Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey at its best

It seems like every time it is time to cook for Thanksgiving, I've completely forgotten where all my favorite recipes are, what steps to take and how much time I need to plan for. This time around I decided to find all these favorites and write them up. I now have a Thanksgiving section on my Recipes page for future reference and I thought I would take a closer look at taking care of the great turkey. Tuesday night I put the turkey in a brine. Wednesday night I pulled it out and put it in the fridge for another night to let the skin dry out. Thursday morning I got busy with the stuffing.

Two days before Thanksgiving I made sure I had plenty of bread for the stuffing. I made two batches of my standby whole-wheat sourdough bread. I love this bread because it is so simple - whole wheat flour, bread flour, water, yeast, and salt. It doesn't get any easier than that. I cut them the night before and left the slices out to dry overnight. In the morning I looked up several of my favorite recipes from Martha Stewart and Cook's Illustrated. I came up with this one.

Pecan, Apple, and Wild Mushroom Stuffing
One pack of dehydrated wild mushrooms
6 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
6 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sage, thyme and marjoram
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups apples, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
12 cups bread cubes
1 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock
3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Warm up the chicken stock and soak the wild mushrooms for an hour. Drain and reserve the stock. Chop mushrooms.
  • Melt the butter, saute onion and celery. When soft add herbs. 
  • Transfer to large bowl. Add mushrooms, parsley, pecans, apples and salt. Mix.
  • Add bread and mix.
  • Whisk stock and eggs together, pour over bowl and toss.
  • Microwave the stuffing 6-8 minutes until very hot (can't handle with your hands)
  • Stuff the turkey!
  • Put any left into an oven proof dish, cover and cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

I pulled out my favorite Cook's Illustrated cookbook, The New Best Recipe. It has a great how to for Roast Stuffed Turkey. My favorite thing I learned this time around was closing the cavity with wooden skewers and twine. I don't think I've ever had such a nice result as this before. After it was stuffed, I roasted the turkey chest down (on 5-6 carrots, about 1/2 inch of water, and several thyme sprigs) for 1 hour at 400 degrees and then slow roasted it at 250 degrees for 2 hours longer. Then I flipped the bird, turned up the oven to 400 again and roasted another 1 1/2 hours or until the thigh was 170 degrees. Starting back-up helps the thighs cook faster so they are done at the same time as the breast. I basted it throughout. 

While the turkey cooked, I made the best gravy. It really was amazingly yummy. I did this one straight out of The New Best Recipe

Giblet Pan Gravy
1 tablespoon olive oil
Reserved giblets - heart, gizzard, neck
1 onion
1 1/2 quarts homemade chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 stems fresh parsley
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper
  • Heat oil and saute the giblets and neck for five minutes. Add onion, saute until soft. Cover and cook 20 minutes.
  • Add stock and herbs. Simmer 30 minutes. Skim scum. Strain broth and return to a simmer.
  • In another large pot, make a roux: melt butter and add flour. Whisk constantly for 10-15 minutes. Slowly add the broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally for another 30 minutes or until it is thickened.
  • When the turkey is done, use the baster to suck up the juices from the pan and put into the gravy. Continue to cook down to your desired thickness. I had plenty of juice in the pan, so I didn't need to use the wine to pull up the browned bits from the pan. Instead I just put the wine directly into the gravy and simmered it for a while.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
{After the Feast}

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