The traditional fare of both Thanksgiving and the Christmas dinner is the good old roast turkey. It has been the centre piece of the dining table ever since Thanksgiving was started. Whatever you do to a turkey there are some simple ideas which help produce the best flavour. In many cases chefs now advocate doing very simple things to ensure the bird is safe to eat whilst still tasting delicious. Who needs Salmonella for a start? This recipe comes from a friend of a restaurant owner in Gloucester who cooks for servicemen and women based at Fairford.
There are many side dishes to choose from but I think you cant beat Brussels sprouts which have been roasted with onion and garlic, some roasted carrots, potatoes (boiled and roasted, may be some mash or puree too), some cranberry sauce although cherry and cranberry is great. I didn’t mention stuffing because this recipe has lemon and garlic only in the cavity. The classic stuffing for any bird including your Thanksgiving turkey is a sage and onion one. If you try something different, you can either leave it there to roast with the bird or take it out and replace with a stuffing when it comes to cooking time. Frankly, anything with chestnuts combined with apple and sage should really do the business.
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A Simply Roasted Turkey
Servings: 9 to 12 people depending on the size of their appetites
Time: usually 3.5 hours for the whole activity but it depends on what else is going on.
- The turkey (let’s say between 10 to 12 pounds) which is ideally reared in a responsible manner. Bronze feathered types are considered the best but there are others which taste equally good of course !
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme and/or rosemary
- A few fresh sage leaves.
- lemon, zested, quartered or halved depending on their size.
- 12 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled. If I have it, some elephant garlic is ideal and replace two ordinary garlic cloves.
- 1 glass of dry white wine
- 6 onions, peeled and quartered
- bay leaves
- 1 bottle (hard) apple or pear cider (12 ounces). Pear cider is also perry and that is superb in a dish like this.
- Coarse salt and black pepper (1 tablespoon)
- Melted butter and olive oil as required.
Preparation Of The Thanksgiving Turkey:
- Place the turkey on a good quality board reserved for meat. Remove the giblets such as the parson’s nose if it has them from the cavity and keep for the gravy or a meat sauce/stock.
- Dry the turkey and its neck dry by patting it all over with a paper towel.
- Rub the turkey all over with salt. It probably takes ½-1 teaspoon per pound of bird. Also rub in the black pepper and the lemon zest and make sure the neck area gets a good covering.
- Please the whole bird in a sufficiently large food-grade plastic bag used for cooking. Place the herbs and the garlic cloves inside the cavity of the bird. The whole bird is sealed up and kept in a large fridge inside a second bag or on a baking sheet. Keep for a day and up to three days maximum. The bird is turned over every day. The idea is to get the flavours to permeate the flesh. We haven’t discussed brining as is done with some birds and for some this part of the preparation seems rather fussy but it is worth it in the end.
- Take the turkey from the bag and dry the surface with paper towels.
- Put the turkey back but uncovered on a baking sheet in the refrigerator and keep there for between 3 and 10 hours so that the skin dries and becomes crispy after the roasting.
Cooking The Thanksgiving Roast Turkey:
- The turkey is taken from the fridge and brought to room temperature (covered with aluminium foil) for 1 hour prior to roasting.
- Bring the oven to temperature of 450 Fahrenheit.
- Place the turkey in a large roasting dish or pan and ideally on a rack which sits in the pan. For some folks adding water is enough to get a steaming process going but for maximum flavour add the cider and wine to about ¼-inch depth.
- Add the onion halves along with any other garlic and bay leaves into the tray. Place sufficient onion halves or quarters along with the lemons into the cavity which should also contain garlic. Add further bay leaves.
- Brush the turkey skin with olive oil and melted butter (can be one or the other)
- Place the turkey upside down on the roasting rack and place in the oven.
- Cook for 30 to 35 minutes
- Cover the whole bird with aluminium foil.
- Take the temperature down to 350 Fahrenheit and keep roasting based on the time associated with the instructions that usually come with the bird. That is an important instruction to follow.
- It will now take between 1.5 and 2 hours to cook the bird. Usually the bird is done when a food-grade instant reading thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and gives a temperature of 165 Fahrenheit or above.
- Once you are confident the temperature has been reached in that part of the bird, place on a cutting board and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Roasting pan from roasted turkey and the turkey removed.
- 1 c. dry white wine or hard cider
- 2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- Kosher salt
- Remove and discard vegetables, any herbs and the neck from the roasting pan.
- Strain any pan drippings into a fat separator or measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes so fat rises to top. Leaving fat behind (or spooning it off if not using separator), pour juices from bottom into large (4-cup) measuring cup.
- Place empty roasting pan across 2 stove burners on medium-high. Add wine and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, 1 minute.
- Pour wine mixture into measuring cup with pan juices and add enough broth to make 4 cups liquid total.
- Melt butter in large saucepan on medium. Sprinkle flour over top and cook, whisking, until deep brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in broth mixture; bring to a boil. Add thyme sprigs, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 8 to 12 minutes. If necessary, season with salt and pepper. Strain just before serving. Makes about 3 1/2 cups.