From Denny: Thanksgiving is fast approaching and there are those first time cooks who have yet to roast, brine or deep fry a turkey. With simple recipes like these your anxiety level will go down fast. These recipes are also a great resource for the experienced cook who would like to take a look at trying something different and want to compare the recipes all in one place.
Do yourself a favor and roast or deep fry a small turkey in the size range of 10 - 12 pounds. It takes less time and tends to be moister meat. Many experienced cooks roast 2 or 3 smaller turkeys for large family gatherings during the holidays...
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OK, this is the very basic of basics easy recipe to get you started on learning how to do this holiday bird. It's a savory recipe and works well for people who don't like or can tolerate a lot of spices.
Basic Recipe for Roasted Turkey
From: Everyday Food
Makes: 10 servings
1 fresh or thawed frozen whole turkey (10 to 12 lbs.)
1 stalk celery, cut in chunks
2 dried bay leaves
2 medium carrots, cut in chunks
2 medium onions, quartered
4 tbls. butter, room temperature
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove neck and giblets from turkey cavity; set aside. Rinse turkey inside and out under cold running water; pat dry with paper towels.
2. Stuff cavity with celery, bay leaves and half the carrots and onions; tie legs with kitchen twine. Rub bird with butter; sprinkle with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.
3. Scatter remaining onion quarters and carrot pieces on bottom of a large roasting pan; add turkey neck. Place turkey on a roasting rack in the pan. Cook, basting frequently after the first hour, until bird is golden brown, thigh juices run clear when pierced, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast (avoiding bone) registers 165 degrees, 2-1/2 to 3 hours. (If skin is browning too quickly, tent with foil.) Let rest 20 minutes before carving.
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This recipe is closer to how I roast my holiday turkey every year, only I use a lot more spices and substitute either extra virgin olive oil or clarified butter to push under the skin to keep the meat moist and flavorful.
Generally, I mix up a lot of favorite spices like lots of garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, mild paprika, fresh (or dried) basil, fresh (or dried rosemary), sea salt, white pepper, chile powder (like Pasilla Negro or Chipotle Morita - can be purchased online from dagiftbasket.com out of New Mexico or use a little of your favorite), fresh parsley or coriander (dried parsley and ground coriander will do), white wine of choice - usually a sauvignon blanc for us, and some years I've even thrown in finely ground pecans, sometimes pre-roasted, sometimes just raw pecans.
All of this is mixed into a paste with just enough oil and wine to hold it together and then under the skin it goes and on top of the skin as a wet rub, even inside the cavity which I rarely put anything unless a few rough chopped onions.
Another trick for crispy skin - if you have the room in your refrigerator during this busy holiday season - is to spice rub your turkey about 1 - 2 days ahead of roasting, turn it breast side down in the pan so the juices run into the breast, leaving it uncovered for the skin to dry slightly. If you can't do this step, don't stress, you will still get crispy skin with this recipe anyway. Allowing the turkey to marinate in the wet rub just kicks up the flavor of the meat from dull to exciting in my estimation. And slightly crispier skin comes from this step in the fridge.
What makes for great turkey is just like they talk about in this recipe, start at a higher heat for about 30 - 45 minutes (will depend upon the weight of your turkey) and then turn it down for the rest of the roasting.
One extra trick I do is I start the browning process by turning the bird upside down (breast side down) to burn his butt a bit, for about 25 minutes. :) Have you ever noticed how many turkeys have unappetizing pale undersides? This process isn't necessary but it does get an overall browning effect.
Be sure to own a couple of large forks to help you turn the turkey back right side up. It will have some depressed markings at first from the roasting rack because the juices ran into the breast area while upside down. Trust that by the time the turkey is done, properly browned on top, those marks will have disappeared. This upside down process is good for sending those juices into the breast area and then tightening the skin to hold them before turning right side up, exposing the breast to the greater heated space of the oven.
A Roast Turkey
From: November 2003 issue of Food & Wine magazine
Serves: 8 and leaves plenty for leftovers like sandwiches
There’s more than one way to roast a turkey, but from experience we’ve learned to start at a high temperature then turn it down for crisp skin and moist meat. In advance: Place the raw turkey in the refrigerator breast-side down so the juices flow to the white meat; this contributes to moist breast meat. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before roasting.
