Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Since the weekend the food stores have been packed with a frenzy of shoppers going after all the Thanksgiving paraphernalia.
And each year the professional Thanksgiving pundits create such a sense of peril and doom regarding the roasting of the holiday bird that you’d think a turkey was a newly discovered animal.
I admit that when they come out of their pens, yards and other turkey habitats that anything over 12 pounds is virtually too big to handle easily. Imagine if you had a 20-pouind leg of lamb or a 25- pound standing rib. You’d be ready to hoist it into the hoosegow.
I’ve never cooked a turkey larger than about 18 pounds and that was cumbersome enough. Twenty-five pounds and up belong in restaurant kitchens where paid minions do the dirty deeds of stuffing, trussing, lifting and watching the heebie-jeebies out of it to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
If it’s any help think of it as a large chicken. Don’t get all crazy over the size of it.. And be thankful it’s not a condor.
Here are my humble hints and bits of help to try to make it all a bit easier.
First consider your pantry list. It’s Wednesday and there’s still time to check the larder to make sure you have everything you need.
Also if you’re making your own pies and cakes, prepare them the day ahead--this would be today. For the most part pies can be kept on the counter, covered, for one day
Check on your turkey-day staples. There’s still time to pick up what you’ve forgotten. But these are likely items that you’ll need.
Bread (for stuffing)
A few pounds (or more) of unsalted butter for baking and basting and plenty of heavy cream and milk
Potatoes (sweet and white)
A green vegetable of some kind (broccoli is still available locally)
Large roasting pan
Light and dark brown sugar
Aromatics (for stock and turkey gravy)
Herbs like thyme or rosemary
Chicken or turkey stock
White and red wine
Here’s my method of cooking a turkey so that the breast meat doesn’t dry out. Rub it all over with plenty of softened butter. Stuff it or cook the stuffing separately. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Soak a large piece of cheesecloth in about 1 stick of butter. Drape this over the breast meat. And then lay strips of bacon over the breast. During the last hour of roasting, carefully remove the cheesecloth and bacon and baste the breast generously with the pan drippings; this will darken and crisp up the skin.
Roast in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 325 degrees. Figure on about 15 minutes per pound (and add the stuffing weight to your calculations. The breast meat should register 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
So forget the hotlines to turkey 911 and keep it simple.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.