What I did for turkey
Removed the skin, cut the breast into manageable pieces about 2 inches thick, salted for 2 days, dried with paper towel, seasoned with pepper and sealed in vacuum bags with garlic herb butter. Cooked in a 141F water bath for 3 hours, then removed, dried, and seared.
How was it?
Moderately juicy, but way more dense than I expected. Different than roasted turkey breast, but not significantly better.
Here is my best guess as to why I didn't get the stunning sous-vide turkey everyone talks about. I bought my turkey at Savenor's and paid the price that is embarrassing to say out loud (Jason and I were joking that at that price, we could be serving prime rib-eye from Costco). This bird had a long resume with buzz words that included locally raised in Lancaster, MA, free-range, organic, and every other accolade you can imagine. It's been a long time since I handled turkey, but when I was cutting up the raw breast, I thought it was extremely firm. That probably explains the density of the finished product since it's impossible to overcook something using the sous-vide method.
As far as the lack of juiciness goes, I guess that's what I get for not brining. I prefer to salt my proteins in advance, but not brine them. Salting them helps them retain the moisture naturally present in them. Brining makes them absorb extra moisture resulting in more juiciness, but the brined proteins always taste a little spongy to me. I can usually get away without brining simply by pre-salting for a day or two and being very careful not to overcook. But when it comes to turkey, I should have pulled out the big guns, especially that I was dealing with an "all-natural" turkey. Most supermarket ones, like Butterball are already pre-brined from what I understand.
Now the good part...
What I did for skin
Removed skin from a whole turkey breast in one piece. It was a big rectangle and I sewed the long parts together and one of the short sides to make a long stocking. I used regular cotton thread and sewing needle. The trick is to not make it too tight since the stuffing expands and can rip the thread.
I made stuffing following the basic instructions from Cook's Illustrated (you might need a membership to see this link). I added chopped chestnuts and port soaked dried cherries. But what really made it was using good bread (I used Iggy's French pullman) and using homemade chicken stock. Cherries were fabulous in this stuffing. Somehow chestnuts got a little lost. Not that they weren't yummy, but I wanted to taste them a little more considering the fact that I spent $11 on them (I used the ones from a jar). Next time, I'd try pecans.
I stuffed the skin stocking with the stuffing being careful not to pack it tight and sewed the short end. Sprinkled with salt and pepper, coated with duck fat, and roasted in the oven at 400F for about 45 minutes flipping half way through. We let it rest 15 minutes before slicing.
How was it?
Crispy, flavorful, and absolutely delicious! It's such a bummer that I can't think of any good way to repeat the stuffed skin since I can't imagine myself cooking turkey this way again. I just don't have it in me to find the tastiest turkey to buy and the best way to cook it. Even the tastiest turkey isn't as good as the tastiest chicken. I wonder what happens to the skin from the skinless chicken breasts so ubiquitous in stores nowadays. Maybe there is a pile of poultry skin sitting somewhere waiting to be stuffed and roasted.
The basic idea of sous-vide for Thanksgiving was great. I had my oven free to bake 3 tarts and could delegate the water maintenance responsibility to the 3 engineers in our family (we were using a beer cooler since I don't have an immersion circulator).
If any one has any suggestions on how to make a stunning sous-vide turkey, do leave me a comment.
[here is what vacuumed sealed cooked turkey looked like before searing]