Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day #3 of Turkey Day Planning 101

Howdy friends! I've been amused by two things so far today...finding a chocolate cupcake with white icing and candycorns stuck in it to look like a turkey stuffed half under my couch, and my 4 year old proudly declaring to me that he is in fact, a genius. Two totally unrelated instances (I think) as I have my youngest to blame for the careful cupcake placement. HA! I love my boys.

How are you coming with your Thanksgiving Planning? Good I hope - this is something fun to enjoy! I love this time of year so much. Just driving around today wearing a sweater and admiring the changing colors of Fall got me even more in a Thanksgiving-y mood. Today we're going to tackle the main course - the most intimidating aspect (in my opinion) of the entire meal. THE TURKEY. You don't want it to turn out like Cousin Katherine's from Christmas Vacation as Clark Griswold carves it and it explodes into a dry heap of char and you don't want to undercook it so that everyone goes home sick. It's a tricky bird, but with these careful instructions you can enjoy a masterpiece that will land you standing ovations.

First let's talk bird size - how big of a gobbler does one really need? A good rule of thumb is two pounds per person, and if you want some leftovers for sandwiches, consider 3 pounds per person. Not everyone is going to actually eat 2-3 pounds of meat, you're taking into account the bones weighing a bit too.

Pull that bad boy out of your freezer a good 4 days in advance - he needs to be completely unthawed before you throw him in the oven. So Sunday morning before church, set the bird in a pan and let him unthaw in the refrigerator. The pan will catch any condensation or juice so your frig isn't gross. (I know this from experience). When it comes time to pull the plastic and the netting stuff off the turkey next Thursday, be sure to remove the package of guts and the neck stuffed down inside the cavity of the bird. Some people love to use these parts in their gravy or stuffing. I personally do NOT and find it repulsive so I throw it in the trash as soon as I possibly can. It's just a guts phobia I have. I give him a cute little bath in the sink, rinsing him thoroughly with water and then let the bird sit for about 45 minutes on the counter to get to a good room temperature so as to reduce cooking time by alleviating the chill that may lead to uneven cooking. Nifty trick I learned through research.

Ok, so while he's resting on your counter, grab your ingredients.

Ingredients for the Best Turkey Ever
These ingredients are based on a 10-12 pound turkey - adjust accordingly based on your bird size (Thank you Southern Living!)
1/2 c. olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced (I put them through my garlic press)
2-4 t. fresh or dried rosemary
1-2 t. salt
1-2 t. pepper
2 onions

Combine the olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Loosen the skin from the turkey without totally detaching it. Now, forewarning: you will get messy hands at this point. If you want to be froo-froo, use a basting brush - if you want to get in and really baste your bird well, hands are key for me! Take about 1/2 of the mixture and massage it all over the bird under the skin, replace the skin and do the same thing to the outside of the skin. Sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper (and throw some underneath the skin for good measure if you desire). Roughly chop the onion and place it down in the cavity - the flavor will enhance as the bird and onion cook. You'll throw away your onion when this is all said and done.

Put the bird in a roasting pan (I have a nifty roasting rack he sits on in the pan -a sort of turkey throne for this last will and testament). Cover the entire pan - bird and all with foil. You want to keep the moisture in while it cooks so it's not like Cousin Katherine's - remember?

Bake the turkey at 325 degrees for 3 1/2 to 5 hours if you have a 12 to 16 pound bird. An 18-22 pounder will take around 4 1/2 to 6 hours. I baste twice - once about half way through cooking and the second time about 3/4 of the way through cooking. Just take all the juice in the bottom with a spoon and ladle it over the bird and recover it. Simple. Even simpler if you have a turkey baster - it's a fun little squirty gadget. Uncover your turkey when you have about 30 minutes left, so it gets nice and brown - if it starts getting crazy brown, recover it. We don't want the skin to burn, just to turn a nice golden brown like the cover of every magazine currently gracing the supermarket shelves.

How do you know if it's done? I don't trust the little pop up thermometer that some turkey companies have installed in your turkey for convenience. Mine never popped up one year. I use a meat thermometer and shove it in the thickest part of the thigh of the bird - being careful not to rest it against a bone. The temperature should read at least 165 degrees. Pull it from the oven and keep it covered in foil and let it rest while you madly shove your casseroles in the oven to heat up (remember, the ones you made tuesday?). Crank up your oven to 350 and if you've let your casseroles get to room temp, it won't take as long to reheat them.

Here is a photo of me last year, quite happy with my 18 pound bird.

Now, before you catch the last few floats coming down Michigan Avenue for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, make your mashed potatoes and gravy. The rest of the meal is heating up and all will be done at the same time (or very close to it).

Prior to pulling the turkey out, peel and boil about 8-10 medium to large sized baking potatoes, yukons and yellows are nice and tasty. This sets the stage for the most fattening delicious potatoes ever.

Delicious Mashed Potatoes
8-10 medium/large potatoes - peeled and boiled
1 stick of butter (no substitutions - we're going for flavor)
8 oz. sour cream (again, if you say low fat, I'll have to smack you)
8 oz. cream cheese
Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
Whole milk to reach desired consistency.

Once the potatoes are cooked, I mash them in my Kitchen Aid mixer (ahem, otherwise known as the pride and joy of my kitchen). If you have a large bowl and hand mixer, this gets the job done too. As they are mashing, add in the butter, sour cream, cream cheese...stop and taste it, then add salt according to your taste preference. If you're looking for a thinner potato consistency, add a little whole milk (or shoot - half and half if you've got it) and mix it thoroughly. Transfer the potatoes to your serving bowl and reheat in the oven for a few minutes if need be.

There you have it friends! Now tomorrow, I'll let you in on the gravy making secret and a dessert or two. We're a week away - yahooooooooooooo!

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