8 tbls. unsalted butter, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (do not add salt to a brined bird)
1 (12- to 14-lb.) turkey, neck and giblets removed
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-third position.
2. In a small bowl, mash together the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold running water, drain it and pat it dry with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body.
4. Place the turkey in a roasting pan (fit with a rack, if desired). Generously season the inside and underside of the turkey with salt and pepper.
5. Using clean hands, loosen the skin over the turkey breast by running your hands just under the skin. Reaching with your fingers as far as possible, carefully loosen the skin over the legs.
6. Gently push about 6 tablespoons of the butter mixture under the skin, using your fingertips to carefully spread the butter over the breast and legs. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons butter mixture evenly over the outside of the turkey skin.
7. Transfer the turkey to the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes. The turkey should begin to turn golden brown.
8. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and loosely cover the turkey with a large piece of tented aluminum foil. Continue to
roast the turkey. If desired, baste the turkey with the pan drippings every 30 minutes or so.
9. Start checking for doneness after about 2 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven when a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted in the breast. (The internal temperature will continue to rise a few degrees after you remove it from the oven. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the turkey is done when the breast and thigh meat reach 165 degrees. The total cooking time should be 2 to 2-1/2 hours for a 12- to 14-pound bird.
10. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and set aside to rest for at least 20 minutes prior to carving. Reserve the drippings in the roasting pan for the Turkey Gravy (recipe follows).
Nutritional analysis per serving (using meat and skin): 459 calories, 57 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrate, 24 grams fat, 171 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams saturated fat, 185 milligrams sodium and 0 grams dietary fiber.
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Here's another recipe that has really caught on the past few years. People love it for its simplicity and incredibly moist meat. Also it isn't as spicy as the above recipe, another good easy choice for picky eaters or a house of people with different needs.
Makes: 12 servings
(serving size: about 6 ounces turkey and about 1/4 cup cider gravy).
5 qts. water
3/4 cup plus 2 tbls. kosher salt
1-1/2 cups thinly sliced fresh ginger (about 6 ozs.)
2 tbls. coarsely crushed cloves
2 tbls. coarsely crushed cardamom pods
2 tbls. coarsely crushed whole allspice
2 tbls. coarsely crushed black peppercorns
1 (12-lb.) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
1 (14-oz.) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1-1/2 cups apple cider
1.1 ozs. all-purpose flour (about ø cup)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook until salt is dissolved. Remove pot from heat; cool completely.
2. Remove and discard giblets and neck from turkey, or reserve for another use. Trim excess fat. Tie ends of legs together with kitchen twine. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Add turkey to pot, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning turkey occasionally.
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove turkey from brine; discard brine. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Place turkey, breast side up, in roasting pan. Pour 1 cup broth into pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees (do not remove turkey from oven). Bake turkey at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours or until thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 165 degrees. Remove turkey from oven; let stand 30 minutes. Remove and discard skin.
5. Place a resealable plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag.
6. Drain drippings into a measuring cup, stopping before the fat layer reaches the opening (reserve 1 tablespoon fat). Combine drippings, remaining broth, and cider in a small bowl. Place roasting pan on stove top over medium heat, scraping to loosen browned bits. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour and reserved fat to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Slowly add broth mixture, stirring with a whisk; cook 4 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper.
Note: You can use a double layer of turkey-brining bags, then keep the bagged turkey in a stockpot in the refrigerator to guard against punctures. Garnish the turkey with fresh herbs and apples, if desired.
Sometimes, there are just the two of you. We have faced that dilemma many times in our house. Some years we just grilled flavorful pork chops or steaks. Other years when the weather was unusually cold we made Italian Turkey Sausage Spaghetti with loads of crusty very very garlic bread. :) This is another option if you still want turkey. I've roasted and thrown on the grill small turkey breasts. You can even deep fry this recipe.
From: Pat and David Bernstein
Serves: 4 (two on Thanksgiving plus leftovers for next day).
