Editor’s Note: Throughout the month in the pages of The Oklahoman, we’ll offer recipes and reminders on how best to outfit your Thanksgiving table.
November must’ve been pretty stoked when a bunch of liberty-obsessed Britons bolted from the mother country and bumped into a rock near a town called Plymouth.
Before those undocumented workers from across the Atlantic arrived on Indian land, November wasn’t much more than the last hurdle before Christmas and Hanukkah — depending on whether you attended Mass or temple.
Many trace the Thanksgiving story to 1621, not far from the rock the Mayflower cozied up to, when settlers and American Indians shared a meal. Since 1863, our country has officially reserved a day in November for gorging on turkey, dressing/stuffing, fall vegetables, cranberries and pies in pecan and/or pumpkin. It’s a gourmand’s fantasy, and a turkey’s terror.
So, it’s of utmost importance that the turkey you serve be done properly.
Even though Thanksgiving is still weeks away, there is no better time than the present to review basic turkey roasting and some tips on how to ensure the fowl you center your feast on doesn’t run afoul of flavor.
CLASSIC ROASTED TURKEY
I started basting our turkey with this sand plum jelly-butter mixture several years ago. It finishes beautifully with a lovely sweet golden finish. This classic method can be used with a lidded roasting pan or heavy-duty roaster with a tent of foil until final basting. Plan about 15 minutes roasting time per pound plus an additional 20 to 30 minutes resting time.
1 turkey, thawed or fresh, brined 10 to 12 hours or overnight if desired
Chicken broth to fill roaster pan an inch deep
Celery sticks to position in bottom of roaster as a rack for turkey
Fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme and sage leaves
Carrot sticks, onion slices and celery stalks to roast around turkey
¼ cup butter (2 tablespoons softened for first basting, 2 tablespoons reserved)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup sand plum jelly melted with reserved butter for final basting
•Consult thawing chart, allowing time for thawing if needed. Thaw, and remove wrapper, working over sink to keep liquids from draining onto work space. Prepare roasting vegetables. Remove giblets and neck. Trim excess fat around cavity and neck.
•On the day before cooking, brine defrosted or fresh turkey, if desired.
•Adjust oven racks to fit turkey and set temperature at 325 degrees.
•Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Coat roaster with cooking spray or butter. Place turkey in prepared roaster. Tuck wings under by bending end section behind larger section. Secure legs with butcher’s twine or silicone bands. Coat turkey’s surface with softened butter.
•Surround turkey with slices of onion, carrot sections and celery stalks. Place sprigs of fresh herbs inside and around turkey, if desired. Pour broth around turkey and vegetables to a depth of 2 inches. Make a loose-fitting tent of foil, coating underside with cooking spray or butter. Secure tent over turkey so that liquids accumulating on foil will drip back into roaster. Use roaster lid if available and if it fits over turkey. Place turkey in oven.
•Wash utensils with hot, soapy water and clean all surfaces that come into contact with the bird with bleach to eliminate risk of cross-contamination.
•After an hour, baste turkey with pan juices using brush, spoon or turkey baster. Replace lid or foil tent. Do not baste again until about 30 minutes before turkey is done or when internal temperature is within 10 degrees of desired temperature in breast and thickest part of thigh. Melt jelly and combine with remaining butter and coat turkey. Continue roasting, uncovered, until turkey reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees and is golden brown.
•Remove turkey from oven and allow to rest, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes before plating and carving. Use turkey lifting forks or rolling pin inserted through body cavity to transfer turkey to serving platter.
•Cook’s notes: Apple slices or orange wedges may be added to vegetables in roasting pan with a few inside the turkey. These are strained out of pan juices that will be used for gravy.
In cold water: Thaw breast-side down, in wrapper, submerged completely in cold water. Make sure water remains cold; add ice if needed. Estimate at least 30 minutes per pound to thaw a whole turkey.
Listed here are approximate thawing times for various weights of turkey, with times for refrigerator thawing and for cold-water thawing:
•10 to 12 pounds: 2 days; 4 to 6 hours.
•12 to 14 pounds: 3 days; 6 to 9 hours.
•14 to 18 pounds: 4 days; 9 to 14 hours.
•18 pounds plus: 4 to 5 days; 14 to 24 hours.
Turkey should be thawed or fresh for proper brining. Prebasted or injected turkeys may not require brining. Check ingredient list on turkey packaging for salt, saline or broth solution.
1 cup salt per 1 gallon brine
1 cup sugar per 1 gallon brine
1 to 2 gallons cool water
•Mix salt and sugar with half of the water until dissolved. Place in clean ice chest, heavy-duty food-safe plastic bag or bucket large enough to submerge turkey. Pour brine mixture into container. Trim excess fat from cavity opening and around neck of turkey. Place turkey into brine, adding enough remaining water to cover turkey. It may be necessary to weight down turkey to keep it submerged. Place lid on ice chest. Allow turkey to remain in brine overnight or six to eight hours. Do not add additional salt to brined turkey.
•Use apple juice in lieu of water if you’d like to reduce the salt and sugar that is used.
•After brining, be sure to clean ice chest with bleach solution and rinse well.