I was contacted by a representative of The Rogers Group and presented with a challenge: to prepare a turkey using Kikkoman soy sauce in the brine. First, let me say that I am a huge fan of brining. There’s no question in my mind that a brined turkey is moister, more flavorful and tender. Brining has become an important part of my turkey roasting ritual. But soy sauce in the brine? At first, my mind rejected the idea. But then I thought, why not? Soy sauce is really another form of salt with flavor added – umami, as they would say on Iron Chef.
Besides, I wait all year for Thanksgiving because I love turkey, so why not get some of that wonderful turkey goodness early? I accepted the challenge, along with a box of goodies from The Rogers Group (lots of Kikkoman products, an apron, a Kikkoman spoon rest, and a $25 gift certificate which paid for my 11.5-lb. Harris Teeter Premium turkey).
Brining is definitely catching on, and brining bags are starting to pop up in grocery stores and online to make the job a little easier. It’s worth the price to buy a throw-away bag that’s food safe. Plastic trash bags are not food safe and should never be used to brine a turkey. You can use a bucket, if you have one that’s clean, but how do you fit it into your fridge where you can control the temperature and keep the turkey cold? Definitely buy the brining bag.
All turkeys nowadays (except for the $50 ones) are injected with some solution that contains salt. Not wanting to eat a salt lick for dinner, I did tweak the Kikkoman recipe a bit to cut some salt. The perfect venue presented itself: hubby was having his football buddies over to watch the Browns. They were ecstatic to taste a pre-Thanksgiving experiment at half-time instead of the usual hot dogs. Apple Jack cream gravy, potato stuffing, roasted fingerlings, baby carrots and asparagus, cranberry sauce and caramel apple pie rounded out the meal. The Apple Jack cream gravy, made with the turkey drippings, is my new favorite, even beating Emeril's giblet gravy made with white wine.
I’m so glad The Rogers Group sent me two big bottles of Kikkoman soy sauce, because I’ll definitely be making this brine again, not just with turkey, but also with chicken. It’s delicious, not too salty and added such nice flavor to the turkey. There was no hint of soy sauce in the flavor – the turkey just tasted good. Everyone gave it two thumbs up, way up. And, by the way, the Kikkoman website has plenty of recipes and ideas for using their many and varied products, as well as printable coupons.
Soy-Apple Brined Grilled Turkey with Apple Jack Cream Gravy
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
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|BRINE: (for 10- to 15-lb. turkey -- double the recipe for 16-24 lbs.) |
2 quarts + 20 oz. cold water (divided use)
2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt (or kosher salt, if preferred)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 (12 oz.) container frozen apple juice
4 oz. Kikkoman soy sauce, regular or low sodium (I used low-sodium)
2-1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage (or 2-1/4 tsp. dried sage)
2 tsp. celery seed
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs (or 1-1/8 tsp. dried thyme)
TURKEY: 1 (10 to 15 lb.) frozen turkey, thawed in refrigerator and rinsed with cold water, neck and giblets removed. (Generally, figure 5 hours of thawing for each pound, but this depends on the temperature of your fridge and whether you place the turkey on the upper or lower racks, in the front or in the back. The higher up you place your turkey in the fridge, the warmer the temperature and the faster the thawing. And the front of the fridge is warmer than the back of the fridge.)
1 small unpeeled apple, chopped in chunks
1 celery stalk, chopped in chunks
1 small onion, chopped in chunks
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2-3 thyme sprigs
4-5 sage leaves, chopped
GRAVY: Drippings from turkey
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided use
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1-1/2 Tbsp. apple jack brandy
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
To make brine, combine 1/2 cup cold water with salt and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat to boiling; stir till salt and sugar are thoroughly dissolved. Cool; chill in fridge several hours till very cold. (You can do this one day ahead.) When ready to brine, add remaining water and brine ingredients to salt/sugar solution. Place rinsed, drained, thawed turkey in brine, using a brining bag or clean bucket; cover. (Do not use a plastic trash bag!) Refrigerate turkey overnight, or at least 8 hours. Remove turkey from brine, discarding brine. Rinse turkey well, inside and out, with cold running water; drain; pat dry inside and out with clean paper towels.
To grill turkey, prepare 3-burner gas grill by heating right and left units only to 350F, or heat one side of a 2-burner gas grill. Buy an inexpensive (about $9 at Wal-Mart) turkey roaster with V-rack and just use it for the grill. Buy a second shallow pan (disposable) that will fit inside the roaster and under the turkey to catch the drippings.
Stuff main and neck cavities with the aromatics. Place turkey legs inside metal; skewer shut neck cavity; turn wings under. Rub turkey with oil or butter. Place, breast side down, on V-rack over unlit portion of grill. Cover grill. Cook 1-1/4 hours. Turn turkey over on back, breast side up, using clean potholders or mitts. Continue to cook additional 2-1/2 hours, or till pop-up timer pops. Thermometer inserted at the inside of the thigh should register 165F. (Insides of thighs and wing joints are the last two parts of the turkey to cook. All parts of the turkey must register 165F or higher to kill bacteria.) It is not necessary to baste this turkey. If any part of the turkey browns too much, cover it with tinfoil to keep it from burning. If entire top of turkey is too brown, tent loosely with tinfoil while continuing to cook.
Transfer V-rack with cooked bird to a cutting board that has indentations for juices. Cover bird with tinfoil, then with a clean bath towel, folded over. Let rest for at least 1/2 hour, or up to 1-1/2 hours. When ready to carve, remove towel, tinfoil and V-rack and pour juices that have collected into gravy. Discard aromatics.
To make gravy, strain drippings from disposable pan through strainer into a 1-1/2-quart saucepan. Place saucepan in freezer for 1/2 hour; discard hardened fat. Whisk in 1-1/2 cups broth and heat to boiling over medium-high heat. (Combine cornstarch with remaining 1/2 cup of broth; whisk into pot and cook till gravy thickens, several minutes. Lower heat; add brandy and cream. Taste to adjust seasonings. (The drippings are so flavorful you will not need much, if any, salt and pepper.)