum foil and replace in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake until juices in thigh run clear and breast meat reaches 165 degrees with a meat thermometer. Let the bird rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
Why it’s crazy-good for you: Turkey is such a healthy meat – high in protein, low in fat, and an excellent source of amino acids. And, did you know Tryptophan is an anti-depressant?
White meat or dark meat? White meat may be lower in fat and calories, and higher in protein, but dark meat has higher levels of Zinc, iron and thiamine. One choice is not automatically better for you than the other! Here’s the breakdown (1 serving = 3.5 oz).
- Calories per serving: White meat contains 161 calories. Dark meat contains 192 calories.
- Fat per serving: White meat contains 4 grams. Dark meat contains 8 grams.
- Protein per serving: White meat contains 30 grams. Dark meat contains 28 grams.
- Iron: White meat contains 1.57 mg. Dark meat contains 2.4 mg.
- Zinc: White meat contains 2.08 mg. Dark meat contains 4.3 mg.
- Thiamine: White meat contains .04 mg. Dark meat contains .05 mg.
- Riboflavin: White meat contains .13 mg. Dark meat contains .24 mg.
- Selenium: White meat contains 32.10 mcg. Dark meat contains 40.90 mcg.
- Folate: White meat contains .01 mcg. Dark meat contains 10 mcg.
Healthy Cider Gravy
4 cups Turkey stock or reduced sodium chicken broth, divided
3 Tb tapioca starch
1 1/4th cups apple cider (all-natural, unsweetened)
2 Tb cider vinegar
1/4 th tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
If making from your own turkey broth, skim off any visible fat from the pan juices. Whisk ½ cup turkey stock and tapioca starch in a small bowl until smooth and set aside. Set the roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Add cider and vinegar, and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from the pan. Boil until liquid is reduced by about half. Add the remaning 3 ½ cups stock and pour the reserved flour mixture into the pan. Boil, whisking constantly, until the gravy is thickened. Remove from heat and pour the gravy through a fine sieve. Season with salt and pepper.
Why it’s crazy-good for you: In several studies, vinegar has been linked to lowering glucose levels and evening out blood sugar, which means that even though you’re eating a lot today, you won’t up-end your brain chemistry completely tomorrow.