While every family has different traditions for turkey day, the one common denominator for most families is turkey. Roasted, deep fried, grilled - whatever your cooking preference, 99% of homes have some form of the gobbler on the table for Thanksgiving dinner. (NOTE: the 99% statistic is something I completely made up and in no way should be counted as a real statistic)
|Turkey: Some are more stylish than others - but they all look good on the table in November|
With that being said, we thought there was no better way to kick off the Thanksgiving week on the blog than by sharing a turkey recipe! Now, as we touched on last night - Maggie and I don't have the means (financially or waistline wise) to purchase and eat an entire 12 - 14 pound turkey just for the sake of the blog. So, we are sharing a classic roasted turkey recipe today, from our good friends (that we haven't actually met - but I'm sure we'd get along very well) at America's Test Kitchen. We are also sharing what was on the menu for ourselves this evening - roasted turkey breast.
Let's get started with the full recipe from America's Test Kitchen
The Recipe: Classic Roast Turkey
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2nd Edition: Every Recipe from the Hit TV Show With Product Ratings and a Look Behind the Scenes
What You'll Need:
2 Cups Table Salt
1 (12 - 14 pound) Turkey
2 Medium Onions (chopped coarse)
2 Medium Carrots (chopped coarse)
2 Celery Ribs (chopped coarse)
6 Sprigs Thyme
3 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter (melted)
1 Cup Water
The key to a juicy, tender turkey on Thanksgiving has been sought after for many, many years. There are countless methods available to the home chef, all of them promising the best, juiciest turkey you've ever had. From bags, to deep friers, every technique has it's successes...and it's failures. The method that the professionals all agree upon, however, is brining.
Now, if you're wondering what brining is - you must me new to the blog (Hi!) as we have gone into full detail about brine and the brining process countless times before. If you need a refresher course - check here, here and here. I'll sum up brining the way Cook's Illustrated describes it:
"Simply put, the brining solution flows into the meat , distributing moisture and seasoning. In our testing, we found that while a turkey roasted straight out of its package will retain about 82 percent of its total weight after cooking, a brined turkey will retain about 93 precent of its total weight after cooking - and thus be moister and more flavorful."
It can't be made any more clear than that. If you want the best, moist turkey on Thanksgiving - you have to give the turkey a bath in brine.
To begin, dissolve the salt in 2 gallons of cold water (in a large container). Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate (or in a cool place, with the temperature below 40 degrees) for 4 to 6 hours.
Next, set a wire rack on a large baking sheet. Remove the turkey from the brine and dry well (make sure to get the cavity as well!) Place the turkey on the wire rack and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. This process, know simply as drying, allows the turkey's skin to dry completely, resulting in crisp skin and not a loose flabby out layer. If you are a fan of the turkey skin, you'll want to adhere to this step. Obviously, you can skip step 2 and simply begin cooking once the brining is complete - just be prepared to loose some of the crisp nature of the skin during cooking.
Adjust your oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a v-rack roasting pan with heavy aluminum foil and poke several holes in the foil. Spray the foil with vegetable oil.
Toss half of the onions, carrots and celery in a medium bowl with melted butter. Place the coated veggies inside the turkey. Tie the turkey's legs together with cooking twine and tuck the wings underneath the body. Place the rest of the vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan.
Pour 1 cup of water into the roasting pan. Brush the turkey breast with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and then place it, breast side down, in the v-rack. Brush the remaining portions of the turkey with another 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
Roast the turkey for 45 minutes. After this time, remove the pan from the oven and baste the turkey with the juices from the bottom of the roasting pan. CAREFULLY rotate the turkey 1/4 of a turn so that the thigh/leg side is now facing up. If you used up all of the liquid from the pan, add an additional 1/4 cup of water now as well. Return to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes. Once again, carefully rotate the turkey so the other thigh/leg side is up. Baste and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Finally, rotate the turkey so the breast side is up, baste and cook until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 to 165 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 degrees. (30 to 45 minutes)
Remove the turkey from the oven. Gently tip it to pour out the juices from the cavity into the roasting pan (especially if you want to make turkey gravy later on!). Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and allow to rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes before carving (this allows the juices to return to the meat - preventing you from spilling all of that hard work out onto the cutting board.)
