A Fowl Most Fair
Uh, Chinese takeout?
Not a bad idea. But proceeding from the notion that on this blessed day of fueling up to battle the mobs for sweaters (Half Off!), computers (Deep Discounts!) and Christmas ornaments (Big, Big Savings!) on Black Friday a bird in the oven is worth all the greasy sweet 'n' sour pork in South Florida, consider dry-brining your T-Day fowl.
Well, yes. If you bother to read the glossy food magazines or surf the web for turkey recipes, you've no doubt heard countless exhortations to first wet-brine your bird before the inevitable oven-jamming. This means finding a container somewhere between the size of a 55-gallon oil drum and Olympic-sized swimming pool, filling it with heavily salted water into which you submerge the bird, then removing every stick of butter and sliver of cheese from your refrigerator to fit the goddam thing in for two or three days until ready to cook. The result will be a juicier than normal turkey, also one likely to have disconcertingly mushy meat and skin flabbier than Rex Ryan's jowls.
Dry-brining, on the other hand, is very much easier. It not only produces a bird with equally juicy and tender flesh but one with skin so crisp it can slice your finger like a razor. The idea of dry-brining a turkey, which is really nothing more than pre-salting a bird for a couple-three days, evolved from the wondrous roasted chicken served by chef Judy Rodgers at San Francisco's iconic Zuni Café (where during my years in SF I consumed an immodest number of these luscious, savory, golden-skinned creatures).
The guy who did all the necessary experimentation and adjusting is Russ Parsons of the L.A. Times, who explains the chemistry and gives the recipe here and here. I've dry-brined my last several T-Day turkeys this way (plus more chickens than I'd care to count) and the results are truly superlative. Try it with your holiday turkey, then with chicken, and you'll never roast a bird any other way. Besides, you didn't really want sweet 'n' sour pork, anyway.