Why does everyone obsess about the Thanksgiving turkey — it’s just a turkey! Just put it in the oven and go for a walk — but just in case you can’t do that, here are some easy directions to follow!
The newest trend is to brine the turkey 24 hours before cooking it — this is to make it juicy and flavorful when cooked.
Here is my adaption of the recipe that the San Francisco Chronicle published of the Chez Panisse method of brining turkey:
Dissolve the salt and sugar in a large plastic container of water. Add the bay leaves, thyme, parsley, garlic. Remove the innards from the turkey, rinse the turkey, and submerge it in the brine. Store in a cool place for 24 hours. Remove the turkey from the brine (discarding the brine), pat the turkey dry, and follow the instructions for roast turkey.
Sprinkle the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper and stuff the turkey, if desired. Generally, 1/2 cup of dressing should be prepared for each pound of turkey (5 cups dressing for a 10 lb. turkey). The dressing expands on cooking and therefore should be put in the cavity of the bird loosely. Stuff the neck first. Then pull the neck skin to the back, fold the ends of the skin under neatly. Now, put the stuffing in the body cavity. Don’t worry about securing the stuffing or the legs.
Place the turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Spread with softened butter (butter can be put under the skin if desired). Pour the wine into the pan. Place the turkey in a preheated 350 degree oven and roast approx. 12 minutes per pound.(A 16 lb. turkey takes about 3 hours and serves 14 people). You can turn the turkey from time to time so that it cooks evenly. Some people baste the turkey with a bulb baster and the juices from the bottom of the pan, for even coloring. If you do baste, do so quickly so as to not drop the temperature of the oven. If the turkey becomes too brown, cover it loosely with foil.
While the turkey is roasting, prepare turkey stock by placing the turkey giblets, including the neck, heart, and gizzards (not the liver) in a large saucepan with chicken stock. Add the celery, carrot, onion, parsley, peppercorns, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, skim and simmer gently 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Strain and let cool.
The turkey is done when the juices in the leg will run clear when pierced with a fork; or when a meat thermometer inserted about two-thirds of the way into the white meat reads 165 degrees.
To remove the turkey from the pan, grab it with the pieces of foil or clean oven mitts and transfer it directly to a serving platter. Let rest 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, let the juices in the roasting pan cool for 10 minutes. Either pour or spoon off most of the fat from the top of the juices in the roasting pan, and add the turkey stock. Bring this mixture to a boil, scraping up the brown particles on the sides of the pan.
Strain the juices into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. While it is coming to a boil, mix together in a small bowl, 4 Tbs. butter with 5 Tbs. flour. This mixture should resemble cookie dough. Or mix 4 Tbs. flour in a glass jar with 1/2 cup water instead of butter. Either way, when the turkey juices are boiling, whisk in some of the flour mixture and let it thicken. Add more to reach the consistency you desire. Season with salt and pepper and serve in a sauceboat. (You can add the chopped, tender giblets to the sauce or a quickly sauteed turkey liver chopped).
Carve the turkey at the table by first removing the leg and thigh in one piece. Then, separate the leg from the thigh and slice the meat. Then slice the breast meat in long thin slices from the top to bottom. (Don’t forget to serve the stuffing from inside the bird and save the oyster for the server).
For complete menu suggestions and planning for Thanksgiving dinner click here.