Succulent, tender turkey.
Tart, tangy, cranberry sauce.
Sweet Potato, Pear, Casserole.
I do realize I'm preaching to the choir here, but I thought I would hop on the Thanksgiving bandwagon and offer my two cents on how to roast a turkey. Here are my few tricks that guarantee a succulent, tender, mouthwatering turkey. Plus a couple of favorite sides, Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m not really a kitchen gadget junkie but there are three items that I find indispensable when roasting a turkey.
1. An appropriately sized roasting pan with a rack is essential. Please forget any ideas of using a heavy duty foil pan, it won’t work. I highly recommend a rack to sit your turkey on, the heat circulates around the bird and will help cook it more evenly, you really don’t want your beautiful turkey stewing in its own juices. I have a large roasting pan I keep only for the Thanksgiving turkey. It sits in my basement all year long waiting for its moment of glory.
2. A reliable meat thermometer. Many ovens now come with their own thermometer probes and these are wonderful, no more guess work. If your oven doesn’t have this PLEASE go and buy the best meat thermometer you can find. I will take the edge of any worry and you’ll use it again and again. Think of it as a wise investment.
3. A turkey baster. So much easier than messing around with a large spoon and splashing yourself with hot juices. It’s not expensive and it’s rather fun.
When in possession of your roasting pan, rack, thermometer and baster you are ready for action.
For the perfect roast turkey and gravy you will need;
1, 14-16lb turkey, preferably fresh and free range
1 stick of butter, very soft
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 lemons, quartered
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
1 very large bunch of:
Rosemary, thyme and sage, about 1 tablespoon of each minced, to be rubbed on the turkey, the rest to go inside the turkey cavity.
Salt and pepper
I would recommend a fresh bird. There are so many great quality options around, from the farmer’s market to the supermarket. If you do choose to go with a frozen bird, make sure you give it enough time to thoroughly defrost before the big day. Take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge four days before you plan to cook it or allow at least 5 hours per lb to thaw. Place it on a large tray, you don’t want turkey juice all over the fridge.
Heat the oven to 375 F
Take your turkey out of the fridge and bring to room temperature before you prepare it which should take about an hour or so, depending on the size. Please remember to take out the giblets and the neck. I know, we’ve all done it!
The next thing to consider is whether you’re going to stuff the turkey or cook the stuffing separately in the oven. I advise cooking it separately, I find it’s less greasy and the breast meat is less likely to be overcooked.
Mix the butter up with the minced rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper, rub all over the turkey. Place the onion, garlic, bunches of rosemary, thyme, and chopped up lemons in the cavity.
Place it on the rack in the roasting pan, pour 1 cup of chicken or turkey stock in the bottom of the pan and place in the pre heated oven. A turkey of this size usually takes about 3 ½ hours. Allow 15 minutes per lb of turkey. Baste throughout the process which will help keep the breast moist. If the breast seems to be getting a little too golden, tent with some aluminum foil.
The turkey is done when the breast meat reaches 165 degrees and the thigh meat reaches 175. The turkey will continue cooking to at least another 5 degrees while resting. Do NOT pierce it with a knife to see if the juices run clear, this is a sure way to dry out your turkey, use the meat thermometer. The resting process is absolutely essential, it allows the juices to settle into the meat so that your turkey will be succulent. Remove the turkey to a large warm platter, tent it with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
While the turkey is resting start on the gravy.
For the gravy;
The pan drippings
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3-4 tablespoons of all purpose flour
A healthy dash of Worcestershire sauce
3 – 4 cups of chicken or turkey stock
Salt and pepper
Drain off any excess fat from the roasting pan but be sure to leave the drippings in.
Heat 3-4 cups of turkey or chicken stock in a measuring cup in the microwave.
Place the pan on a low heat, add a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter, let it melt then add 3-4 tablespoons of all purpose flour, mix together and cook for a minute or two until you have a thick golden paste.
Slowly add the stock, whisking well with each addition. Add the sprig of rosemary and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce to give it some “bite”.
Simmer for a few minutes for the gravy to thicken and thoroughly cook through.
Strain the gravy through a sieve, season with black pepper and a little sea salt. Pour into a warmed gravy boat and serve with the carved turkey.
Sweet Potato and Pear Casserole.
A lovely way to cook sweet potatoes, the fresh pear and crumble topping gives it a little added interest and sweetness.
6 Sweet potatoes
¼ cup of maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1orange
3 tablespoons of butter
A splash of half and half
1 medium sized pear
3 tablespoons of butter, room temperature
¼ cup of pecans
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of white whole wheat flour
Peel and boil the sweet potatoes until tender. Drain, add the maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, zest and juice of the orange and mash well. Place into an oven proof dish.
Peel, slice and core the pear and arrange in a decorative pattern over the top of the sweet potatoes.
Crush the pecans, place in a bowl, add the flour and sugar, rub in the butter. Scatter over the sweet potato mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden and potato bubbling.
Cranberry sauce can be cooked 3 days ahead of the big day.
1, 12oz bag of fresh cranberries
¼ cup of maple syrup (or more to taste)
Zest and juice of an orange
1 ¼ cup of water
Place all the ingredients in a medium pan, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the cranberries are soft. Remove from heat, place into a container and store until needed. They will happily sit in the oven for 4-5 days.