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The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

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This year I decided to host my first Thanksgiving dinner. Of course I wanted everything to be made from scratch, no canned cranberries or canned green beans from my childhood. When my guests asked what they could bring I quickly replied : Oh no worries I have it all covered! I should have gotten a clue when they all promptly reply back “are you sure” This is the story of my first Thanksgiving dinner.

First the Turkey
Where to get it and what do with it? The week before the big day I decided to order my turkey from Whole Foods. Since then I have learned there are all kinds of great farms to order a fresh turkey from,but that is another post. I wanted to make sure my turkey was as moist and flavorful as possible so I decided to learn how to brine a Turkey. See: BRINING A TURKEY

Thawing the Bird:
The day before thanksgiving I picked up my 20lb organic free range turkey. I discovered that there are 2 ways to thaw a turkey safely.

1. In the refrigerator: This is the preferred method, but can be difficult to arrange with a fully stocked fridge or like me you did not plan that far ahead. This method requires that you allow one day for every 5 pounds of meat: a 20-pound turkey will require four days to thaw thoroughly. I did not have that kind of time.

2. Submerged in Cold Water: Leaving the turkey in its wrapper I placed the frozen turkey in the sink completely submerged in very cold water for around 10 hours to thaw. The rule of thumb is around 30 minutes for every pound. You want to change the water every 40 minutes or so and turn the turkey every once in awhile. You also want to keep the turkey as submerged as possible. I happen to have a very deep sink so if you don’t you can also use a bucket in place of the sink.

Once the turkey was thawed I needed to remove the plastic wrap. Taking a sharp knife I proceeded to cut the plastic wrapper length wise down the breast. I quickly realized that this was not a good idea as I had cut the skin of the breast in the process. I then carefully rinsed and cleaned the inside and outside of the bird, removing all the extra turkey parts. Once done I put my turkey into the brine that I created a couple days before. I let the turkey sit in the brine for 8 or so hours, turning it over half way through the process. See: BRINING A TURKEY

Turkey Mustard-Maple Glaze
To add additional flavor to your turkey I use a glaze which I applied after the first 30 minutes of cooking. You will have to make this either ahead of time or during the first 30 mins of cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of maple syrup
  • 2 Tbls of Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tbls of Horseradish
  • 1 Tbls of Chile Powder
  • Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until all ingredient are throughly mixed–set aside.

Prepping the Bird:
Now with my turkey perfectly brined Its time to prep the bird. Pat it dry then take a piece of aluminum foil and fold into a triangle which you then form to the breast portion of the bird, top of the triangle goes between the legs and the rest covers the breast and put aside. This will be used later during cooking.

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Take soften butter and work it up under the breast skin. With a little effort the skin will release from the meat. Be very careful not to tear the skin. I had to be really careful as I had already accidentally cut my turkeys skin while taking it out of the wrapper. I coated the out side of bird with canola oil then season with salt and pepper.

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Stuffing or no stuffing
Some people like to put stuffing inside the bird but I think its more trouble then its worth–I prefer the idea of using aromatic inside the turkey to add that extra punch of flavor while it cooks. Take one apple and two onion cut in half, a cinnamon stick place in a microwave safe bowl and add a little water, microwave for minute. While that is cooking I salt and pepper the inside of the bird. When cooked take the aromatics and place them into the bird, with a couple sprigs rosemary, a sprig of sage, 3 cloves of garlic and butter cut up.

AROMATICS Ingredients:

  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • 1 Apple
  • 2 Onion
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/3 of a stick of butter

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Now here is where I did a bit of turkey surgery. I mentioned earlier that I accidentally cut he skin of turkey I had accidentally cut the skin of the bird while taking it out of its wrapper. I fixed that with a simple needle and tread–I actually sewed the skin back together. Just remember to take it out when it is all finish cooking.

Cooking the Turkey
I like the cooking method that is in two stages.

  • Stage 1: 500 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Stage 2: 350 degrees until the inside temperature reach 161 degrees

So you will need a good thermometer to monitor the progress

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Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and place the thermometer in the deepest part of the white meat (the breast), place in the oven and cook the turkey for 30 min. This will create a very nice golden brown skin locking in all the juices. After 30 min remove the turkey, coat it with your maple-mustard glaze and place the pre formed aluminum triangle over the breast. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degree and place the turkey back in the oven with the opposite side face out then when you first put it in, that way it cooks evenly. Cook until the thermometer hits 161 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven, coat with more glaze, cover and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes.. The Turkey turned out fantastically very moist and super flavorful. My guest where throughly impressed with the taste and the moist quality of the turkey.
Check out the rest of the dishes I prepared for dinner:

  • Maple and Curry Spiced Nuts
  • Chive Gougeres
  • Brussel Sprout and Apple Salad with Walnuts
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Herbed Potato Gratin
  • Turkey Gravy
  • Honey Glazed Ham
STEPHEN MICHAEL GROSS






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