Published November 1, 2005.
How do you give a turkey herb flavor that's more than superficial? We rubbed, soaked, injected, poked, and operated on more than two dozen birds to find out.
Throwing a bunch of herbs into the cavity of a turkey or rubbing the outside of the bird with a savory paste only flirts with great herb flavor--it doesn't infuse that flavor into each and every bite.
We wanted an intensely herby turkey, one with a powerful, aromatic flavor that permeated well beyond the meat's surface.
We tried a variety of approaches, but none worked: An intense brine made the bird taste more pickled than infused with herbs; pumping the paste into the bird with a syringe created nothing but ugly blobs of overwhelmingly strong, raw-tasting herbs; performing full-frontal bird surgery (butterflying the turkey) was too labor-intensive. Then we tried a technique we had developed for stuffing a thick-cut pork chop. We made a vertical slit in the breast meat and, using a paring knife, created an expansive pocket by sweeping the blade back and forth. This created a void into which we could rub a small amount of herb paste. This along with three other herbal applications--underneath the skin, inside the cavity, and over the skin--made for a successful four-pronged approach that gave every bite of turkey an herb flavor. The herb paste itself, balanced with lesser amounts of pungent herbs (sage and rosemary) and greater amounts of softer flavors (thyme and parsley), also included lemon zest for a fresh, bright note and olive oil and Dijon mustard to make it spreadable.list of recipes