Monday is Thanksgiving here in Canada. We celebrate giving thanks for what we have and do it at the end (or supposed to be the end) of the harvest season. Unfortunately this year, this isn't the case as some of the farmers (those who were lucky enough to even have a crop) are still out in the fields working like Japanese beavers. This wasn't the best season for them in a lot of areas, but I'm sure they will all rebound next year.
I cook a turkey 3 times a year: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We like to eat turkey on special occasions and I use the leftovers in quite a few different dishes afterwards. Sandwiches, stir-frys, whatever will compliment the turkey as it takes on the flavours surrounding it. Turkey also has some nice health benefits to it (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=125). It's lower in fat than most other meats and puts you to sleep after you eat it.
When I cook it, I like my turkey moist and flavourful. You can usually achieve this by cooking it a lower temperature. I also add some water in the pan to keep the air in the oven humid. Some might call this cheating, but when we are eating my moist and juicy turkey, they are eating their dry and bland turkey. I win.
Most times I brine my turkey, but not this time. This helps a great deal if you do it properly. This link is a good source of information (http://www.the-perfect-turkey.com/how-to-brine-a-turkey.html) as it talks about how to prepare it a number of different ways. Brining helps make the proteins in the meat mesh together which helps hold in the juices and the flavor. I like what it does, but it takes a while and also a lot of space in the fridge.
Preparing the turkey is as important as the cooking process in my mind. I don't stuff the bird with traditional stuffing like my mother did. I like the bird to have a somewhat open airway through it's cavity. This way the bird cooks a whole lot faster and you won't be risking your life by accidentally eating stuffing which isn't cooked enough. The way I'm about to show you adds a lot of flavour to the bird through the ingredients in the cavity and under the skin.
Mrs. Urban Eater went out and bought a 13.5 lb (6.12 kgs) bird the other day for me to wrestle with. A nice size bird for the three of us. After thawing it in the fridge for 4 days, it was ready to be prepared. I drained the liquid from inside which accumulates from the thawing process and patted it down with paper towel, inside the cavity and on the skin. After checking the skin for pin feathers, it was ready to go. Now would be a good time to take off your rings and watch if you are wearing them.
1 Tbls unsalted butter. You can use regular butter if it's all you have on hand
2 Sprigs thyme
1 Sprig rosemary
1 Sprig oregano
1 Handful parsley, stalks and all
4 Large basil leaves
4 Cloves garlic
Fresh ground pepper
1 Cup water
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Place turkey on a cutting board or baking sheet.
3. Place butter in a bowl along with thyme leaves from 1 sprig and mix together.
4. Put your hand under the skin to separate the skin from the breast meat. You can try to get the skin away from the leg meat as well if you want.
5. Grab some butter on your fingertips and start rubbing it all over the breast meat under the skin and onto the leg if you can get to it.
6. Place the basil leaves flat on the breast meat under the skin. This will add flavour and make it look like a perfect little Martha Stewart turkey.
7. Wash the lemon and punch a few holes in the skin with a sharp knife or fork.
8. Put the lemon, the herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and the onion in the cavity and truss the legs with the skin or use butchers twine. Even if you don't truss the legs, it will still work well as this will aid in better airflow through the cavity.
9. Add water to the bottom of the pan. If you are using a baking sheet, put the water in a ramekin or a small oven-proof cup.
10. Rub a little EVOO on the skin and put it in the oven.
Other ways to add flavour are to take a couple of carrots and celery stalks and place them under the turkey to use as a rack. This helps with the flavour of the turkey and the gravy, if you are making it. Personally, I don't eat gravy. I use cranberry sauce or a little butter instead.
Turn the heat down after 1 hour to 300 F. Do not open the door. If you are using a convection oven, turn down the heat after 45 minutes. This gives the bird a good head start and helps keep the heat up after you open the door to put it in the oven. Cook until the thigh and breast meat reaches a temperature of 165 F. It still keeps cooking after you take it out of the oven, so the temperature will still rise a little. Place the turkey on a cutting board and tent it with a sheet of tinfoil for 20 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve.
If you are thinking the butter is going to add unwanted fat to the turkey, don't worry about it. It's only a tablespoon and besides, live a little. It's alright to let yourself go a tiny bit on special occasions. Remember, moderation. Your body needs some fat. Just watch how much and what kind of fat you eat.
For side dishes to the turkey, I made mashed red potatoes with a small sweet potato mixed in with it. They were steamed instead of boiled as I didn't want to boil away many of the nutrients which this process can do. I added a little milk and butter which I heated up to lukewarm before I mixed it in with the potatoes. This is an easy way to ensure the potatoes stay creamy. If you add milk when it's cold to hot spuds, it can make them starchy and goopy instead of smooth and creamy. Add sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. I grate in 1/2 a fresh nutmeg, along with adding a little chopped parsley. You don't have to do this, but nutmeg is one of those things which is a good secret to have when it comes to making mashed potatoes. It's a nice subtle background flavour. And if you want to go even farther on the flavour train, roasted garlic is another way to make your mashed potatoes rock.
We also had corn from the mother-in-laws garden which we cut off the cob and froze earlier this month. Added to this were peas and chopped carrots from her garden as well.
Little O's Menu
This last week we introduced red seedless grapes and strawberries to her. She is taking to these very well and liked a little mild cheddar with her grapes. Cheese is a good way to fatten her up as we have been told to do, so I have been adding some Parmesan to her chopped and mashed carrots too. I also fed her a couple small chunks of salmon which were left over from our meal the night before. She ate it without spitting it out like last time. I hope she continues to like the fish as she will be seeing a lot more of it.
She is still getting her fair share of peaches, carrots, green beans and blueberries. I can't see this stopping anytime soon.
This coming week we will be feeding her some of the turkey. I'm thinking this will be fine with her, but like anything else we will have to wait and see.
"Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable."
- Ina Garten, 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook'
Until next time, good eating everyone.