Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who really likes a roasted turkey at Thanksgiving?

Okay, so I know this post is about 3 weeks late.  I've been doing some traveling, lots of working, and some cooking, but just haven't had the time to post anything.  It's very easy to document what I'm cooking, but then it comes time to sit down and post the pictures and . . .

. . . laziness sets in.  Anywho, I'll try to be more diligent.  Enough procrastinating and onto the post.

Seriously, who really likes the obligatory bird at Thanksgiving aside from the fact that it's . . . well obligatory?  Most people buy the cheapest frozen turkey they can find at the local grocery store.  Then, they defrost it for days (otherwise you will end up with salmonella soup trying to quickly defrost that big of a beast).  On turkey day they throw it in the oven around 7 a.m. and then cook the #$&* out of it.  Seriously, I know people who cook it at 350 degrees for like 6 hours for a 20 lb bird.   Then, inevitably the breast meat is over cooked, and very dry, and people cover it up with subpar store-bought gravy.  Ah, all in the name of tradition...

Not this year. 

 This is really the first year that I had the chance to cook Thanksgiving myself.  My wife and I travelled to VA to have a bit of a family reunion with her side of the family during Thanksgiving.  Since it was my first year cooking Thanksgiving, I decided to buy a fresh, organic free-range turkey from Whole Foods.  In addition to wanting to support free-range poultry, I was hoping that a superior turkey, combined with some roasting know-how would create a seriously delicious bird.  Did it?

Well, sort-of.

Of course I can blame user error, but I'm also going to conclude that roasting a whole turkey (even correctly) is just a plain bad idea no matter if that turkey is free-range, frozen, shot yourself, or gilded in gold.  

Don't get me wrong, the turkey was good.  In fact, it was better than other ones I've had before (except for my brother's fried turkey, but that's a whole other topic).  But it wasn't stand on top of the table good.  I followed James Patterson's roasting suggestion in Glorious French Food for roasting the turkey (unstuffed) for about 9 minutes a pound at 350 degrees.  For a 18 lb turkey that's about 162 minutes or close to  2.5 hours.  The turkey came out very well browned and the skin was quite excellent.  The other thing that was quite nice were all the pan juices that I combined with some homemade veal stock I simmered with the turkey neck to make gravy with.  

The other thing I did this year was instead of carving the turkey, I removed the wings, drumsticks, and whole breasts.  Then I sliced each breast separately.  This yielded much more meat than carving the turkey and you could get much bigger slices of meat.  I would definitely recommend it.

I also made whole wheat stuffing with free-range pork sausage and dried cranberries, caramelized onion mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms with slab bacon and thyme, and roasted root vegetables.  At the end of the day is was all good, but the company was the highlight.  And I guess that's the point of it all.  

But still, next year I'm scraping the turkey and doing a standing rib-roast...

And now, your yearly dose of turkey pictures. 

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Pictures are great and your text makes me laugh. I can hear you talking! Your brother's fried turkey is great (this year, he/we did three of them!!) but I have to say my roasted turkey is good, too. I follow the Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipes method where you brine the whole turkey then start it out breast side down, then turn it one leg side up, then the other leg up, then finally the breast. I know, sounds like a pain, but I've done more complex things in a kitchen (either through my ignorance or my planning!). Anyway, the turkey comes out great, the white meat isn't cooked to death and the dark meat is perfect as well. See you at Christmas!