Pimentón-Brined Turkey


At Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago, chef Jose Garces prepares a brined turkey with spices, then smokes it. The brine adds so much flavor that the turkey is delicious without being smoked.

Active Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs
12 servings

Sam Mogannam's turkey stock recipe makes 12 cups in 15 minutes of active time to enrich this brined turkey.


Brined Turkey

  • 2 gallons water

  • 2 cups kosher salt

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sweet smoked paprika (preferably pimentón de la Vera)

  • 1/4 cup juniper berries, smashed

  • 1/4 cup black peppercorns

  • 6 star anise pods

  • 3 (4-inch) cinnamon sticks

  • 6 bay leaves

  • 1 ounce thyme sprigs

  • 2 oranges, quartered

  • 24 cups ice cubes

  • 15 pound turkey, giblets reserved

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Giblet Gravy

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 15 pounds turkey (heart and gizzard only), diced

  • 2 large shallots, minced

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup aged sherry (Pedro Ximénez)

  • 4 thyme sprigs plus 1 teaspoon chopped thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Turkey Stock

  • Reserved backbone, neck and wings from an 18-pound turkey, or 6 pounds turkey wings

  • 6 quarts water

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 2 celery ribs

  • 1 carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

  • 1 onion, halved

  • 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns

  • 2 parsley sprigs

  • 2 thyme sprigs

  • 1 bay leaf


Make the turkey stock

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer, skimming as necessary, until the stock is flavorful and reduced to 12 cups, about 3 hours. Strain the stock and skim off the fat.

Make the turkey

  1. In a very large pot, combine the water, salt, brown sugar, paprika, juniper berries, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and thyme and cook over high heat until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from the heat. Squeeze the oranges into the brine and add the peels. Add the ice and stir until cool. Add the turkey. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Drain the turkey and bring it to room temperature. Pat dry. Set the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and rub with the butter. Add 3 cups of water to the pan. Roast the turkey for about 3 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170°F. Transfer the turkey to a carving board; let rest for 30 minutes.

  3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the diced giblets; cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the sherry and whisk until thickened. Whisk in 6 cups of stock. Add the thyme sprigs and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until reduced to 5 cups, 30 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir in the chopped thyme.

  4. Pour the pan drippings into a bowl; skim off the fat. Add the drippings to the gravy; simmer for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.

Make ahead

The stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Suggested pairing

Tempranillo such as a red Rioja.

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