For most, it’s a large, beautiful turkey with plenty of mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and root vegetables. So today, we’re talking turkey tips.
BUYING: Regardless of how many gather around your Christmas table, count on 1 ½ pounds of turkey per person. It may sound like an awful lot but remember there’s plenty of bones to be accounted for. If your bird is smaller, allow 2 pounds per person because you’ll have a smaller meat to bone ratio. I always buy a larger bird than necessary for those delicious leftovers in the days that follow.
THAWING: I like to buy a fresh turkey but it’s not always possible. If your bird is frozen, be patient when thawing it. It takes approximately 3 days for a 20 pound turkey to fully defrost in the refrigerator.
BRINING: Soaking your turkey overnight in a mixture of salt and water pretty much guarantees a perfectly moist bird on your Christmas table as well as juicy leftovers in the days that follow. You can add herbs and spices to add subtle character to the turkey but it’s not necessary. Try 7 quarts of water to 1 ½ cups (375 mL) of coarse salt. You can replace some of the water with a bottle of wine if you like that flavour. Remember the turkey should be completely covered with water so go ahead and add more water. Leave overnight, rinse in the morning and roast.
STUFFING: A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed. Instead of stuffing, you can add flavour by loosely filling the cavity with aromatic vegetables such as carrots, celery, onion or garlic. You can also make a paste of butter and fresh herbs and rub it underneath the breast skin. Alternately, you can cook the dressing in a casserole dish on the side. But if you’re like me and you’re a traditional turkey with stuffing in the oven, just remember not to pack it in. Loosely stuff the bird to make sure it cooks thoroughly.
ROASTING: Let the turkey sit at room temperature for approximately 2 hours before roasting. Set the oven rack on the lowest level in the oven and preheat to 450F (220C). Stuff your bird loosely, just before it goes into the oven and don’t forget to stuff the neck cavity. Tie the legs with kitchen string and coat the outside of the live sex came turkey with vegetable oil or butter, season with salt and pepper. When your bird goes in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350F (180C).
BASTING: The more times you open the oven door, the higher the likelihood of a dry bird. So try soaking cheesecloth with melted butter and icewine and lay it over the breast and part of the legs. Then baste the cheesecloth less often than you normally would. The cheesecloth will keep the flavourful basting juices on the bird. Remove the cheesecloth just before the last hour of cooking to brown the breast and legs of the turkey.
CARVING: Once the turkey is removed form the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for at least 15 minutes to as long as an hour before carving. This is the time to make your gravy. Anything longer than an hour and you’re going to loose the heat in the turkey. Remember to carve your turkey with a very sharp or electric knife.
Your grandmother made one and so did your mother. Turkey is the quintessential, must-have dish to adorn our Christmas table. May you have a deliciously, moist turkey this year. Joyeux Noël.
Sage & Sausage Cornbread Stuffed Turkey
Recipe courtesy of The Ontario Table cookbook, by Lynn Ogryzlo ($29.95, Epulum Books)
1 10 lb Ontario turkey
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Ontario canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound (.45 kg) mushrooms, quartered
1/2 pound (.25 kg) loose sausage meat
1/4 cup (50 mL) country fresh butter
3 stalks celery, chopped
10 cups (2.5 L) day old cornbread, cubed
2 tablespoons (25 mL) dried sage
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried thyme
1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 450F (225C). In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic, mushrooms and sausage, stirring occasionally, until sausage is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain if necessary. Add butter and celery and season well. Cook until celery is soft, about 5 minutes.
In large bowl, toss together cornbread cubes, sage and thyme. Add sausage mixture and toss well. Add stock; toss to combine. Stuff the turkey cavity loosely. Place stuffed turkey breast side up in a roasting pan. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350F (180C). Cook 25 minutes per pound for turkey under 6 pounds and 20 minutes per pound for turkey over 6 pounds.
Bake remaining stuffing in a baking dish, covered with foil for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.