Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gobble it up.

Turkey is a strange animal.  If done correctly, it is also a tasty animal.  I was commissioned to prepare a turkey for my neighbor this Thanksgiving, but I hardly ever cook meat.  At first I was definitely apprehensive, but after some recipe research I was ready to give this traditional holiday bird a go.  The bird turned out great, but I still have plenty of improvements to make before I'm a turkey pro.

I started with this recipe from allrecipes, which suggests brining the turkey in a saltwater solution overnight before cooking it.  The brining process allows the turkey to absorb water and results in a perfect, juicy turkey.  In an ideal world, you have a stock pot large enough to submerge the turkey, but instead I had to do half at a time.  Each side probably only got about 6 hours of brining time, but in the end it seemed like enough. Next year maybe I'll have a bigger pot.  

15 pound turkey brining.
For the stuffing, the recipe suggests stuffing the turkey with chopped carrots, celery and onion.  I found that even after cooking the turkey for 4 hours, the stuffing didn't get next year for stuffing I would probably prepare an oven-style stuffing separate from the bird.  I have heard that simply putting a halved lemon or orange inside the turkey will also keep it moist, and I'd definitely like to try that.  Cutting up all those vegetables was too much work for something I couldn't eat, even if I used the Vidalia chopper.

The prepared stuffing mix.

I made a few more changes to the recipe.  Instead of fresh thyme, I used fresh rosemary because its growing outside and it was readily available.  I also already know that I like rosemary and turkey together.  I'm not sure about thyme though I'd like to try it someday.

Cooking the turkey breast-down definitely helps keep it moist, however the recipe suggests turning the bird 3/4 of the way through.  Be prepared for this to be incredibly difficult, as turkeys tend to be heavy.  We accomplished it somehow.  I also removed the stuffing and  turned the oven up to 400 for the last 20 minutes of cooking to make sure the inside was done. (I decided to do that because once I discovered the stuffing wasn't done, I was worried about the inside of the turkey may also have been undone.  I hope next year to have both a meat thermometer and a turkey baster.)

The finished bird!  I don't have any pictures of it carved, sadly.  It was very
very juicy though! 
Unfortunately I turned down the carcass at the end...I just don't have enough time right now to make turkey stock.  I did bring home a lot of extra meat, so turkey chili is in order for later this week.