How to Roast the Perfect Turkey

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I always hear people say they don’t like turkey. They describe it as dry, tasteless and lackluster. I always tell them they haven’t had my turkey yet!

It’s not that I am the best cook in America…nor is it due to a secret recipe. It is due to a great technique perfected over the years, and even more so to the quality of the bird itself. I get mine from DiPaola Turkey Farms, based out of Trenton, New Jersey, and sold at the Union Square Greenmarket. The turkeys are fresh, never frozen, and raised in a humane environment. Since buying from them each year, my turkey score has gone from very good, to great. The price is high, but the results are worth every penny!

Start with a cool, but not icy cold turkey. Rinse the bird, remove all of the innards ( the liver, neck and giblets are often stored in the cavity of the bird in a little bag. Be sure to remove them before cooking!!!) Pat dry and place on a rack in a heavy roasting pan. It’s easier to clean later, if you spray the pan and rack with cooking spray first.

Place a cut onion, 2 stalks of celery and 1 large carrot cut into chunks in the bottom of the pan.

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Season the turkey with salt and pepper and rub the bird all over with  roasted garlic and herb butter, being sure to loosen the skin and rub some underneath it, and inside the cavity, reserving some to use in the gravy. Stuff if desired, and stuff a little ball of foil into the edge of the cavity to keep the stuffing from falling out. Tuck the wings under the legs if you can.

Boil 1 cup of dry white wine and 1 cup of chicken broth, and pour it into the pan. Roast for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cover the breast loosely with foil so they do not brown too quickly, and roast another hour. Continue to pour 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of wine over the bird every hour until cooked through. Roast uncovered for the last hour to make sure the skin gets golden brown. The turkey should register 175 degrees when a meat thermometer is inserted in to the thickest part of the thigh. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest covered, for 30 minutes before carving. It will continue to cook slightly while resting.

The rule of thumb for turkey roasting times:

Roast for about 15 minutes per pound if it is unstuffed, and a few minutes longer per pound if it is stuffed. The internal temperature of the thigh should be 175 degrees, and the stuffing should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Our 18-19 pound bird takes about 4 hours and 15 minutes unstuffed, and about 4 hours and 45 minutes stuffed. Do not rely on the pop up times inserted in many turkeys. They often don’t pop until the turkey is already over cooked. Invest in a good digital meat thermometer for a more accurate and safe reading. A free range turkey will roast much faster than a previously frozen one, so start checking it after a few hours to make sure it is not cooking too fast.

Once the turkey is resting on the carving board under aluminum foil, its time to make the gravy. Pour any pan juices into a bowl and scrape the brown bits from the pan. Strain the juices and add 1/2 cup of wine and enough chicken broth to it, until you have about 6 cups of liquid.

Heat butter in a large skillet, and saute 2 pounds of sliced mushrooms until brown, about 18 minutes. ( You can do this earlier and just reheat them in the pan when you are ready.)

Mix in more of the garlic and herb butter. Sprinkle the mixture with 1/3 cup of flour and stir until the flour begins to brown. This will integrate it into the mushroom mixture, and avoid lumps later. Gradually whisk in the reserved liquid until it comes to a boil and thickens to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with the turkey.

Enjoy!

Photo of our Thanksgiving turkey from Spencer Jones/ Glasshouse Images

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