Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tried & True Tips for Turkey Time

I get a fair amount of phone calls every year around Christmas time. My first thought is, "Aww, how sweet, Christmas made you all sentimental & you thought of me?".

Nice try!

"What is this paper bag doing in the turkey?" or"How do you make the nog in the egg?" As much as I love to hear from you I'm probably going to be simultaneously policing Christmas Tree vandalism & cookie snatchers. So after giving it no thought whatsoever I've decided to review the basics of turkey making for you. It's something you do so infrequently that you're bound to practically forget each year anyway. If you call me anyway, I'll probably direct you here. Let's get on with it then:

1# To brine or not to brine: I personally am sold on brining, thanks to my bro-in-law, & will never go back I would encourage you to try it too, it's not that difficult. Here's where you can find the basics on Brining your turkey, recipes are many & varied but will involve lots of SALT & a sweetener like sugar/molasses/honey/maple syrup etc... & herbs/spices. Here are some ideas of brine recipes, I'm sure there are a lot more out there, but these are pretty basic with fairly common ingredients. Come on now, you can do it!

2# Timing the turkey: Once you've decided on that you need to plan the timing of your cooking. WORK YOU WAY BACKWARDS! Find your dinner time, and go back from there. Here are the approximate cooking times for stuffed & unstuffed turkeys:

You need to give yourself time for the following things:

- Defrosting your turkey (Here's a chart for that too) Remember cold bath thawing is quicker than refrigerator thawing but you'll have to be faithful to change the water every 1/2 hr.
- Brining (if you choose to) Brining time takes 1 hr for each lb. (easy to remember) Convert your kgs to lbs & you got the time. (roughly it will take btw 9-15 hrs, give or take)
- Preparing your turkey for baking
- Baking
- Covering & setting with foil for 10 min or so (makes it more moist & makes cutting easier)

So grab a pencil & do your math. Here's an example of your cooking schedule for a 12 lb (5.44kgs) brined & stuffed turkey: (remember cooking time is longer with a stuffed turkey)

Day of dinner
6:00pm Dinner time:
5:45pm Enough time to let it sit for 10 min before carving
12:45pm Turkey in the oven (about 4 1/2 - 5 hrs cooking time, go with the longer cooking time to be on the safe side, nothing like keeping dinner waiting.
11:45am Preparing for baking (1 hr) Turkey washed, dried, stuffed & buttered etc...

Day before
11:45pm Start brining (14 hrs)
11:15pm Preparing turkey for brining, (1/2 hr) pulling out giblets, taking off plastic or wire clip etc... freaking out etc..)
4:00pm defrosting in a cold bath (7 hrs) and make brining solution (it needs enough time to cool off completely after heating)

Once you have your Turkey schedule, guard it with your life. There's nothing like having to re figure the whole thing when you're stirring, whisking & burning Christmas dinner.

3# Preparing: Before we talk about what to do to prepare, A few items that you want to have on hand (I always forget to have prepared until it's too late) DON'T BE CAUGHT UNPREPARED!

- 100g. (1 stick, 1/2 c) butter (BUTTER, not Margarine)
- TWINE. (if you want to tie the legs)
- Tin foil for covering during & after baking

Whether you brine or not you'll have to prepare your turkey for baking by pulling the paper sack with the giblets, & liver & the neck. DON'T toss it but save it for turkey stock for the gravy. Fry them in a little oil & put them in 2 l. of boiling water, simmer for about 1 1/2 hrs. (This also will freak out your house hold who will insist that they need to eat Christmas dinner NOW, at 9 in the morning)

As for that annoying leg holder plastic thingie, I always forget how to do that but usually figure it out in a fit of frustration which usually ends with me half in the sink pleading, "Just give it up, already." Good luck with that!

Rinse off the turkey with cold water (rinse extra well if you used brine) Wipe off the outside & inside with a lot of paper towels. Go for it, use them all!! Don't forget to take silly pics of you peering into the gaping cavity of your turkey like a skilled & deranged surgeon.

Even if you do not want to make a "rub" for the turkey (usually made of olive oil or butter & spices, NEVER EVER USE SALT) you can very simply grab 1/4 a c of butter (1/2 a stick) nuke it for a few secs then rub it ALL over the turkey.

