With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the world over scrambling for recipes, ideas, short cuts, and what not I figured I would post a few recipes of my own.
Ah the fattened fowl that is Turkey. How we love thee every November. Course I love you a lot too when I frequent Boston Market every other day of the year. :D But Thanksgiving is the one day that I get to become a chaotic b!tch in the kitchen, make a giant feast and feed all those that survived the entire day of me being a crazed lunatic in the kitchen. Sounds like fun doesn't? Course my family will tell you I'm a crazed lunatic the other 364. :p Now some people tend to shy away from making a whole turkey during Thanksgiving and I don't know why that is. Sure it takes some time and some prep but there are no shortage of websites and hot lines out there that can help you with any dilemma that might arise. I really think you should give it a go this year if you haven't made a turkey. Go on now. Get to the store!
Turkey Tips, Tricks, and another T Word
Choose - When choosing your bird make sure you get enough meat to feed your guests. It is estimated that you will need about 3/4 of a pound per person for a whole turkey. Or if you want extra leftovers just do what I do and say one (1) pound per person to make the math easier.
Thaw - Be sure to allow adequate time for your Turkey to thaw in the fridge. Some people like to thaw their turkey in the sink with cold water but I find this annoying, time consuming, and I have to keep chasing cats away from the bird. I make sure mine is in a shallow dish on the bottom shelf and I check it a few times a day to dump any liquid that may drain during the thaw process. No that stuff is not blood but it's not good either. When I get stuck on thaw times I refer to good old http://www.butterball.com/ even if my turkey isn't a Butterball. Their site is the simplest to navigate and search, plus they have how to instructions to print out and videos as well.
Uckies - Once your bird is thawed be sure to pull the gizzard bag out of the cavity and reach under the flap of skin in the front of the bird where the head was to remove the neck. What you do with the gizzard and neck bag is up to you. When I had a dog I would boil these up for her but now I just chase family members around the house with them. You can throw them away or make chitterlings. Just make sure you take them out cause if you don't your bird will smell odd as it cooks.
Utensils - Invest in the following Thanksgiving day kitchen utensils: meat thermometer, large deep roasting pan, sturdy cooking rack that fits inside roasting pan and will support a large turkey, whisk, sharp carving knife, some sort of tongs or mini pitch fork devices to remove turkey from roasting pan, large serving dish or disposable roasting pan so the turkey has a place to sit after cooking, and tin foil. Some people will say you need one of those large eye dropper things to baste your turkey. If you have a tablespoon or cooking spoon you can get by with that.
Time - Know what time you are planning to eat and how long your bird will take to prep and cook. Again I refer you to http://www.butterball.com/ for cook time for your bird based on weight. The tag that comes on your bird comes in handy too. As far as prep goes give yourself an hour at least. I know it sounds like a long time but you'll need it to clean and stuff the bird.
Clean - Wash your bird, inside and out, with cold water. Get all that weird blood looking stuff off it cause that is not tasty. Also be careful to not get water under the skin. You don't want a water logged bird before cooking. Pat your bird dry with paper towels.
Stuff - Now when it comes to seasoning and stuffing the bird I like to keep things simple. I stow some pats of butter under the skin of the bird to season the meat. Sometimes, the night before, I will prep a seasoned butter to use for this process. Then I take some softened butter and I rub it all over the outside of the bird, don't forget the bottom of the bird and between the wing, thigh, and drumstick. Liberally season with salt and pepper including the cavity. Then I will stuff the bird with assorted veggies, citrus, and herbs. This year I'm thinking blood oranges, lemons, apples, maybe pears, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs. I normally half or quarter the veggies and fruit leaving the skin on and toss the herbs in whole. These items are just to season the bird and the drippings. The other reason I do this is I hate filling. In PA where I'm from we have two kinds of stuffing for Thanksgiving, Filling and Stuffing. Filling is a stuffing mixture that gets packed into the bird during cooking and comes out looking like an alien missile of carbs projecting from the cavity of the bird. Filling is also mushy and paste like. *cringes* Now Stuffing on the other hand is made in a pot on top of the stove or in the oven, it's moist and crunchy and simply delicious. I could eat stuffing all day. If you're going to stuff the bird with veggies, fruits, and the like keep it simple. Also don't use starchy foods like potatoes. You want items that are going to really flavor the bird. You aren't making a roast so avoid carrots and celery too.
Cook - Once your bird is nestled in the roasting pan, legs tucked in, and stuffed you want to put a few cups of stock in the bottom of the pan and have it only come up maybe 1/2 an inch on the side of the pan. Any more and the bird will drown. The bird is going to give off juices as it cooks and adding too much liquid is going to result in half cooking half boiling the bird. Also stock will give some more flavor to the bird while you baste as opposed to water. Tent some tin foil over the bird and you are ready to cook in the oven.
Baste - I normally don't touch my bird for the first hour or two of it's cook time. Every time you open the oven door you let heat escape and this will increase the cooking time. Trust me if you buttered that baby up it's getting plenty of goodness from that and you won't need to baste just yet. When I do start basting I do it about every 45-60 min depending on the bird and how the cooking process is going. If you think the bird needs it you can do it every 30 min. Remember to keep the foil tented away from the skin of the bird when you put the tin foil back on.
Done - During the last 60 to 90 min of cook time you want to take the foil off and let the skin crisp up a bit. I don't normally follow the popper thing when I cook. I use my meat thermometer, inserted into the thigh but not touching the bone and look for a reading of about 180 degrees F. You also want the juices to run clear.
Rest - Remove your turkey from the oven, place it on whatever pan or dish you are using to serve, cover with tin foil, and let it rest for at least 30 min. Doing so allows the bird to reabsorb the juices. If you don't wait all that lovely flavorful juice is going to run all over your dish and you'll end up with a dry bird.
These are just a few tips and tricks I use for my Turkey bird. I know the Internets have plenty more out there to help. Feel free to share in the comments some of your own.