Blog Archives

Thanksgiving Files: Perfect Turkey

OK, your turkey is probably not going to look like this (unless you’re JeffW) so cut yourself a break. It will taste wonderful, that is all that matters.

Reposted from 2011 Thanksgiving:

Okay, let’s jump into the cooking a turkey debate.  And acknowledge that a perfect turkey is in the eye of the beholder…or cook.

Last year I had my very first deep fried turkey – I know, late to the party as usual – and I really enjoyed it.  But considering deep frying of any kind terrifies me, you will not see me attempting that anytime soon.  There’s a reason only JeffreyW has deep frying recipes on the blog.  I will, however, enjoy the labors of anyone who wants to deep fry one for me (I’m looking at you little brother).

Traditionalists seem to like to roast their turkeys, basting and slaving over a hot oven for the perfect bird.  I’m not a traditionalist by any means.  Have I mentioned I’m lazy?  Yes, I do believe I have.

There is nothing wrong with this and for expert cooks, the perfect bird is attainable.  But for the rest of us mortals, traditional roasting can be a challenge.  It’s too easy to over cook or under cook, leaving your white meat dry or your dark sections pink and unsafe – sometimes in the same bird.   But in case you want to roast, here are step by step instructions:

World’s Simplest Roast Turkey

And here’s everyone’s favorite Alton Brown with a video demonstration:

Alton Roasts a Turkey

Next up are the briners.  I have to tell you I do not understand brining a turkey.  I’ve had brined turkey, it’s not my favorite.  But if you have a desire to brine, here’s our trusty Alton again (seeing a theme here?):

Alton Brine’s a Turkey

One thing you’ll see in all these examples is no one stuffs a turkey with stuffing.  In my humble opinion this is the easiest way to dry out your bird or accidentally poison your guests.  Stuffing needs to reach a temperature of at least 165 degrees to be fully cooked, at this point your bird will be completely dried out.  If you are looking for stuffing that tastes like it has been cooked inside the bird, do what my friend Alton does (no not that Alton), he buys and cooks turkey thighs and legs in chicken broth (or you can use the neck and giblets) and then uses that broth to season both his stuffing and gravy.  And both are wonderful.  Cook the stuffing in a casserole dish, covered for really moist stuffing.  If you like a crunchy top, take the lid off once the stuffing is warmed through and bake until golden brown on top.

So what do you do with that big cavernous space in your turkey if you’re not going to stuff it?  Fill it with flavor.  I use a spice infuser or a spice bag and fill it with all kinds of wonderful spices, depending on my mood.  I’ve also added a whole onion or citrus fruits (all should be disposed of after cooking), to infuse the bird with intense flavor.  Citrus bird is one of my favorites after the traditional rosemary-garlic-sage spices.

This recipe for a citrus bird sounds wonderful and I may try it this year (yes, I do cook a turkey even if I’m having Thanksgiving elsewhere – how else are we going to have leftovers?):

Perfect Citrus Turkey

Picture of Perfect Citrus Turkey and Gravy Recipe

Citrus Turkey from Food Network

So how do I cook my bird?  After many mishaps, I’ve decided that the easiest and most foolproof way is to use a cooking bag.  I usually roast at a higher temperature than on the instructions (375 instead of the 325 they recommend) and the last 15 minutes or so, I open the bag, pull it back and let the skin brown nicely.

Whatever spices I decide to use in the infuser I also mix with butter and put under the skin of the bird at the breast and thighs.  I then coat the bird in olive oil and spices to get a nice browned texture.  This gives me a perfectly flavored bird that I don’t ever have to worry about, so I can then concentrate on all the sides.  It’s never failed me.

So if you are a novice, or even a seasoned cook, but don’t want to take any chances on  disappointing your guests, I say go with a roasting bag.

Are you cooking the turkey this year?  How are you preparing yours?  Want to share a favorite recipe?  Nervous about pleasing a house-full of hungry company?

