I’ve given you a couple of sides and now would like to address everyone’s star of the day…the turkey. I’ll give you more sides but this way you can organize your thoughts, kitchen and schedule and have plenty of time to wrap your head around Thanksgiving dinner if you’ve never roasted a bird before. This is one of the easiest recipes out there and I have to credit the woman who is the all time greatest disaster in the kitchen. Mama. I know I’ve told you in earlier posts how dreadful she was in the kitchen…heck, she’d tell you! But I have to give her credit for a most incredibly delicious recipe that even a small child could produce. That said, this recipe will also yield most of the ingredients for some of the best gravy you’ll EVER have. It it truly the most sumptuous, luscious gravy I’ve tasted. Bar none. And that’ll be my next post. So let’s get on with it. It’s very important that you read ALL your recipes in advance so prep time can be accommodated stress-free. You don’t want to start on your cornbread dressing Thanksgiving morning to read that your dried cranberries were supposed to be slumbering in brandy all night! Also in advance and after determining how many mouths you will be feeding you need to decide whether to prepare a fresh or frozen bird. Remember, a frozen turkey can take 2-3 days defrosting in the refrigerator. Leading brand, injected with flavored broth or plain, store brand? Which ever you decide upon you will see on the outside of the turkey a table listing roasting times based on the weight of turkey. You might want to rinse that off and set it aside while you’re preparing the turkey for the oven or at least write down the weight of your bird and the suggested roasting time down on your notes. Spray some non-sticking cooking oil in your roasting pan. Making about a two-inch layer, place onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of the pan. Try to make it somewhat even as this will serve as your roasting rack. Take the neck, gizzards and giblets out of the turkey, throw out the little bag they’re in and transfer all of the innards to a plastic ziplock back. Label the bag and throw it into the freezer. You can use it another time for other dishes. Rinse both cavities well and pat the turkey dry with paper towels. A wet turkey will steam. A dry turkey will roast. Place the dry turkey in the roasting pan and liberally salt and pepper both the inside and out of the bird and fold the neck skin under the bird. Stuff the large cavity with the onion, lemon and bay leaves. Tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine and twist the wings so they sit under the body. It’s kind of unnatural, the twisting part, but it’s really okay and the wings will roast more evenly. If you’re concerned the breast meat may turn out too dry use your hands to gently separate the breast skin from the meat being careful not to tear it. Slather butter under the skin onto the meat as far back towards the wings as you can. Feel free to flavor the butter with finely chopped fresh herbs, garlic paste, whatever sounds good to you. Pour a cup or two of chicken broth or stock into the pan. Put the turkey in the middle of the oven and roast at 425° for 30 minutes. After the first 30 minutes drop the temperature down to 350° and roast the bird according to the table on the package directions. If you’re roasting a fresh bird that comes without the roasting table figure on the following:
- 20-25 minutes per pound for birds up to 6 pounds
- 15-20 minutes for 7-15 pounds
- and 13-15 minutes for birds 16 pounds and larger
These are suggested times for unstuffed birds. I don’t stuff my turkey because it never holds enough and so I always have to have a separate dish of dressing to serve. Baste the turkey with the pan juices about every 30 minutes or so. To check if your turkey is done pierce the skin of the thigh. If the juices run clear the turkey is done. If the juices run red give the bird a bit more time in the oven, checking regularly for doneness. Some people jiggle the the drumstick to check if it’s loose but this usually means the turkey is overdone. If you use a thermometer insert it into the middle of the thigh making sure not to make contact with the bone. Roast to a temperature of 180° to 185°. After removing the turkey from the oven let it rest at least 20 to 30 minutes. This will not only keep the juices intact but also allow for easier carving. Upon sufficient resting time transfer your bird to the carving board or platter. Use your hands and a heavy carving fork or whatever’s easiest for you, just do it fast so you don’t lose any precious juices. Save all the vegetables and pan juices to make your gravy. You’re almost there!!!