12 to 15 pound turkey, rinsed thoroughly, giblets and neck removed
2 cups kosher or 1 cup table salt
½ stick butter
6 to 10 sage leaves
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons butter melted
12 cups prepared stuffing
1 tablespoon butter, plus extra to grease baking dish
1 cup chicken or turkey broth
Assemble all ingredients keeping wet and dry ingredients separate until ready to stuff the bird. Refrigerate if necessary.
PREPARE BASTING SOLUTION:
Cut up the ½ stick of butter into a small bowl or large mug. Add ¾ cup of turkey or chicken broth. Microwave at full power for 1 ½ minutes. Crumble or cut sage leaves and fresh thyme into the mixture. (if using different flavoring, crumble or cut appropriate flavor sources into the mixture.)
PREPARE THE TURKEY:
- Bring the turkey to room temperature, generally about an hour and a half to two hours before beginning to stuff and/or truss the bird. Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 400o. Adjust heavy-duty V rack to its widest setting and place in roasting pan.
- Mix the stuffing ingredients. Place half the stuffing in a buttered baking dish, dot the surface with butter and cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Microwave the remaining stuffing on full power, stirring two or three times, until very hot (120o to 130 o), 6 to 8 minutes. If you can handle the stuffing with your bare hands, it is not hot enough.
- Spoon stuffing into the body cavity until loosely packed. Secure skin flaps and truss with dental floss. Tie legs together loosely with dental floss. Tuck wings behind the back. Brush entire breast side with the melted butter. Place the turkey breast side down on the V rack.
- Spoon the remaining microwaved stuffing into the neck cavity. Secure the skin flaps and truss with dental floss. Brush the remaining melted butter over the turkey back.
- Place turkey pan in the middle of the lowest rack in the oven. Basting occasionally with the flavored solution, roast for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 250 degrees. Roast for 1 ¾ hours longer, continue to baste occasionally.
- Remove pan from oven, closing oven door. Turn the turkey breast side up. (There are multiple tools for lifting turkeys, but a pair of the insulated rubber gloves called Bluettes are my favorite.) Increase the oven temperature to 400o. Baste the turkey. Return the turkey to the oven. Roast for another ¾ to 1 ¼ hours. Continue to baste. When thermometer reads 160o in the breast and 175 to 180o in the thigh, remove the turkey from the oven and let sit.
NON MICROWAVED STUFFING
- Add ¼ cup of chicken or turkey broth to the baking dish containing the remaining stuffing. Replace the foil and bake about 20 minutes in a 350º oven. Remove the foil and bake approximately 15 minutes longer.
- Remove the stuffing from the turkey. Carve the turkey. Serve the turkey and both stuffings.
COLLECTED THANKSGIVING HINTS
Determine how far in advance your chosen recipes can be made without sacrificing taste. For example:
- Pie dough that can be made and frozen a week ahead
- Desserts, especially non-cream pies, can frequently be made up to 2 days in advance
- Cranberry sauces, relishes and such can usually be made 3 or 4 days ahead
- Stale bread cubes make better stuffing. Cube your desired bread and leave it in a large, open bowl for at least 24 hours, tossing occasionally, prior to need
- Many sweet potato and squash dishes can be prepared several days ahead of time. Good mashed white potatoes, however, have so far resisted any attempts at advance preparation.
- Crudités can be washed, cut and arranged the day before, covered first with a damp paper or dish towel and then with plastic wrap and refrigerated until needed.
- If you are roasting vegetables, roast them about 80% of the way first thing Thanksgiving morning before the turkey goes in, then wrap them loosely in foil and set aside until the turkey comes out, when they can be returned to the oven.
- A lot of the chopping, dicing and mincing of onions, celery, garlic and carrots can be done the day or even two days before and packed into separate plastic bags. Then they are ready for assembly or incorporation throughout the day.
- If you are using sausage in your stuffing, it can be browned the night before.
- Make your gravy base the night before with the giblets, stock and thickener; add the drippings when the turkey comes out of the oven. BTW, you can make your stock with an extra turkey thigh sold separately these days.
- Remember that your turkey must be at room temperature before it goes into the oven.
Every cook has an idea, but it is helpful to review the recipes, the required amounts and what is in the cabinet, such as eggs, flour, sugar, chicken broth, milk, garlic, butter, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, ginger, vanilla, brandy, rum, sherry or other alcohols for cooking.
Make sure, that you have the correct cooking weight. Figure out your turkey cooking timing in advance so that you know what time it has to go into the oven to be out an hour before you serve, then add 20 minutes to account for basting, turning etcetera.
There are dozens of turkey options, each with pros and cons. However, if you want moist white meat and a roasted brown skin (as opposed to a burnt black one) start roasting the turkey breast side down. It makes an enormous difference.
Because there is so little meat on the wings and because they stick out into the hot oven, wrapping your wings with foil until the last hour of roasting prevents them from being burnt.
