My fellow Americans – is your turkey defrosting by now? My favorite, no-fail way to cook a turkey is thus:
Take your bird out of the fridge a few hours ahead of time, and bring it to room temperature. Rub it all over with butter. Stick a tiny amount of chopped onion, celery, and carrots in the cavity, along with salt and pepper and any other seasonings, and put a cheesecloth soaked in melted butter over the breast. Put the turkey a rack in a pan large enough so that air can circulate around it. Place more celery, carrots, and onions (diced – you can eventually grind them up for the gravy) around the turkey in the pan, with more butter.
I preheat my oven to 425° and then turn it down to 325-350° immediately after putting in the bird. I baste the turkey every 20 minutes (including the cheesecloth). I allow 20 minutes per pound but it usually is done sooner. Cooking this way, the bird comes out perfectly brown, every time.
Make sure you cover the bird with foil after taking it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before cutting off even one piece! This makes it really juicy.
I make my stuffing separately, using purchased organic chicken stock (not broth) for the liquid. I put in fire-roasted chestnuts… preparing them keeps Chef Jeff busy with something and out of the kitchen while I get the bird going.
My mother never could cook a turkey in the allotted time frame, and Thanksgiving dinner invariably got pushed back from noon to about 4 p.m., by which time the side dishes were spoiled, and we were all crabby from starvation and not being allowed to “spoil our appetites” with a snack. The reasons for her turkey ineptitude were that she a) stuffed the turkey with dressing until it was fit to burst (and no air could circulate inside), and b) she cooked it right after taking it out of the fridge. I also think she may not have started thawing it until the day before Thanksgiving, so it was still partially frozen.
This year, we are having a heritage, rare breed turkey from Coon Creek Family Farm. We purchased two and I’m not sure what Chef Jeff has defrosting – it is either a Narragansett or a Bourbon Red. We had one of their birds last year and it was awesome! It had so much more flavor than a plain “homogenized” turkey – just like our own heritage breed Golden-Laced Wyandotte chickens taste better than “plain vanilla” birds from the store. It is amazing what was sacrificed when people decided to breed “improved” livestock for consumption – namely, flavor! Not to mention the fact that the “improved” breeds can’t even reproduce naturally. Heritage breed poultry are so much more healthy, and able to forage on their own, and really thrive without human management. Give me a natural bird every time.
There are instructions for brining a turkey at the Coon Creek site, also, if you’d like to try that method.
I know our turkey spent the summer sunbathing in a low-stress, natural environment; ate healthy, organic food and grazed on a beautiful pasture; was treated respectfully and allowed to have a full life; did not have to receive antibiotics and chemicals to keep it healthy (as it wasn’t raised in a compressed, confined area full of filth); and – most importantly to me – was processed humanely (the same butcher processes our own chickens for us), and purchasing it supports a small, organic, family-run farm. I know it is safe to bring this meat to room temperature before cooking because of how it lived and how it was processed. In short, if I was a turkey destined to be a Thanksgiving meal, I would want to live my life on the Coon Creek Family Farm!
Julie at Coon Creek sells some of my favorite goatsmilk soap – and she boxes it beautifully for gift-giving. Ask her about the soap with the skein of yarn imprinted on the top for your YarnArtist friends! Pop her an e-mail – she’ll be glad to help you out.
One thing I am particularly grateful for this Thanksgiving is receiving an invitation to a family’s holiday meal. For people to open their hearts and home to us, to think of including us, is something I will definitely be giving thanks for on Thursday.
In the past, Chef Jeff and I have made homemade liqueur to give at the holidays. It went over very well. Jayne has a recipe for Van der Hum tangerine liqueur on her blog and I think we may try it this year – perhaps with clementines?
If you see clementines in your grocery store, you must try them. Don’t buy them after December, though – they will have lost much of their flavor. They are so easy to peel, and so sweet – the perfect winter afternoon snack! Another favorite at this time of year.
I will try to post another recipe for giving tomorrow, but must dash now – the farrier is on his way to attend to one of Tikki’s toes.
Have a great day!