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 (4- to 6-lb.) turkey breast
1 lemon, juiced
1 to 2 tbls. minced garlic
1. In a bowl, combine lemon pepper, salt, paprika and poultry seasoning.
2. Wash turkey breast and pat dry. Pour lemon juice on turkey, then cover it with seasoning mixture. Top breast with the minced garlic.
3. Place breast in covered container in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight or up to 24 hours.
4. The next day, prepare either a barbecue cooker for the indirect cooking method (coals sprinkled with water-soaked hickory chips on sides of grill, bird in the middle) or a deep-fat fryer (following manufacturer’s instructions).
5. Remove turkey from refrigerator and wipe off seasoning mixture and garlic.
6. Cook until breast reads 165 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes to 13 minutes a pound for indirect method, about 3-1/2 minutes to 4-1/2 minutes per pound using deep-fryer.
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For the beginner cook, know that this turkey stock is something you will want to make after the main holiday meal. This is where the fun after Thanksgiving begins to make wonderful turkey soup, turkey stew you can put over rice, turkey pot pies, turkey jambalaya, you name it. It really is a better product when you make it from a roasted turkey leftovers, even more so when make with a turkey that was well spiced. Of course, you will have to strain it all and pick through it for the meat bits to retain.
Rich Turkey Stock
From: November 2003 issue of Food & Wine magazine
Makes: about 12 cups. To achieve depth of flavor, simmer roasted rather than raw turkey parts.
7 lbs. turkey parts, such as wings, thighs and drumsticks
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 large carrot, thickly sliced
1 large stalk celery, thickly sliced, optional
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp. salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
4 qts. (16 cups) water
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the turkey parts in a single layer in a large roasting pan and roast for about 1‰ hours, until browned well.
2. Transfer the roasted turkey parts to a large pot. Reserve the roasting pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery (if using), garlic, salt and several pinches of pepper along with 12 cups water and bring to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, place the roasting pan over 2 burners on the stove top. Add the remaining 4 cups water to the roasting pan, turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook, using a wooden spoon to stir and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
4. Carefully pour the liquid from the roasting pan into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and simmer for about 2-1/2 hours. Strain the stock, discarding the solids or removing the turkey meat from the bones and reserving the meat for another use.
5. Set stock aside to cool slightly. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Skim fat from surface before using. (May skim the fat, then freeze for up to 3 months.)
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For a good gravy, do yourself a favor and invest in a wire whisk if you don't already own one. There is even a special wire whisk that is flat rather than round in shape and is used especially for making gravies! We usually double the gravy recipes for open-face turkey sandwiches or other dishes using gravy.
From: November 2003 issue of Food & Wine magazine
Serves: Makes about 2 cups or 8 servings.
In advance: Turkey stock can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen. But gravy cannot be made in advance. It demands both turkey fat and the defatted drippings from the turkey roasting pan, which are available only after the turkey comes out of the oven. (Use a fat separator cup to isolate the fat from the drippings.)
4 tbls. turkey fat (from the drippings in the turkey roasting pan)
4 tbls. flour
About 2 cups Rich Turkey Stock (see stock recipe), chicken stock or broth, heated until almost boiling
Defatted juices (from the drippings in the turkey roasting pan)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a medium sauté pan or pot over medium heat, heat the turkey fat until warm. Using a whisk or a fork, stir the flour into the fat and cook, whisking constantly, until a paste forms.
2. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 2 more minutes. Still whisking constantly, gradually add the hot stock or broth in ø-cup increments, whisking until the stock is completely incorporated after each addition.
3. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy simmers and thickens, about 5 minutes.
4. Slowly add the defatted juices and salt and pepper to taste and whisk to combine.
5. If desired, strain the gravy. If the gravy is thicker than you would like, thin it with a little more stock. Serve immediately.
Nutritional analysis per 1/4-cup serving (using low-sodium chicken broth): 83 calories, 1 gram protein, 4 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fat, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams saturated fat and 10 milligrams sodium.