Another uper groovy trick I learned is to slice of 4-6 thin (1 cm) slices of butter & using a chopstick or butter knife, slip it under the breast of the skin. Push it pretty far back. 2 or 3 slices on each breast. Ooooh la la!

Stuff the turkey, if you want. Personally I learned from my good friend Niki that stuffing it with sliced whole orange, apple, onion, & bouquet of rosemary, bay leaves & thyme (use the twine)gives it great flavor & your stuffing is left looking a lot less stuffed. Suit yourself!

Nows the time to tie the legs if you like. (Cooking time is longer with the legs tied, & some say the turkey is less moist) but ascetically it looks nicer of course. I'm not particular either way.

#4 Baking: Now is the blessed time to bake, oven should be preheated at 175c (350f)

You'd be hard pressed to find a turkey baking pan in Japan but if you have one more power to you. At the very least put it on a wire rack so the drippings can drip down onto the baking tray underneath. Another tip for a golden crust: After the 1st half hour of baking (or when it's starting to brown) melt another 2--3 tbsp of butter & baste or brush the entire turkey. You'll want to continue basting the turkey with it's own drippings every hour or so.

About 1/2 way into the cooking you'll notice that the skins getting pretty golden looking so you can use heavy foil to cover it. Pretty tricky to get it covered but you'll want to do a good job or you'll have some darker spots. Also as much hasle as it is continue to baste the turkey (probably only 1 or 2 times more) till it's done. Keep it from drying out.

5# Setting: And if you have a "pop-up" button you'll know when it's done. I don't have a meat thermometer so I don't know all the specs on that. Plus this post is turning into a major epistle. Take it out, move it to your serving platter (channel the strength of Samson) and cover with foil for about 10 minutes. DO NOT THROW OUT YOUR DRIPPINGS (That oily burnt goop on you baking tray)

6# Gravy: I'd love to go into the gravy "thing" but instead I'll direct you here for a pretty thorough pictorial review. Not to mention you'll want to dive through your computer screen to get a piece of her kitchen. At least I do. IMPORTANT NOTE: if you've brined your turkey the drippings will be salty so you won't need to add very much salt at all to your gravy. Proceed with caution.

And that's it folks, if you've made it this far, you're obviously a real foodie fan or you're terribly bored but either way I love love love you!

Happy Holidays.


Crazy People said...

Have you ever tried putting the stuffing under the skin? In the same way you put the butter in. I've never tried it but people swear by it. It's suppossed to infuse those breast bits that are a bit boring with flavor and goodness.

WE're going to chcook ours on the BBQ on a spit, I'm really intrested to see what happens. It's to hot here to put them in the oven.

Do you serve the stuffing from the cavity? Or do you make seperate stuffing in a tray?

What do you serve with your turkey?

Babylove said...

Crazy, (How do I adress you? Crazy People?) I've never heard of stuffing under the skin, but I think I'm too into "appearances" to do it even it it is great. I think brining helps breast blandness incredibly.

BBQing sounds great, wish we had the resources.

If I were to stuff it, I'd unpack it & mix it in w/ the stuffing that I baked separeately. I usually make a LOT of stuffing. Stuffing in the caviity tastes great but looks like slop so I occ do both.

Crazy People said...

Call me legion for we are many...........

Lisa, works as well

Babylove said...

ha ha, Sorry Lisa, I just looked at your blog (for the 2nd time) I had forgotten that you posted under that name. Silly me! Hee! How long does it take to BBQ one?

Crazy People said...

Don't know we've never done it before.........hmmmmm

Gotta love experementing when the whole family's over for christmas

Nina said...

Merry Christmas, u pro-active genius! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Al, I don't know if you know me but I'm David's sister and happen chance to see your blog and this time I tried your turkey recipe, I did the whole works and it turned out perfectly, we had a Thanksgiving dinner last night and there was no leftovers, thanks to you!
Perhaps I will try more of your recipes, anyway, I dont know if it means anything but thank you for making your recipes easy to understand, with many pictures and sweetness.
Have a nice thanksgiving!