Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey

Dog girls are always so attentive when it's time to carve the turkey!

The first year that Andrew and I spent Thanksgiving together, we house sat for some friends in Taos. I had spent weeks planning the menu and gathering all of the ingredients. We headed to Taos with no less than three big coolers filled with food.

When we arrived on Wednesday night, Andrew spent three hours cleaning the oven in preparation for the next day (our friends had warned us that the last time they used it, something had spilled and that we would probably want to clean it out first). If you’ve cleaned an oven, you know how gross it is. The next morning, he got up and finished cleaning the oven so we could start baking.

After trying to pre-heat the oven, we quickly discovered that the oven didn’t actually work. It was about 11:00 am on Thanksgiving morning in Taos, and we had a ridiculously expensive fresh turkey that needed cooking. Ack!

After all of the preparations we had done, there was no way we were going to abandon our plan. Andrew quickly got on the phone with his relatives in Memphis, and his grandmother advised that we could cook our turkey on a charcoal grill. Luckily, our friends had a big grill so we headed to town and bought all of the charcoal we could find at the gas stations that were open. I think we ended up with three or four small bags.

It was a lot of fun maneuvering that huge turkey on the grill, and even more fun because it turned out just fine. The pumpkin pie tasted a little like charcoal, but it was an awesome Thanksgiving.

It turned out pretty good, don't you think?
We’ve refined our turkey cooking over the years, and I think we have a pretty good recipe now. I use the Ultimate Turkey recipe from the November 2005 Bon Appétit as my base recipe.

Tips that I follow from this issue include:
  • Buy a fresh turkey – frozen turkeys won’t be nearly as juicy. All of that water you see when you defrost a turkey used to be in the bird.
  • Buy organic – without a doubt it will taste better. Our coop offers a variety of local turkeys so we’ve tried several types over the years. I like the gamier tasting ones.
  • Butter makes everything better – Amen!
  • Baste – don’t underestimate its value in keeping your bird moist.
  • Let the bird brown – the previous two tips will keep it moist. Don’t be afraid to let it be a nice chestnut brown.
The tips that I’ve added on my own are:
  • Use homemade chicken broth for basting - It’s super easy and tastes way way better. It’s definitely worth it! You can make your broth now and freeze it so it is all ready for Thanksgiving.
  • Set your turkey out on the counter for a few hours before you put it in the oven to get it to room temperature.
  • Use thick, good quality bacon strips to keep your bird moist.  As a bonus, you can snack on them while the turkey is being carved.

The Ultimate Turkey
8 servings
adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2005

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme plus 15 fresh thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon plus 5 large fresh tarragon sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary plus 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 5 fresh sage sprigs

1 14- to 16- pound turkey
12-15 pieces thick bacon

4 cups homemade chicken broth, divided

Mix ½ cup butter and all minced herbs in small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at the neck end, slide your hand between the skin and breast meat to loosen the skin. Rub 4 tablespoons herbed butter over breast meat under the skin. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity. Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey generously with salt and pepper. Place bacon strips over the legs, wing tips and breast.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon remaining plain butter to roasting pan. Roast turkey 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Cover turkey loosely with foil. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh registers 175 degrees, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup of broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to platter; let stand 30 minutes (internal temp will rise 5 to 10 degrees).

Strain pan juices into bowl; and if desired, they can be used to create the gravy.

1 comment:

  1. Gah! It looks gorgeous and I love love turkey, I am just glad that I am never in charge of it. When I am I swear by the roasting bags. Seems like a cop out, but they work like a dream.


Hey, thank you!

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