Videos: How to BBQ a Turkey on Your Grill & Deep Fry Turkey Safely
From Denny: We love our deep fat fried turkey here in Louisiana but it can be a mess and even dangerous to prepare if you don't know what you are doing. This video is from Canada and these guys had a great idea of how to BBQ a turkey for Thanksgiving on a normal outside grill for just a few hours. How they packed the turkey was smart.
Though they could have added the bacon on top of the turkey at the beginning of the grilling instead of stopping it toward the end, adding raw bacon (hello, bacteria!) and then overcooking the bird just to cook the bacon.
The video is sped up to fast forward that it is witty and funny, really easy to watch - AND you get a great, easy and fast idea of how to cook a turkey on your grill! Why wait until a holiday and do like we do in Louisiana: cook it any time you "have a taste" for a special food!
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Here is the smart way to deep fry a turkey - funny AND informative video:
For safety and grilling tips:
Photo from Butterball. Note the pretty and fresh figs as garnish!
*** For a wide variety of turkey recipes:
6 Easy Turkey Thanksgiving Recipes and Gravy, Roasting Tips and Advice
Video: Unusual Exotic Thanksgiving Menu, Poll on Turkey Vs. Sides Debate
Video: Chicago Chef Jimmy Bannos Cajun Thanksgiving Menu of 12 Recipes
For a typical Louisiana sweet: Louisiana Culture: Heavenly Hash Cake
*** Check out New York Times and their ideas for Thanksgiving Day where Mark Bittman has all kinds of creative ideas for side dishes for you: 101 Head Starts on the Day
Turkey Roasting Tips and Advice
Here are some basic facts you need to know when roasting a turkey:
■ Before you roast turkey: In general, a 12- to-14-pound range is preferable. A small unstuffed turkey in that weight range cooks in a reasonable amount of time (from 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature at which you choose to roast it). It also stays moist and tender. Conversely, a larger turkey takes more time to cook, and the breast meat can become dry before the dark meat is done.
■ If you have a frozen bird: Turkey should be kept properly chilled while thawing. Do not defrost a frozen turkey on the counter. Instead, place a frozen turkey on a tray in the refrigerator in its original wrapping. Allow 24 hours for each 5 pounds of turkey.
■ Look inside: Turkeys have two cavities, one at the neck and one at the breast. The turkey parts — neck, giblets, heart and liver — are usually contained in small bags within those cavities. Be sure to remove them before roasting. You can add the neck, giblets and heart to the stock, but not the liver (the darkest colored item); it will make the stock bitter.
■ For crispier skin, unwrap the turkey the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. Leaving the turkey alone for the first hour of cooking allows the skin to crisp. Basting frequently after that gives the bird an even color while helping to seal in juices.
■ Cooking times will differ depending on whether you bought a fresh or frozen bird. Plan on 20 minutes a pound in a 350-degree oven for a defrosted turkey and 10 to 15 minutes a pound for a fresh bird.
■ A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed. Consider adding flavor by loosely filling the cavity with aromatic vegetables — carrots, celery, onion or garlic work nicely — or by carefully tucking fresh herbs underneath the breast skin. For stuffing lovers, cook the dressing in a casserole dish on the side.
■ For even roasting, truss your turkey by pulling the legs together loosely and tying them with kitchen string; a bow will be easy to untie later. Any kind of sturdy white string or twine will do, as long as it’s made of cotton, not polyester (which might melt in the oven). Rub the turkey with butter, season with salt and pepper and put in roasting pan. Tent the turkey breast with foil to prevent overbrowning.
■ Once the turkey is in the oven, resist the temptation to open the oven door. When the oven temperature fluctuates, you’re increasing the likelihood of a dry bird. About 45 minutes before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil from the breast to allow it to brown.
■ A few items you will need for your holiday meal include a large, heavy-duty roasting pan and rack for the turkey; a turkey baster or brush; cotton kitchen string or metal lacers for trussing a turkey; a digital thermometer with probe, and a carving knife.
■ Using an instant-read thermometer will help ensure that your turkey has cooked thoroughly. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the inner side of the thigh (adjoining the drumstick and alongside the breast). It should be near but not touching the bone. The temperature should be 165 degrees.
■ Remember to carve your turkey with a very sharp or electric knife.
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