Thanksgiving Menu Mailer Part 2 – Turkey Talk
Believe it or not, this next part is only on making the turkey and starting the gravy. If you’ve never done a turkey before, don’t be scared–think of that big ol’ thing as just a big chicken. This simple recipe will show you how.
Simple Roast Turkey & Pan Gravy
Serves 12 (with leftovers!)
1 15 pound turkey (at least, I will probably go bigger for more leftovers)
one stick of unsalted butter, softened
salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe Muzzie’s Fabulous Stuffing (see recipe)
(un-stuffing option: one carrot, one stalk of celery, an onion, a green apple, some thyme)
You will usually find a package of giblets (innards) in the neck cavity of the turkey. Remove those, place in the fridge and I will tell you what to do with them later. Right now, it’s bath time for old tom. Rinse the cavities (the neck and bottom) and outside of the bird with cool water then pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity of the turkey lightly with salt if desired. If you are not stuffing the bird, throw a washed carrot cut in half, a large onion cut in half and a celery stick cut in half into the cavity, sprinkle a little thyme and some salt and pepper. You can also add a half a green seeded apple, quartered if you like. I would also throw a little sage and thyme in there and mix everything up with my hand (about 1/2 a teaspoon each). This will just help to flavor the drippings, which in turn will help you make scrumptious gravy. Do not salt the cavity if you will be stuffing the turkey.
If you will be stuffing the bird, don’t do it now. Wait to do that till just before she hits the oven. Remove a rack from the oven, and position the last rack to be the second to the bottom ledge (in other words, not the very bottom). Turn on the oven to preheat, 500 degrees. (that’s not a typo)
Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan (the rack will help the whole turkey brown). Rub your bird down (using your hands) with a cube of softened unsalted butter (this isn’t one of those calorie conscientious meals). You will want to get under the skin and over the skin too (unless putting your hand under the turkey’s skin creeps you out). Put half a cup of water on the bottom of the pan. If you are using a meat thermometer (which is advised) place the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh muscle, but do not allow it to touch the bone or you will get a false reading.
NOW, stuff the bird if you are going to stuff. I have recently become a dressing convert after years of stuffing my bird. I used to stuff and I love the stuffing, but I have found that stuffing the turkey is one of the reasons the turkey dries out so my stuffing has become dressing now. A part of me mourns the loss of that delectable stuffing that came out of my turkey, but the other part of me is thrilled with the moist results of my turkey.
Place the turkey in a preheated 500-degree oven for a half hour. Set your timer! The reason for the intense beginning heat is that this will allow the fat under the skin on the bottom of turkey (remember- you’ve got her sitting on a rack in the roasting pan) to melt and help brown the skin on the bottom. No more mush bottomed turkeys! Also, the turkey will begin to turn bronzy brown, which you want. After the initial 500-degree zapping, turn your oven down to a respectable 325 degrees. Do you feel better now?
Follow the timetable (below) for approximate roasting time. Place a tent of foil loosely over the turkey when it begins to turn golden brown, exposing only the drumsticks to the oven. Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees (for a whole turkey) and the juice is no longer pink when you cut into the center of the thigh (it should be clear). The drumstick should move easily in the socket when lifted or twisted. When the turkey is finished roasting, remove it from the oven and let it stand at least 1/2 hour for easiest carving. However, it’s even better to let it rest an hour. That way you can count down the rest of the meal (Timeline to follow). Keep the turkey tented with foil so it will stay warm.
CHART FOR COOKING YOUR BIRD
The national Turkey Federation recommends you should cook your turkey until the temperature reaches 170 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh (watch out for the bone) when a meat thermometer is inserted. A meat thermometer is distinctly different than a candy thermometer! (I tried to use one, once a upon a time LOL)
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours
8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 hours to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 hours 4 1/2 to 5 hours
24 to 30 pounds 5 to 5 1/4 hours
Right about now, you’re probably wondering where the basting instructions are. Personally, I don’t baste. Why? Because basting actually dries out the bird! Every time you open the oven door, you lose 25 degrees of heat. What does this do? Because you to lose heat, you to have to cook the turkey longer. Longer cooking time means a drier turkey, period. (Yeah, yeah, I know you have been basting birds for a hundred years in your family and everyone swears by basting). I too was in the basting camp till one year I was overwhelmed with all I had to do (in typical SHE fashion, I was doing everything last minute) and we had the best, juiciest turkey ever. So my advice is don’t baste.
Once the turkey is finished with its roasting, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove your bird from the pan to a cutting board and again, allow it to rest, at least 20 minutes; but an hour is better (and like I said earilier, it gives you a sense of a timetable to finish up the rest of dinner. Just put a little foil “jacket” on old tom to keep him warm). This is important because it will retain its juiciness if given the proper “nap”.
Roast Turkey Pan Gravy
Let’s face it: lumpy gravy just screams amateur. It doesn’t take gourmet chef cooking skills to make a lump-less gravy, nor is it rocket science. But for all the mixing, whisking and fussing, good gravy is a mystery. To do it yourself, you just need a few well-kept secrets given to you. So here you have it, once and for all: gravy demystified.
Here are the ingredients you will need to make gorgeous gravy:
Turkey broth (recipe of sorts, included. Keep reading)
Wondra flour (yes, buy this)
Salt and pepper to taste
Remember I promised you I would tell you what to do with the giblet pouch? Now is the time. In that drippy bag, you are going to find a big old turkey neck, the heart, gizzard and liver. The heart, gizzard and liver are great treats for the dog, but unless giblet gravy is your heart’s desire (sorry, couldn’t help myself), in my opinion, they have no place in a gravy boat.
First off, get your turkey neck, a half a carrot, celery stalk and a half an onion, quartered. Throw them all together into a medium sized saucepan and fill about three quarters of the way up with cold water. Put the pan on a medium high heat, bring to a boil, then lower the temp and allow to simmer for about an hour or so. Throw a lid on the top and turn it down even lower and allow it to cook for another hour. Strain broth from solids (toss the solids) and set aside for later gravy making. If it is hours away from that event, refrigerate the broth.