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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey Basics - Roast Your Turkey with Confidence

Roasting a turkey can strike fear into the hearts of novice and expert cooks alike. This year, roast your turkey with confidence by following these tips for a perfectly brined and roasted turkey, and lump-free gravy.

First, buy a good quality turkey – fresh or frozen, either kind is fine! A twelve pound turkey will feed about 8 – 10 people (plan about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds per person if you want leftovers). Never thaw your turkey at room temperature; always thaw in the refrigerator (this may take 2 – 3 days!), or thaw under cool running water in your sink.

I suggest that you do not stuff your turkey with any bread based stuffing in advance; bake bread stuffing separately to avoid bacteria growth that can occur inside the bird ( you can fill turkey cavity with bread stuffing at the end of roasting, but be sure the stuffing temperature reaches 165 degrees before serving).

Use a brine to make your turkey juicy and flavorful throughout, with a crisp, golden brown skin! Brining adds moisture, flavor, and helps create a very tender meat texture *see brine recipe/instructions

Buy an instant read thermometer if you don’t already have one. This will ensure that your turkey is removed at exactly the right time from the oven without being over-cooked or under-done.

Roasting the Bird:
For great flavor, stuff your bird with vegetables like carrots, onions, and celery (even fennel, rutabaga, and parsnips are good; also try adding a halved lemon, a head of garlic, and sprigs of herbs); discard after roasting;

Also consider roasting carrots, potatoes, and onions in the roaster with the turkey (add them to the pan for the last hour of cooking, stirring occasionally.

Lift the skin of the bird and rub the meat with salt, pepper, and whole butter; and rub the entire exterior of the bird with whole butter as well.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 – 475 degrees; heat it at least ½ hour in advance; place your large roasting pan inside the oven as well, and allow to pre-heat at least 15 minutes

Place prepared turkey in the pan, breast side down for ½ hour; after the initial ½ hour, lower heat to 350 and turn bird over, breast side up, then cover the breast snugly with a double-thick piece of foil.

Roast until the temperature of the thigh meat is at 160 degrees (use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh) remove from oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 30 - 45 minutes.

Check temperature again – final temp. should be 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh (the bird will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven – the larger the bird, the more carry-over cooking will occur, so don’t leave the turkey in the oven until it reaches 165 or it will be over cooked!).

Place the turkey on a platter and keep covered. Allow the turkey to rest, loosely covered for at least 30 minutes before carving; this will help the turkey to stay juicy and moist when you carve it; be sure to use a very sharp knife to carve – a flexible boning knife is a good choice.


Making the gravy:
Once you remove the turkey, place roasting pan over 1 or 2 burners on the stove and turn heat to medium high; add 2 – 3 cups chicken stock, turkey stock, or boxed chicken broth to the pan and stir, scraping all the browned bits of flavor from the pan; add 1 cup red or white wine (optional) and continue to simmer ; add a bay leaf, some sprigs of thyme, a few sage leaves, and some peppercorns.

Make a mixture of ½ cup cold water and enough arrowroot or corn starch to have a heavy-cream consistency; whisk into the simmering liquid in the pan and simmer another 15 minutes; pour the whole mixture through a strainer and check to see if it needs salt and pepper; serve with the turkey.

Basic Brine:
1 gallon water
7 ounces salt
8 ounces honey, sugar, or brown sugar
3 -4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons peppercorns
1 handful thyme sprigs
4 –5 cloves garlic, smashed
any other fresh herbs you like (optional)

-bring 4 cups of the water to a boil and add all other ingredients; boil for 2 – 3 minutes, or until sugar and salt are dissolved; add to the rest of the water and cool completely before submerging turkey

allow turkey (or any other bird) to soak in brine for 12 to 18 hours; remove from brine and place uncovered in your refrigerator for 6 – 24 hours (so, the minimum time for brining is 12 hours, or as much as 2 days)

follow roasting directions above

* turkey must be completely submerged, so plan to double the recipe for a turkey around 12 pounds (you’ll need 2 gallons of brine for a big turkey); brine turkey in a food-safe plastic bucket (like a pickle bucket), a large pot, or a brining bag – available at Holiday Market or Williams-Sonoma; KEEP IT COLD! THE TEMPERATURE NEEDS TO BE 40 DEGREES OR BELOW!

For gravy base:
Melt butter in heavy large deep skillet over high heat. Add turkey necks and/or wings and sauté until deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour gravy base through strainer set over 4-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract liquid. If necessary, add enough chicken broth to gravy base to measure 4 cups. (Gravy base can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Re-warm before using.)

For turkey:
Mix 1/2 cup butter and all minced herbs in small bowl; season herb butter with salt and pepper. Transfer 2 generous tablespoons to another small bowl and reserve for gravy; let stand at room temperature.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425°F. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Rub 4 tablespoons herb butter over breast meat under skin. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity. Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey generously with salt and pepper.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon plain butter to roasting pan. Roast turkey 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Cover turkey loosely with foil. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to platter; let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).

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