ALL ABOUT TURKEY
Here we go again - holiday get-togethers with family and friends are in the planning stages....Thanksgiving will be here very soon and the kitchen panic begins!
The big worry seems to be a never-ending quest for the perfectly roasted turkey and interesting side dishes and not the same 'ol same 'ol dishes that we use to have at Thanksgiving as children. Of course, some of the same side dishes just have to appear or else certain relatives would never forgive you for not serving marshmallows melted on top of a pan of sweet potatoes or a green bean casserole with a canned mushroom sauce and crispy fried onion rings on top.
Roasting the Turkey
Whatever you've heard or read about various methods of roasting a turkey the following method, is simply the best way to roast a turkey.
Easy Steps To a Perfectly Roasted Turkey
1. My "secret" for tender, juicy tasty roast turkey isn't really a secret.... brining the raw turkey for at least 2 days in a water, salt, sugar and herb mixture is what will ensure the moist, flavorful taste of your turkey. Packets of brine mixtures with large brining plastic bags are sold in specialty food stores and kitchenware stores and all you need to do is add water to the deep pot to hold the raw turkey in the brine.
What's even easier is to buy an Empire kosher turkey. Kosher turkeys have been soaked in a salt solution (brined) and the brining is done for you - just without any other flavorings except salt. Here are some basic steps to follow for cooking turkey.
2. If you've purchased a frozen turkey, you'll have to start this process 3 days before the two day brining time required. Remove the outside wrapping and cover the raw bird with plastic wrap and place the turkey on a baking sheet with sides to catch any drips as it thaws in the refrigerator. Allow at least 3 days in the refrigerator for a 12 - 16 pound turkey. As the turkey thaws over time, remove and giblets and other innards sometimes placed under the neck skin. These parts (except the liver) can be added to a pot of home made stock. Transfer the thawed bird into a large brining bag or a stock pot large enough to hold the turkey and add the brine mixture. Refrigerate for a day or two to allow the brine to penetrate the turkey. The above brining bag and brine blend seasoning is available online or at William Sonoma stores nationwide.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove turkey from the brine and dry well inside and out with paper towels a couple of hours before putting the bird in the oven to allow the bird to lose some of the chill of the brine. Place the bird breast side up on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan that is about 3-inches deep. Try to turn the wing tips under the bird. As an alternative to a metal roasting rack, I sometimes make a natural rack using ribs of celery and whole carrots for the bird to sit on. The vegetables add flavor to the pan juices for an even more delicious gravy.
4. I know some people still like to cook stuffing inside of the turkey and neck cavities, but I cook the stuffing in a separate pan or casserole. If you add a few tablespoons of turkey pan drippings to the pan of stuffing as it bakes in a separate dish you'll love the result. Roasting an un-stuffed bird also takes less time to roast and is safer from the possibility of bacterial contamination if not cooked thoroughly inside the turkey cavity.
5. In addition to the brining process, I also like to rub seasoned olive oil over the entire bird before roasting. I use garlic salt, dried oregano, black pepper, dried marjoram and dried crushed rosemary - added to the extra virgin olive oil. Another method of flavoring is to make a compound butter mixture, using any herbs you prefer (rosemary, thyme, sage) mixed into the butter spread under the skin of the turkey breast and even inside of the cavity. I also put a bunch of fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage, whole smashed garlic cloves and a lemon cut into quarters inside the cavity for even more flavoring.
6. Now the turkey is ready for the oven that has been heated to 400°F. Place roasting pan on the middle rack of your oven, uncovered, for one hour; Pour 2 cups of hot turkey stock into the roasting pan. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F for the remainder of roasting time until the instant-read thermometer that you have inserted into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast register at least 165°F For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.
7. Allow the turkey to set 20 to 30 minutes before carving to allow juices to saturate the meat evenly. Place a tent of aluminum foil over the bird while it is resting.
Here is a chart of suggested roasting times for stuffed and un-stuffed turkey. Roasting times vary due to oven temperature variations, how cold the bird is when you put it in the oven, so rely on an instant-read thermometer to tell you the internal temperature of the turkey to determine whether it's done.
I make a turkey stock using the giblets, neck, wing tips (not the liver if it's included in the bag of innards) and place these turkey parts in a 6 quart pot of cold water filled 3/4 full. Add 1 medium unpeeled onion cut in half, 2 carrots, 3 ribs of celery, 10 whole peppercorns, and a handful of fresh parsley sprigs. Bring to a boil; lower heat, cover and let cook for 45 minutes.
If you don't want the bother of making your own home made turkey stock, More Than Gourmet recently introduced their own line of ready-made stocks.
EASY & DELICIOUS TURKEY GRAVY
A lot of home cooks think that roasting the turkey is difficult, but then some cooks find making gravy using the turkey drippings a daunting task every holiday season! How much flour to add to thicken the gravy....how to make the gravy a nice brown color....what are those lumps doing in the gravy?
I'm here to tell you that it's no big deal to make a good quantity of tasty turkey gravy without a lot of fuss. As much as I love to cook from scratch, there are times when I use commercially available products that meet my standard of good taste and that make my cooking tasks easier, especially at hectic holiday dinners and one of those products is a reduced turkey stock (see below).
1. After you've removed the turkey from roasting pan to a carving board, remove any large solids and pour the rest of the pan juices from the roasting pan into a fat-separator measuring cup like the one above from OXO. If you don't have a fat-separator container, just pour the juices into a regular glass measuring cup and let it sit for about 10 minutes until the fat begins to separate from the juices.
Using a large spoon, skim off as much of the top layer of fat from the juices as you can but don't throw it all out. In a small cup or dish, blend 2 tablespoons of flour into 3 tablespoons of the fat and reserve.
2. Pour the de-fatted juices back into the roasting pan. (Note: if you're using disposable foil pans, transfer the pan juices to a real pan or pot to use on a stovetop). On the stovetop, over medium high heat, bring the juices in the roasting pan to a boil and with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, scrap any of the browned bits that may have formed in the roasting pan and incorporate into the juices. There is a lot of flavor in those bits and you want those flavors in your finished gravy. Add two sprigs fresh herbs like rosemary and/or thyme to the simmering juices.
3. Gradually, whisk into the juices two pucks of Glace de Volaille Gold, the reduced roasted turkey stock described below. Then add the flour and turkey fat mixture. Begin adding more turkey stock, 1 cup at a time until the gravy is as thick as you like it.
Continue to cook gravy over a medium heat - about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and, if needed, add salt & pepper. After another 5 minutes of simmering, strain gravy through a sieve to remove any last bits into a 3 quart size saucepan. Cover the saucepan and keep warm over a low heat until ready to serve the gravy with the turkey
CLASSIC ROASTED TURKEY STOCK
I've been using More Than Gourmet products for many years so I can highly recommend this product. Go to the their website and you'll see the huge array of reduced stocks which are expertly made and when added to poultry soups, stews or any sauce recipes, the result will be a very high quality soup, sauce or gravy to enjoy.
Reduced 20 times to create a wonderfully-rich roasted turkey classic glace, it can be used full strength (as described above) with the pan juices from your roasted turkey. Note that the container for each 1.5 oz of reduced stock is referred to as a "puck".
Glace de Volaille Gold is the ideal beginning point for creating elegant sauces, soups, stuffings and sides. The flavor of natural roasting juices cannot be surpassed. These deep, rich flavors create the perfect gravies to finish your most special dishes, complementing your recipes without overpowering them.
Available nationwide at specialty food retailers as well as online at this link: