That time of year is upon us again and oh what a beautiful time of year it is here in Dallas. The golden amber and red leaves crunch under our feet during morning walks, the sun gently warms our cheeks and the cool breezes make us walk a little faster. Wait – that’s not us! We’re breathing a collective, warm and fuzzy sigh snuggling warmly in our robes, drinking coffee and watching the morning exercisers out the kitchen window! It is time to get down to business – it’s turkey time! There are so many recipes, suggestions and ideas to share that they would fill a book. Instead, here are extremely helpful turkey tips for those of you whipping up a full blown Thanksgiving Day feast for family and friends.
Turkey Tip #1 – Arrange oven racks as necessary and then preheat oven to 400 degrees at least 30 minutes before roasting time.
Turkey Tip #2 - Prepare bird with desired seasonings (good old salt and pepper or get creative with herbes de Provence or a grill seasoning blend), oils (use a combination of butter and olive oil), aromatics (stuff that bird with parsley, orange and lemon slices, chopped onions, chopped carrots, chopped celery, etc). Wiggle fingers underneath skin over the breast to loosen it from the meat and slide some herbed butter in between for super moist and flavorful breast meat. Using butcher’s twine, truss or secure the legs by tying them together and that ensures a more uniform form to the bird and holds the aromatics in the cavity. Twist the wings tips underneath the bird so that they do not burn.
Turkey Tip #3 – On a bed of chopped vegetables (carrots, onions, parsnips, leeks, celery, etc) liberally bathed in beer, wine, stock or water and salt and pepper place thawed, prepared turkey (or chicken) breast side up uncovered for the first 20-30 minutes to create that signature, beautiful and golden skin. Turn oven down to 350 degrees, cover bird and roasting pan with foil and bake for remaining time which is approximately 20 minutes per pound. During the final 20 minutes of baking time, return the oven to 400 degrees, remove all foil and crisp up the skin again.
Turkey tip #4 – “They say” poultry should be consumed once it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees in the thickest part of the bird. Well, my vote is to roast it to 155 degrees, remove it from the pan and place on a cutting board or into another roasting pan, cover with foil and allow the sure fire carry-over cooking take it the rest of the way. Some people love dark meat and some love white meat but no one loves dry, sawdust turkey. By using this trick the turkey is cooked to moist perfection, juices will have redistributed and you have time to make some gravy from the pan drippings (remember to strain the solids from the drippings first)!
Turkey Tip #5 – Gravy, anyone? To thicken up the pan juices, grab a soup bowl and combine a few tablespoons of cornstarch or flour and equal parts water and whisk together until there are no lumps. While pan drippings are simmering (place that roasting pan directly on the cook top – why dirty another pan??), slowly whisk in the flour/water mixture to ensure that no lumps form. Allow gravy to come up to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Want it to be thicker? Add another flour/water mixture but remember, combine it in a bowl first until it is smooth then slowly add it to the gravy while whisking. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
Turkey Tip #6 - Keep the turkey carcass after it has been carved clean and make some turkey stock or turkey soup. Here's how.