Cooking

Brine It On

John Ash's "Culinary Birds" puts a little sugar in your bowl

Millions of Americans call the Butterball advice line for Turkey Day guidance.

We called John Ash, the chef of Santa Rosa's John Ash & Co.

The Wine Country legend just published Culinary Birds: The Ultimate Poultry Cookbook ($30), and not a moment too soon. It contains hundreds of recipes for chicken, duck and even rarer birds, like pheasant, as well as turkey prepared any number of ways.

If you're buying a heritage turkey this year (like the ones from BN Ranch), Ash told us he's a fan of wet brining, which ensures the densely muscled flesh stays tender during roasting.

Heck, Ash recommends wet brining regardless of the type of turkey. "Your conventional turkeys tend to dry out, so by adding a wet brine you're adding moisture to the meat."

We asked Ash to share his standard brine recipe with us (see the recipe). His twists: soy sauce, maple syrup and brown sugar.

The sugars don't only give the skin a glossy, caramel-colored sheen. "Sugar is nature's most perfect flavor enhancer," Ash says. "Sugar can both bring flavors together and bring them out."

The turkey we brined according to his recipe wasn't sweet. It was rich.

The only catch: You're going to need to plan ahead, since the brine takes two to four days to sink in.

Even John Ash can't help you with that.

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