OKLAHOMA TABLE: Let's Talk Turkey (and Dressing)

Sherrel Jones begins month of preparations for Thanksgiving Feast — Oklahoma style.
BY SHERREL JONES Published: November 6, 2013
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Well, you've seen me through plenty of Thanksgivings now, so I should be a pro at this.

So much of a pro that when Dave Cathey said, “We need to get some new shots for our Thanksgiving spread,” I answered with an enthusiastic “piece of cake” response (or in this case, several pies). I can cook up a full spread with multiple dishes in record time and drive it all to Oklahoma City to be photographed.

Oh Diary, what was I thinking? There is a difference in being an experienced cook and a real pro. I assumed the role of pro and did all my baking of pies before leaving my Enid kitchen as our apartment kitchen was not designed for cooking a Thanksgiving feast. I would cook the turkey there, on arrival, though, and it could nestle in my carefully organized brine-filled ice chest while I drove to Oklahoma City.

I got a head start procuring an awesome bird for Turkey Day, and it is what I advise readers to do, if you want a local, organic, sustainable, pasture-raised, perfectly-sized-to-your-Thanksgiving-guest-list turkey. The Oklahoma Food Cooperative had 120 turkeys available starting Friday. Hurry, there may be a few left.

I purchased a 10-pound, 4-ounce turkey for our photo. It is one of the smallest I've cooked in recent years, so I thought “no problem.” With my simple salt-and-sugar brine it should cook super fast in my smallish antique speckle-ware roaster. I made my own self-styled baking rack using long celery and carrot sticks along with onion slices cut about the same thickness.

This method has stood the test of time and imparted flavor to every turkey and turkey breast I've cooked for as long as I can remember. I add a quartered apple, some additional herbs from the garden, such as sage leaves, oregano and thyme, to the mixture. I put some in the cavity of the bird along with more chunks of carrot, celery and onion. I finish by adding some chicken broth and white wine to the pan. Just enough to cover the top of my vegetable cooking rack.



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Turkey tips

Thawing

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.

Thawing times

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.

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