Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Turkey

I roasted my first "solo" turkey in 1982.  We were engaged to be married and were working to renovate the house.  We made our first traditional dinner and had the soon to be in-laws, my aunts and extended family for lunch.  At the time, there was not yet central heat, so we enjoyed the day in the cozy confines of the closed off living room, kitchen and dining room which was heated by the wood heater.

Never one to be intimidated by a recipe or a menu, I sought the advice of a great uncle, who was an excellent cook.  The vast majority of my turkey 'rules' today, are those that were dictated to me in 1982.
The resulting turkey has always been perfect and has never disappointed.

First and foremost, the choice of a bird is critical.  While a fresh bird and a home grown one is optimal there have been no years here where the turkey growing adventures have netted us a Thanksgiving bird.

I have decided that baby turkeys are, without doubt, the dumbest creatures.  They simply don't thrive for me.

The few that have survived the first few days after hatch, did themselves in, fairly shortly, in the most ridiculous of ways.
That's another story, for another day... or an extended post, should I ever decide to raise turkeys again.

Therefore, I join the crowd who purchases a turkey (or three) for Thanksgiving day feasts.

What is critical about the purchase of the bird is the size.
The ideal turkey, in my opinion, is between 11 and 12 pounds and a hen.
Turkey's that are huge must be cooked to a miserable degree of dryness to achieve a safe state of doneness!

I'll swear that I have eaten turkeys that were the consistency of sawdust, and equally as flavorless.
I've followed these rules and never served such as that on my table.

If you've not cooked a turkey before, successfully, don't question this... just purchase an 11 to 12 pound bird.
An 11 pound bird should feed about 8 people, maybe six if a  lot of these people are fine strapping lads.
If you are having a big crowd, buy two turkeys in this size range.
If you are having a really big crowd, get as many 11 pound turkeys as you need and convince someone to let you borrow oven time.

If you're using a frozen bird, it takes two to two and a half days in the fridge to thaw the bird.
This means for a Thursday table date, you must pop the turkey out of the freezer on Monday evening... about bed time, in my case.  Put it in a basin, in the fridge.  When you're thawing two or three turkeys, it helps to have at least one spare fridge.  (I highly recommend having a spare fridge!)

On the morning of the feast, get up early and put the birds on to cook.  Wash them thoroughly and rub the outside of the turkey with olive oil, then with a mixture of sage, salt and pepper.  I use kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  I squeeze a lemon into the cavity of the bird and drop the entire lemon inside to bake.

Use an old fashioned roasting pan with a lid.
You are gonna bake the bird (birds) at 325 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.
At the end of the first hour, pour in a cup of water.
After two hours, take the lid off.  Turn the heat to 400 degrees, which will brown the turkey beautifully.  Watch it carefully.

Allow the roasted turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes., so that the juices settle into the meat.

Carve it up, serve it up and bat your eyelashes at the compliments!

Here's the printable version:

Roasted Turkey


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