BRINING YOUR THANKSGIVING TURKEY:
One of the things that creates the most fear and complaints at a Thanksgiving feast is a dry turkey! I have an excellent way to avoid that: Brining is a wonderful way to add moisture and flavor to your bird before you cook it…by soaking it in a solution of water, salt, and a variety of other ingredients that may include: sugar, wine, hot sauce, herbs, spices, pepper, beer, juice, etc.
I don’t always measure when I create my brine solution. The recipe at this site however is quite similar to what I normally do: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Poultry/BriningPoultry.htm or http://www.butterball.com/tips-how-tos/how-tos/brine ) and add a little tabasco to the brine solution. It is absolutely necessary that you store your turkey at a safe temperature (under 40 degrees) during the entire time that you are brining it.
After removing the turkey from the brine we normally rub the bird all over with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and herbes de provence. Then we fill the cavity with apples, garlic, and oranges (all cut in half). Then we roast or smoke the turkey.
If you choose to fill your bird with stuffing, do not put the stuffing in before you are ready to put the bird in the oven as this can be very dangerous from a food poisoning perspective.
For your gravy I recommend starting by sautéing 4 finely minced shallots; add about 4 tablespoons of the drippings from your turkey (or butter) then cook until onions or shallots are translucent. Add 2 tsp dried thyme, lots of fresh ground black pepper, salt to taste and 2 cups turkey or chicken stock. If desired, also add a splash of wine. Simmer for about 10 minutes then thicken by adding 1 TBSP cornstarch that has been dissolved in 1 TBSP water.
Stir constantly until thick, about 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup finely chopped turkey. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.