Friday, December 30, 2011

Roast Turkey

I know this is late, but I'm writing about it for posterity...

I made a Christmas meal for Darren's family for the second year in a row. Last year, I cheated a bit and ordered a ham then only made the side dishes. This year however, I slaved over a turkey all morning and made all the fixings from scratch as well. It's probably laughable to veteran cooks, but turkeys have always seemed so daunting to me. Choosing to brine, stuff, was all so confusing. Thank goodness I ran across a recipe for roasting turkey which worked out so well for me--I have to share it with you all. The key: roast the bird upside down so that the breast stays extra juicy. Works like a charm!

My Christmas menu:
Roast turkey
Cranberry-clementine sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Corn bread dressing
Buttered corn
Blanched green beans
And for dessert...Buche de noel (OK, I ordered this from Whole Foods--heavenly!)

And here's the recipe for Roast Turkey:

  • 1 turkey
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • Tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • Parsley
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme

1 To start, if the turkey has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before cooking. Keep it in its plastic wrapping until you are ready to cook it. Allow approximately 5 hours of defrosting for every pound. So, if you have a 15 pound turkey, it will take about 75 hours to defrost it in the refrigerator, or around 3 days.
Remove the neck and giblets (heart, gizzard, liver). 
2 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3 Wash out the turkey with water. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Lather the inside of the cavity with the juice of half a lemon. Take a small handful of salt and rub all over the inside of the turkey.
4 Put in inside the turkey a half a yellow onion, peeled and quartered, a bunch of parsley, a couple of carrots, and some tops and bottoms of celery. The neck cavity can be stuffed with parsley.  
Truss the turkey (tie up) with string, so that all the cavities are closed up and the legs and wings are held close to the body.  I watched this great Alton Brown video demonstrating a trussing technique:  

5 Rub melted butter all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle salt and pepper generously all over the outside of the turkey.
6 Place turkey BREAST DOWN on the bottom of a rack over a sturdy roasting pan big enough to catch all the drippings. Cooking the turkey breast down means the skin over the breast will not get so brown (but this doesn't matter much if you cut up the turkey anyway). All of the juices from the cooking turkey will fall down into the breast while cooking. And the resulting bird will have the most succulent turkey breast imaginable.
Add several sprigs of fresh (if possible) thyme and rosemary to the outside of the turkey.
7 Put the turkey in the oven. Check the cooking directions on the turkey packaging. Gourmet turkeys often don't take as long to cook. A good rule of thumb is a cooking time of about 15 minutes for every pound. For the 15 lb turkey, start the cooking at 400 F for the first 1/2 hour. Then reduce the heat to 350 F for the next 2 hours. Then reduce the heat further to 225 F for the next hour to hour and a half.
If you want the breast to be browned as well, you can turn the bird over so that the breast is on top, and put it in a 500°F oven or under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, just enough to brown the breast. Note that if you do this, you will have a higher risk of overcooking the turkey breast.
Start taking temperature readings with a meat thermometer, inserted deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh, an hour before the turkey should be done. You want a resulting temperature of 175°F for the dark meat (thighs and legs) and 165°F for the white meat (breast). The temperature of the bird will continue to rise once you take it out of the oven, so take it out when the temperature reading for the thigh is 170°F, and for the breast 160°F. 
9 Once you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Turn the turkey breast side up to carve it. 

recipe adapted via Simply Recipes

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