Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Court a Turkey

I realized after our Thanksgiving feast I don't think I've ever cooked a turkey before. They are so....big.  And...leggy.  They're definitely not like chickens. The setting is much more intimate with a turkey, it's large body all naked and splayed out in the roasting pan looking vulnerable. And you spend alot of time getting to know it throughout the day.  First, you unwrap it from its case and remove the neck and any innards that are lurking inside. Then you clean it with cold water. After that the relationship ensues with the brining.  For a 14lb turkey like, um...let's call her Janice, you need 1 gallon of vegetable broth, 1 cup kosher salt or sea salt (the crystal kind), 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 gallon of water.  Put the water, sugar and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil on the stove.  This will dissolve the salt and sugar. Once cool, add the mix with the vegetable broth and put it in a large container or brining bag with the turkey, er, I mean, Janice inside. Brine her for 6-8 hours in the refrigerator or a large cooler.  The reason for brining is it makes the turkey moist when cooking.  It doesn't taste salty either.

While Janice is brining prepare the stuffing and sweet potatoes (see my previous post on Rosemary Chicken with Stuffing--double the stuffing recipe though). Once the brining is done take her out of the container or bag and rinse her inside and out.  Then place her on your roasting pan.   Now here's where you get to know Janice quite intimately. Fill her deep cavernous insides with stuffing and slather her pimply skin with butter and rosemary (cut slits in the skin and slide the rosemary sprigs inside). To keep her nice and cozy make sure to tie her legs together (we did not have any string, although our guests told us that we could've used dental floss, but we used kabob skewers.  It was a little tricky on the removal but we were able to avoid any splinters.).  Add about 1/4 inch water to the bottom of the pan and gently prop her sides up with plenty of sweet potatoes and oranges.

Before Janice goes into the oven make sure it has been preheated at 500 degrees.  Yeah, that's right.  Janice likes it hot!  To keep her skin from burning give her a little protection with some aluminum foil covering only two sides, leaving room for her to breathe a bit.  Once she's been in the oven for about 30 minutes you can reduce the heat to 325 and take the aluminum foil off after 30 minutes.  But you can't just leave her in there for the next 3 hours by herself!  You've got to check on her every half hour or so and baste her skin so it stays moist. With all this one on one attention you're sure to have a beautiful bird!


  1. I have never thought about turkeys in such a way before! Is that a picture of your actual turkey? It looks perfect- nice job Nance.

  2. Yep, that was it. It's almost finished...still exists in part of a pot pie I made (I don't recommend using leftover pie crust from dessert pies---cinnamon and sugar don't bode well with turkey and potatoes--yuck!) along with a soup. I think I've had my fill of turkey for the year though.