If you have been following along on the blog, I am going to say it again – I LOVE FALL! Even though this year we have not had much for typical fall weather – I have still enjoyed the beautiful colours and changing of the season. BUT of course, probably the main reason I love fall so much, is that I have a soft spot for Thanksgiving. I love everything about it. I love having our entire extended family over – the kids running all over the house or playing football outside in the leaves while the turkey is finishing. And the SMELL – gosh I love the smell of a turkey cooking. In all honesty I have to say I love all the smells of Thanksgiving. I love pumpkin spice, apple cider and even brussels sprouts! Yup – the whole dinner just gives me goose bumps. And the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is when I start to get it all together. The lists come out and I go to town.
This week, Danni and I are going to be sharing two of our go-to recipes for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure that Danni is quite as passionate about Thanksgiving as I am – the holistic nutritionist in her probably wants to hide under the covers and wait for it to pass – but I know she has a surprisingly “un-Danni-like” recipe up her sleeve as one of her family favourites – passed down from her mother-in-law… and I personally CANNOT wait to add this one to my Thanksgiving repertoire. Stay tuned for an EXTRA blog post Wednesday and Part Two of our Thanksgiving favourites.
My recipe today is the “star of the show” – the turkey. The reason I chose “boring old turkey” is that when I talk to people about Thanksgiving, quite often they lament how difficult it is to either time the turkey with the rest of the meal, or that they are worried about under or over cooking it. There is nothing worse than a dry turkey! Also, it seems that turkey is often scary to people – they worry that because it IS the star of the show, they are going to screw it up.
I have been using the same recipe for my turkey for 18 years – and it has not failed me yet. This includes virtually every Thanksgiving and a few Easter’s thrown in as well. I cooked my first turkey the year our first son was born. Somehow being a new mom made me feel like I had to take on the duty of Thanksgiving and provide our new little family with some Thanksgiving traditions of our own. My own mom had always made Thanksgiving so special – I think I wanted to pass this on to my children as well.
So – with considerable trepidation, I pulled on my big girl panties and went for it! In the year 2000, Martha Stewart was the Queen of the Kitchen and so I found her recipe for Turkey 101 and dug in. It was a huge success. AND it was so different from how my mom traditionally did her turkey (which I must say, has always been delicious as well).
A few notes I will make on this turkey:
Use a fresh turkey – please. You will thank me later – and plus – no worries about defrosting! 😉
Start with a clean oven – that 450F temperature will create some smoke if your oven isn’t clean! And of course, with all the butter and wine – you will need to clean your oven after too – sorry!
Use the cheesecloth with the wine and butter mixture – don’t leave it out. It makes the turkey this beautiful deep golden brown, and keeps it so moist. Of course you will be shocked to use all that butter and an entire bottle of wine, but hey – it’s Thanksgiving!
Use a fresh herb poultry mix. In the early 2000’s fresh herbs were really not as readily available as they are now. Most people used the standard dry “poultry blend” and called it a day but what a difference fresh herbs make. 19 years ago – using fresh herbs was very “Martha Stewart” and if you are in my generation, you understand what that means!
Really follow the directions with taking the bird out of the fridge – washing it and letting it come to room temperature. This step really affects how long it takes to cook the bird. Also, if you follow the recipe – your turkey should be done in virtually exactly the amount of time noted. No worries on timing.
Although I used to stuff the bird with stuffing completely, I have taken to just putting a handful in for flavour – along with the fresh poultry herb blend (and sometimes a lemon or two). I cook my stuffing separate in a casserole doted with butter – I like the texture better this way. Somehow, I find stuffing in the bird too soggy. But this is just my preference!
I have not included a recipe for gravy or stuffing here – so go to town on what your family likes! Besides, if you are trying this recipe for the first time and your family is used to the way things “usually” are – you don’t want to change everything, right?!
Christine's Fool Proof - Perfect Every Time Thanksgiving Turkey - Martha Stewart 101
From Martha Stewart – goddess of all things good!
1 20 – 21 lb turkey – giblets and neck removed from cavity
3 sticks of unsalted butter (1 1/2 cups) melted PLUS 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 bottle of dry white wine
2 teaspoons each of freshly ground pepper and salt
Rinse turkey with cool water, and dry with paper towels. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature.
Place rack on lowest level in oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine melted butter and white wine in a bowl. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters and cut it into a 17-inch, 4-layer square. Immerse cheesecloth in the butter and wine; let soak.
Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack in a heavy metal roasting pan. If the turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it; an instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate indication of doneness. Fold wing tips under turkey. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper inside turkey. Add chopped poultry herb blend, or a very small amount of stuffing if you like to cook your stuffing separate OR fill large cavity and neck cavity loosely with as much stuffing as they hold comfortably; do not pack tightly. Tie legs together loosely with kitchen string (a bow will be easy to untie later). Fold neck flap under, and secure with toothpicks. Rub turkey with the softened butter, and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper.
Lift cheesecloth out of liquid, and squeeze it slightly, leaving it very damp. Spread it evenly over the breast and about halfway down the sides of the turkey; it can cover some of the leg area. Place turkey, legs first, in oven. * See note below for those of us that DO NOT have a Martha Stewart sized oven* Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, baste cheesecloth and exposed parts of turkey with butter and wine. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 2 1/2 more hours, basting every 30 minutes and watching pan juices; if the pan gets too full, spoon out juices, reserving them for gravy.
After this third hour of cooking, carefully remove and discard cheesecloth. Turn roasting pan so that the breast is facing the back of the oven. Baste turkey with pan juices. If there are not enough juices, continue to use butter and wine – as a side note, I always use the butter and wine! The skin gets fragile as it browns, so baste carefully. Cook 1 more hour, basting after 30 minutes.
After this fourth hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke into a bone. The temperature should reach 180 degrees (stuffing should be between 140 degrees and 160 degrees) and the turkey should be golden brown. The breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not yet fully cooked, baste turkey, return to oven, and cook another 20 to 30 minutes.
When fully cooked, transfer turkey to a cutting board or serving platter, and let rest for about 30 minutes while you make your gravy!
*If your roasting pan only fits sideways in the oven, turn the pan every hour so the turkey cooks and browns evenly.
Feeling full of gratitude and thanksgiving…enjoy your special moments – they fly by!