This past week all of our friends across the pond in Canada celebrated their annual Thanksgiving holiday and in November our friends in America will be doing the same. We don't do Thanksgiving over here in the UK, but we do love our Turkey's for Christmas and I thought it would be fun to share some of my turkey cooking tips with you all today.
I like to purchase a top quality bird for my holiday feasts, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is the one time of the year I will splurge and get a higher cost bird, and it goes without saying that I always choose free range and fresh if I can get it. I may eat turkey minced, or in bits the rest of the year . . . but it is only this once a year that I cook the whole bird, so it is a real treat for us! (Christmas for us.)
I always remove all of the wrapping from my bird and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours unwrapped to help dry the skin out well. That makes it a lot easier to rub any butter on and helps for nicely browned skin. I also take it out at least an hour before cooking, which brings it to room temperature. A cold bird put into a hot oven is a bit of a shocking experience and tightens up the tissue . . . we don't want a tough bird. Moist and succulent is the order of the day.
To ensure a nicely moist turkey, I like to rub a lot of butter into the flesh beneath the skin, and on top of the skin. Now you can add seasonings and herbs to it, like I have done here today, which also adds extra flavour. Sometimes I just slip a few sprigs of thyme, some salt, pepper and sage in with the butter, which works well also. A bit of broth in the roasting tin and a few aromatic veggies and Bob's your Uncle. Put that tasty bird over top of it all on a rack and start roasting!
I like to start mine off at a high temperature to assist in the browning, but after that I reduce the temperature to as low as it is safe to go and slow roast, basting it every 15 to 20 minutes with broth and more butter, or the pan juices. (I know . . . but it's Thanksgiving/Christmas!) If it starts to get too dark, I will tent it with some foil.
It's really important that once your bird is done you set it aside, keep it warm and allow it to rest, so that all of those tasty juices will be absorbed back into the bird. If you start to carve it right away, you're going to lose all of that moistness. It will run out all over your cutting board. Be patient. Wait. You'll be rewarded with an incredibly tasty and moist bird.
A lot of people swear by Brining . . . and others by dry brining. I have tried both . . . and to be honest, I want my turkey to taste like a turkey. Dry brining with salt preserves the integrity of the bird . . . and in all honesty it doesn't end up being really salty. Every wet brined bird I have ever cooked ended up tasting like the brine. Not exactly my cup of tea.
This is an excellent video which gives some great instructions on dry brining.
You would be right in thinking that this bird I am showing you here today is not a turkey. It's a chicken. I'll be cooking my turkey at Christmas, but I did want to share a recipe with you that is fabulous when roasting a turkey, but also equally as delish when used on a chicken.
(This is a large free range roasting chicken.)
It involves creating a delicious butter rub which you rub into the flesh beneath the turkey breast, beneath the skin . . . flavoured with a balsamic and maple syrups, shallots, thyme, seasoning salt and . . . lotsa butter! As the turkey cooks that butter melts into the breast meat, flavouring it . . . moistening it, making it all scrummy.
Don't be afraid of butter . . . you're going to skim it off all of the juices anyways . . . and it does help to keep that tasty bird moist and delicious!
I don't stuff my birds with stuffing . . . not a chicken nor a turkey. I like to cook the stuffing separately in a covered dish. It's too iffy . . . you can never really tell if it's cooked properly, and it can keep your turkey from cooking properly as well. Best to be on the safe side and cook it separate. You can flavour your bird from the inside out with other things . . . in this case some orange and onion. I have even shoved bunches of herbs inside the bird with great success . . . but not stuffing. Trust me on this.
However you choose to season your bird . . . if you follow these few tips, you are in for a real treat. (Start with a QUALITY room temperature bird and hot oven, lotsa butter beneath the skin, sear in the oven on high and then roast on low, baste, baste, baste . . . and let it rest before you cut into it!)
*Roasted Turkey with a Balsamic & Maple Rub*
Serves 10 to 14
A moist and deliciously different turkey. This rub works wonderfully with a roast chicken as well.
one 5-7kg Turkey, rinsed and
patted dry with paper toweling
For the rub:
2 shallots, peeled and minced
3 TBS pure Maple Syrup
1 TBS Balsamic Glaze (a thick mixture created by boilig
Balsamic vinegar until it becomes thick and syrupy. Use a good
1 TBS dark soy sauce
2 tsp dried thyme
1 TBS seasoning salt
4 ounces of butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup)
You will also need:
1 large orange, washed, unpeeled and cut into eighths
3 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups of chicken or turkey stock (may need more)
Take the turkey from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for at least an hour before cooking. (To insure a really dry skin surface, I remove it from the wrapping the night before cooking and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels.)
Make the rub by stirring together all of the ingredients until well blended. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
Preheat the oven to 225*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Have ready a large roasting tin.
Put the carrots and 3/4 of the chopped onions in the bottom of the roasting tin. Pour the stock over all.
Take your turkey and carefully loosen the skin around the main body cavity, sliding your fingers carefully inside to loosen it all over the breast. Take care not to tear the skin. Take the rub and push 3/4 of it under the skin, massaging it into the meat as best as you can. I sometimes find this is easier to do by putting the butter under the skin and then massaging it down the breast from the outside of the skin. Rub the remainder of the mixture on the outside of the turkey. Place the remainder of the onion and the orange wedges inside the cavity of the turkey along with some salt and pepper. Tuck the wings underneath as best as you can and tie the drumsticks together over the opening with some kitchen twine. Place the bird on a rack over top of the vegetables in the roasting pan, breast side up.
Roast in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160*C/325*F/gas mark 4 and roast for a further 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices.. When it is done the juices should run clear when the bird is pricked between the thigh and breast. You may need to tent the turkey with foil if it begins to get too dark. You may also need to add more stock if the pan becomes too dry. When it is done, transfer the turkey to a large carving board and tent with foil. Allow to rest for at least 20 to 25 minutes before carving.
Strain the pan juices, discarding any vegetables. Use these juices to make your gravy.
Note - to cook a chicken in this manner, rub with the balsamic and maple mixture in the same manner on a 2kg chicken and roast at 225*c/425*f/ gas mark 7 for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3 for a further 45 to 60 minutes until done and the juices run clear, basting every 15 minutes or so. I don't bother with a rack in this case. I just roast the chicken right on top of the vegetables.
Here are some of the tools I like to use when cooking my holiday bird.
Eddingtons Meat Thermometer for Poultry and Beef. £8.95 from Kitchen Monger.
For another way of roasting your holiday bird, why not try an Oven Roasting Bag. These handy bags from Heuck fit up to 22lb Turkey, and make for a quick and easy clean up. Good for roasting turkey, beef, lamb, pork, chicken or duck, and also available from Kitchen Monger at the price of £3.95 for a package containing two roasting bags.
One of the most difficult things to do is to lift the turkey out of the roasting tin onto a platter. They are heavy and awkward and somewhat cumbersome. I have some really handy Turkey Lifters which make the job a whole lot easier. You just slide them into to the bottom of the turkey at both ends, where the holes won't show and life the turkey out with ease. This particular set from Eddingtons is durable and easy to use and comes in a set of two. Available at Amazon.uk for the price of £2.95
Many thanks to Eddingtons for sending me these products to try out!