I may have a few more sides to share or we’ll head straight into desserts.  Until then…

About these ads

Test Turkey

I’m having a difficult time wrapping my brain around the idea that Thanksgiving is next week. It couldn’t be the 29th why? Anyway, I’m in no way ready. I’m busy painting, slowly, room by room. The kitchen will be sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Meanwhile, I made my first turkey of the season last week, because I love turkey. I used an herb-spice butter/olive oil spread and herb-spice infuser in the cavity and then roasted it in the traditional method with a tin foil tent.

For the herb butter mixture, I mixed 2 tbsp of butter with dried sage, rosemary, basil, crushed garlic and lemon zest and added about a tbsp of olive oil. Then I lifted the skin on the turkey and spread the mixture directly on the meat, breast and down to the thighs. I used what was left to spread on the skin, along with a good dose of olive oil. I put a cheesecloth ( you could use an infuser or unbleached coffee filter) filled with large amounts of the same spices/herbs and placed in the breast cavity, along with a quartered onion.

I roasted for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduced the temperature to 350 degrees and roasted until the thermometer read 165 degrees. I covered it with foil as soon as the turkey skin was a nice browned color (about 1 hour and 45 minutes in) for the remainder of the cooking time. I left it covered after I removed it from the oven and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

It was very flavorful. Moist enough. I think I’ll repeat it on Thanksgiving, maybe adding 1 or 2 halved oranges in the breast cavity.

For safe turkey handling tips and cooking temperatures, click here.

Back to Basics: Roasted Chicken

Writing about Julia Child’s birthday the other day gave me a good laugh when I found her dancing chicken video. I’ve been wanting to roast a chicken for a while, but when it’s so hot, turning on the oven is the last thing I want to do. It was supposed to be cooler this weekend, so I picked up a 5 lb roasting chicken.

Today I put it all together. Roasting a chicken is a pretty quick and easy meal. Cooking time is about an hour and a half (17 minutes per pound is the general rule, at 375 degrees F).

First, wash and dry the bird. Gently use your fingers to pull the skin away from the breasts and down to the thighs. Careful not to tear it. I made a paste of  finely minced garlic, rosemary, sage, and olive oil. Spread the paste under the skin.

Next fill either a spice infuser, cheesecloth or I use an unbleached coffee filter, with a lot of garlic, rosemary and sage, and maybe a bit of thyme, and put it in the cavity. I also added 1/2 of an onion, quartered. Tie off the legs, place in the roaster and brush the bird with a mix of olive oil and bit of butter.  Don’t forget to tuck in the wing tips so they don’t burn.

I let it sit for 15-20 minutes to allow it to come to room temperature and allowing everything to meld together. I roasted it at 15 minutes at 450 degrees, lowered the heat to 375 degrees and roasted it until thermometer read 160 degrees. I brushed it a couple of times with the oil/butter mix.  Took it out and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving, at which point the internal temp was 165 degrees without drying it out. Remove and discard the spice infuser and onions. Slice and serve.

Yummy.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Potatoes

Cross-posted at Balloon-Juice.

I’m ready for this week to be done. Time for some weekend. It is supposed to rain which may impact my cycling, but we need the rain, as several areas are on fire. So I won’t whine and will find other ways to enjoy the days off. I’m seeing The Avengers tomorrow and no big plans otherwise.

I may finish Wiley Cash’s book, A Land More Kind than Home. I’m about halfway through. I love this book and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is I want to savor every chapter. Thanks for the recommendation John Cole.

Nothing exciting on the cooking front this week, but I did go out to dinner earlier this week and had an Indian Bread Taco that was amazing. I doubt I could recreate it, but if anyone has a good recipe, I’d love it if you’d share it.

Glad to hear frequent recipe contributor, Joshua D. (aka:Yutsano) had successful surgery today. Maybe he’ll have time to cook some good stuff while he recuperates.

Okay, on to tonight’s ingredients: potatoes. I have three recipes for you, Grilled Sweet Peppers and Potatoes, Roasted Smashed Potatoes, and a fool-proof Baked Potato with Roasted Garlic Butter below. If none of those are what you’re looking for, I just checked and we have over 20 potato recipes, you’ll probably find at least one.

This method results in excellent baked potatoes that have a crisp, flavorful skin and tender, fluffy potato. Top with roasted garlic butter for a perfect side. If you’re wondering about the skewers, they transfer heat throughout, so the potatoes cook quicker and don’t seem to dry out. Always fluffy. Skewering works really well with sweet potatoes, too.

Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Butter

  • 4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 to 4 metal skewers

Spread

  • 1 or 2 large head of garlic
  •  olive oil
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of rosemary, minced
  • 4 to 8 tbsp of butter

Skewer each potato (depending on the size of the skewer you can sometimes get 2 on it, leaving room between potatoes). Rub oil liberally on potatoes and then coat with a light layer of salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, peel white paper skin from garlic and slice off 1/4 inch off the top. Coat well in olive oil, place in a small baking dish (I saw a great recommendation making several and using a 6-cup muffin tin). Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cloves are soft when pierced. (Of course you can use a garlic roaster if you have one)

Once garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves out of their skins. Using a fork, mash garlic, butter, pinch of salt and minced rosemary to smooth paste. Serve with potatoes.

What’s on your weekend menu? And if you have recipe requests, let me know. I’m thinking strawberries or ziti next week, I haven’t decided yet.

Roasted Mozzarella Asparagus

Sorry for the light posts. I do have some fun things in mind though, starting with Orange Brownies tonight. So there’s that. Roasting is our menu exchange theme for tomorrow, so I thought I’d start things off with some asparagus which I think would go very well with JeffreyW’s flatiron steaks.  He made them look so good, I’m going to try one this week. I usually go for sirloin, but these looked amazing, so I’ll give them a taste. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Now for a side:

Roasted Mozzarella Asparagus

  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • Good olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 cup  fresh, shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest

Baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus. A quick trick is to keep the rubber band in place, snap off one or two to see where the tough break is, then use a knife to cut them all at that place. Remove rubber band and wash stalks thoroughly, pat dry.

Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat completely. Spread  in a single layer and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Spread mozzarella and lemon zest evenly over the top and broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden.

If your weather allows, you can also do these on the grill, use a nice grilling pan and adjust the time according to grill temp.

Christmas Eve Dinner: NOT Orange Herb Butter Turkey

Continuing the recipes for the Christmas Eve Menu.

How do you cope with cooking a big meal for a group?  I try to get as much done ahead of time as possible.  The desserts are done, the stuffing is in the baking dish, the cranberry sauce is done, and the giblets are simmering on the stove for the gravy.  The turkey is washed and ready to prep.  Normally I’d have it all prepped and ready to pop in the oven, but since I”m using an orange butter I can’t do it until about 30 minutes ahead.  Citrus begins to breakdown the meat and would leave it rubbery if I applied it tonight.

Tomorrow will be making the crostini, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy while the turkey cooks.

Orange butter you say?  Yup.  I started with a citrus turkey recipe and then, didn’t like it, so I made it my own.

So I did not like this recipe at all.  The butter did not blend well with the citrus.  I’ll do it my usual way next time:  Olive oil and orange juice on the skin, oranges and herb packet in the bird cavity.  

Orange Herb Butter

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3 clementine oranges, remove seeds
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic

Add all ingredients in the blender (yes, orange with peels on, I call that easy zest) and blend until completely smooth.

To prepare the turkey:

Remove giblets, etc.  Wash and dry the turkey.  Run your hands under the skin, gently lifting it away from the turkey.  I can usually even pull it away from the legs and thighs, just depends on the bird.  Take half the orange butter and run between the turkey and the skin.  Then spread the remainder on the outside of the bird, covering the skin completely.  Stuff the bird with 3-4 clementines, cut in half.  As you put them into the cavity, give them a squeeze so the juice gets into the cavity.  As the bird cooks, the oranges will continue to steam and keep the bird moist.

Roast as you like.  I’ll be using a bag.  You can also do a technique that works well with a citrus butter – preheat oven to 450 degrees, cook the bird for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temp to 350 degrees and cook until it reaches at least 165 degrees, it should reach 175 to 180 while it rests before carving.

I’ll probably not use the drippings for gravy, well see what its flavor is like, I’m just afraid it will be too sweet.  But I will be using the simmered giblet broth for the gravy.  It works great.  I also used some to flavor the stuffing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 523 other followers