Monday, December 1, 2008

Talking turkey

The dark meat on a turkey needs to get to 185º, but the white meat on a turkey only needs to get to 165º. The solution that we follow to avoid overcooking the white meat is an adaptation of advice from the Cook’s Illustrated folks: we cook the bird upside-down for 40 minutes at 400º first, then flip it and finish it at 325º. Total time for a 25-28 pound turkey is usually 3-3.5 hours.

We don’t put stuffing in the bird, just chopped vegetables, lemon, and orange. Dry rub a spice blend on the outside, and this year we added a bit of apple cider instead of butter when we needed to baste. This year I added a small pan of water next to the bird for the last 30 minutes to increase the steam level in the oven without having the bird sitting in liquid.

Flipping an enormous hot turkey is hard. (Not to be confused with whatever the kids are doing these days that they call “flipping a hot turkey.”) I find the best approach is just to use a pair of washable oven mitts and grab the bird directly from both ends. There’s a risk of the turkey’s breast skin tearing or being stuck to the roasting pan. The color on the skin usually looks absurdly uneven when you flip it, because the weight-compressed part that has been in contact with the roasting pan is much darker, but the color evens out by the time the bird is done.

This year’s turkey came from neighbors of Lisa’s parents, who raise a truly free-range bird. When we’re buying it locally, we go to Owen’s Poultry Farm in Needham, who raise their own eggs but get their 3000 Thanksgiving turkeys from another New England farm.

After stripping off the meat, the carcass and pan scrapings go into a stockpot with more vegetables: onions, carrots, celery, garlic, green pepper, whatever comes to hand. Fill the pot with water, and simmer slowly for 24-36 hours, adding more water as needed. Strain through a cheesecloth, then chill and scrape off the fat, and you’re left with a fabulous condensed stock. Add water and salt when reheating to taste.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I almost never make cranberry sauce. Usually the cranberry sauce arrives with the guests. But sometimes it gets left on the kitchen counter 5 hours away.

Fortunately, a bag of cranberries had, somewhat randomly, appeared in our house. I started to follow the recipe on the bag and realized a bit too late that the bag that contained two cups of cranberries had a that called for 4 cups. Oops.

Our cranberry sauce was sweet and wet and orangy. Quite yummy in my opinion.