To stuff or not to stuff was an annual debate for years. There were concerns about stuffed turkeys being inadequately cooked because the stuffing increases the roasting time. The gist of offered solutions was to pre-cook the stuffing. Recommendations included that half of the stuffing be put in the bird and the other half cooked in a buttered baking dish.
If you stuff, try positioning a wide mouthed canning funnel firmly into the bird’s cavity. The funnel will hold the bird open and allow the stuffing to get into the bird, instead of all over the counter. Another method is to use a large spoon and thermal Bluette gloves, which allows you to use your fingers to push the stuffing off the spoon and into the cavity.
TRUSSING THE TURKEY:
The current trend is to not truss the bird. The plus to not trussing is that the bird will cook more quickly. We stuff and truss and we start the roasting breast down then turn the bird over which guarantees moist white meat. If you truss, the simplest approach is:
- Tuck the wings up and over the shoulders of the bird so that the wingtips are resting on the bird’s back.
- If your bird’s cavity is stuffed or just buttered, salt & peppered and filled with a handful of herbs, take a large trussing needle and thread it with unflavored dental floss. The floss can be extracted without tearing the skin.
- Using a whip stitch, sew the sides and bottom of the cavity to one another as best suits and tie off the ends with a generous loop or bow.
- Take another length of dental floss. Doubled it, tie one end of the doubled length around one drumstick end loosely. Cross the tied leg over the remaining one and wrap the balance of the floss around the other leg pulling it up and close. Tie securely.
- If you want to stuff the crop, turn the bird breast down and loosely fill the crop cavity with your stuffing. Taking a length of dental floss, re-thread the trussing needle and using the whip stitch, sew the edge of the crop to the skin at the top of the bird’s back.
MOVING A HOT TURKEY:
Forget all those fancy, expensive implements that require the juggling skills of a master. And put that kitchen towel that will tear apart the perfect roasted breast skin back in the drawer. Buy yourself a pair of thermal rubber gloves like Bluettes. If you start your bird breast down and need to turn it halfway or simply want to get the turkey to the platter in one confident piece, do it with your hands safely encased in these little gems.
CARVING THE TURKEY:
Lots of people have rules for this. I’ve recently found a few new tricks on the internet that makes it a lot easier, especially because many have videos. We all know how many words a picture is worth. Here’s the link to the one I liked best: http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/channels/how-to-carve-a-turkey.html
THE BASTING SOLUTION:
Whatever the flavors of this year’s bird, a 4 to 6 cup solution of butter, chicken broth, salt, pepper and the herbs or spices of choice and kept warm spot on or near the stove makes the basting go a bit more smoothly. If there’s anything left, it goes into the gravy.
THE BASTER: Vacuum basters that suck up and distribute basting solution and the pan drippings have had problems. If the tube is plastic it melts if it touchs the side of the pan. If the tube is metal, you can’t see how much is in it. Many have a nasty habit of squirting the liquid all over the oven and dripping uncontrollably. There was once a glass one that worked, but it broke. There is now one with a slanted tip that is dripless, the bulb provides real controlled release of the liquid and the clear plastic tube is reputed to withstand heat of up to 600◦.
This is the time when you need additional measuring spoons and cups. It is frustrating to have to stop what you’re doing to wash and dry the required utensil in the middle of a recipe.
Flowers are always lovely, but are frequently hard to see over and around on the table. They can however, brighten the room from other positions. If you prefer a centerpiece, choose one that can be assembled in advance and is low to the table.
GRANITE HARD BROWN SUGAR:
No matter how well sealed, brown sugar tends to lose its moisture becoming so hard as to double for marble. Place the lump of sugar in a microwavable container and place it in the microwave alongside a small bowl full of water. Microwave for about 1 minute. If it has not attained the needed degree of softness, give it another 30 seconds. Don’t microwave it too long or you will melt the sugar.
HOW TO CHOP ONIONS QUICKLY:
Peel your onions leaving the root end on. Halve the onion, root end up and again, leave the root end on, but slicing off the green or sprout end smoothly. Make narrow slices into the onion, from the sliced end toward the root end, but without cutting the piece of root that is holding the onion together. Turn the onion and now cut crosswise across the slices. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwGBt3V0yvc
When making one of the thousands of wonderful homemade cranberry sauces, if you freeze them, even briefly, they will be juicier and a little less tart.
PEELING FRESH CHESNUTS:
Parboil scored chestnuts before roasting them. Once roasted, cool them only to the point that you can hold them in your hand (another good use of the thermal rubber gloves). You will generally find them much easier to peel while they are still warm. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm6_P4_KJT4
Alternatively, you can purchase perfectly peeled chestnuts in a jar which work beautifully and are miles above the dried or frozen ones.
You may think that if you get one more call from a participant at your table about what they are unable or unwilling to eat you may be tempted to discourtesy. Should that occur, please watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX9EAavxrus