When in Rome! Yes, this past Monday was turkey day in Canada and as any good Canadian (I have the people passport) I prepared a turkey for dinner as we’ve done since our girls were born. This is part of their culinary culture and I/we try my best to give them a balanced education and experience as far as their multi-cultural heritage is concerned. My experience with turkeys as a child was the “big chicken” that moved around our yard that me and my brother were warned not to pelt with stones (we tested our mom). If I recall correctly, one of my dad’s friends gave him 3 turkeys and from that we had about 8 running around the yard for a few years. Still don’t remember what happened to them, since I don’t ever recall eating turkey until I came to North America. BTW one of the best animal fights I’ve ever witnessed was two male turkeys at war! Must have been over one of the females in the yard.
I’m no expert at roasting turkey and I don’t get into the whole “make it a production” as most North Americans do when it’s Thanksgiving. However, I do get compliments even though I cheat when it comes to the stuffing. But I do add a little twist that makes the boxed stuffing delightful.
Though I don’t recall roasted (bake) turkey being among the common dishes enjoyed on the islands, it’s enjoyed in our home so I thought I’d share my recipe with you. BTW, my mom makes a deadly stew (like our stew chicken, beef, pork etc) with turkey wings and drumsticks which I’ll share in the months to come.
1 Turkey (the one I used was about 6 kilos – about13 lbs)
2 cups diced celery
1 large onion chopped in large pieces
2 carrots chopped in larger pieces
8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cups of chicken broth (low sodium)
Salt (depending on the size of the bird) ..I used about 1/2 teaspoon.
Black pepper – fresh ground works best (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 stick butter (soft)
For the stuffing (we’ll cheat)
1 box Paxo (Pepperidge Farms) – 227 g or 8 oz
300g pure pork sausage (just over 1/2 pound)
1 stalk celery (sliced thin)
dash of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley.
Before we begin I must mention that cooking a turkey is very simple and it should not scare you. The key is to have some patience and allow it to cook slowly in the oven. You will notice that there are many (probably hundreds) of recipes for roasting a turkey, but don’t get confused by all the different options. Find a recipe where the instructions are clear, the ingredients used are those you like (no sense making one with stuff you hate) and where you can add your own personal touch.
Let’s prepare the stuffing first. You’ll notice that I cheated and used a pre-packaged stuffing. I’m sure the made-from-scratch stuff is excellent, but we’ve found this brand to be tops in our books. Plus I add a few things which makes it a bit more than just a package stuffing mix.
Slice the stalk of celery in thin slices and chop about 1 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley which you’ll add to a bowl. Then dump in the stuffing mixture (usually bread crumbs and herbs like sage etc). Now follow the directions on the package. Except in my case I didn’t add the butter they suggested for a richer stuffing. Instead I added the pork sausage (meat), as well as a dash of fresh ground black pepper. You’re basically following the directions on the package, except you’re adding the extra ingredients I mentioned above. You won’t believe what a nice flavour and texture the sausage adds to the stuffing.. gives it some “body”.
Let’s get to the bird now…
Be sure that the turkey is at room temperature (you may have to thaw it overnight in the fridge, if you purchased a frozen bird) as you begin to prep it. Remove the giblets and neck (see inside the cavity or under the skin in the neck region), then rinse the bird under cool water and pat dry with a paper towel. It’s important that you pat it as dry as you can.
If the legs were secured when you first purchased it, detach it (usually held together with the skin from the tail or bottom area) so it’s easier to stuff. Be sure to drain out any water from the cavity area by holding over the sink, then using the stuffing we made earlier… stuff that sucka!
You’ll notice that I’ve gone back and secured the legs to keep it together as it roasts. I’ve also tucked the wings under the back to help give it a flat area so ti can rest evenly in the roasting pan. Here is a close up picture of how I tucked the wings under the back.
The next step is to (using your fingers) put pieces of the soft butter all over the turkey (with the turkey’s breast facing up, so it’s sitting on it’s back), then massage the butter all over all exposed skin, especially the breast area. this will help you achieve that golden brown colour when it’s all done cooking. A bit more work, but you can also work your fingers between the skin (breast area) and the meat and work some butter into that area. I didn’t do that method this time, but by placing the butter there, it supposedly gives you a more moist turkey. After you’ve worked the butter all over the bird, sprinkle on the salt and fresh ground black pepper. The butter will help it stick to the turkey.
Let’s get the roasting pan ready…. pre-heat the oven to 325. (remove all the upper racks from the oven, since you’ll be using the lowest rack)
Rough chop the celery, onion and carrots, then place on the bottom of the roasting pan along with the fresh thyme. This will form a bed for the turkey to rest on while roasting.Place the stuffed turkey on top of the cut vegetables then gently pour in the 2 cups of chicken broth. Feel free to toss in the neck into the pan if you have room (providing you like the neck).
Tip: To avoid the legs and breast going too dark (early) you can rip some aluminum foil and place it over those areas. Then remove it the final 30 minutes of cooking.
Tip: If you don’t have a roasting pan with a lid like I used, use an open roasting pan but be sure to tent it with aluminum foil. This will aviod the bird getting burnt during the long baking period (also helps self baste it) Remove the tent the final 30 minutes of so to help it achieve that golden brown colour. If you find that it’s taking a long time to get to the desired colour you like, do what I did and turn up the heat in the oven. But be sure to keep a close eye on things, as it can become very dark quickly.
I’ve read that there’s never been any real proof that basting the turkey helps with keeping the final product moist, but it’s the way I learned to do it so I try to follow that technique. If you choose to baste, using a baster or spoon every 30 minutes pour some of the broth from the bottom of the pan over the turkey.
If you purchased a packaged turkey there should be cooking times posted on the packaging. You can also roast 18 minutes for every pound. As you can see you’ll need at least 3 hours for a fully cooked, golden brown and succulent turkey. I’ve also noticed (and used) the turkeys that come from the grocery store with a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the breast. When it reaches the desired temperature it pops out to let you know that the turkey is fully cooked. Cheating? Not really, just being smart!
When the turkey is done please don’t rush to carve it. give it some time to cool and rest a bit. Then scoop out the remaining juices at the bottom of the pan (strain off the vegeables) and make into a rich gravy.
Remember to scoop out the stuffing! Leave me your comments and/or suggestions in the area provided below.