Now, for those who are cooking for one or two this Thanksgiving, or for those who happen to save the turkey breast for a separate meal -
I did a little searching for a smaller sized turkey recipe over the past few days when I made a very interesting discovery. On one of the more popular user submitted recipe sites, Epicurious, I found a recipe that had a good idea - but if executed how it was originally instructed, it would end up a disaster. After some creative altering - I created a nice, smaller sized turkey themed dish.
The Recipe: Roasted Turkey Breast With Mustard Pan Sauce
Original Recipe Found In: Epicurious.com - but adjusted so much that it's an original now
What You'll Need:
2 Tablespoons Honey Mustard (If you lack honey mustard simply add 1 Tbs honey to dijon mustard!)
1 Tablespoons Chopped Tarragon (1 teaspoon dried - approximately)
2 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Boneless, Skinless Turkey Breasts
2 Pounds Baby Potatoes (Red preferred - halved)
2 Cups Thinly Sliced Leeks (One small onion works as a substitute)
Begin by mixing 2 tablespoons of the honey mustard with 1 tablespoon of tarragon (1/2 teaspoon if you are using dried tarragon) and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place your turkey breasts on a well greased baking sheet (cooking spray works the best for this).
|Thanksgiving dinner: small scale|
Season each breast with salt and pepper and cover with the mustard mixture. Cook in the lower 1/3 of the oven at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss your sliced potatoes (adjust the preparation of the potatoes for the type you are using - if you have red baby potatoes - simply halve and them and leave the skin - if you are using russet - remove the skin and quarter - etc. use your best judgement) with the leek (or onion) 1 tablespoon of tarragon (1/2 teaspoon dried) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread the potatoes out on a second (well greased) baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. (I chose not to use potatoes tonight due to the fact that the current potatoes under our cabinet were growing their own potato patch - oops! Probably not the best things to use! We went with corn instead...)
After the first 15 minutes, place the potatoes on the rack in the top 1/3 of your oven and cook, mixing occasionally for 15 to 25 minutes. Monitor the turkey breast after 15 minutes, making sure to check the temperature often - you are shooting for 165 degrees at the thickest part of the breast - once you reach that temperature you are ready to enjoy!
Fantastic! The tweaks that I made (more on that below) and the original flavor pairing concept all blended into a perfect sweet yet somewhat spicy turkey dish. The turkey was incredibly juicy and tender (even without brining!) as well, which was a surprising bonus.
This recipe could have been a disaster had I followed the original instructions. The original dish called for 5 tablespoons of tarragon - which, if you are familiar with tarragon, you are aware that it is a very strong spice. 5 tablespoons is a ridiculous amount - especially given the small scale it was being used in.
Secondly, the original recipe recommended cooking the turkey breast for over 1.5 hours! Now, anyone with any cooking common sense can deductively reason that if a whole turkey takes 1.5 to 2 hours - two turkey breasts should not take nearly as long.
I could tell that the concept was correct - honey mustard with a hint of tarragon had the potential to make a good marinade. However, my inner chef had enough experience to say "something doesn't seem right here". Sure enough, a quick click to the comments section proved my suspicions correct. The comments were all in the vein of 'cooking time is way too long' or 'That is simply too much tarragon' or my personal favorite 'I don't think this recipe was tested before being published'. Bingo. There in lies the fault of these quick 'community' recipe sites that are starting to boom all over the internet (and it's why we don't use those recipes) anyone, and I mean anyone is allowed to share their recipe with the world - which is fabulous - BUT and it's a big but, there are no editors or tasters. These places aren't America's Test Kitchen where a recipe is tested dozens of times until it's perfect - it's not even Jaime Magazine where a professional chef is sharing his recipe. These sites are not even Food Network Magazine or Bon Appetit where at least the user submitted recipes are tested before being published. Nope. Untested and untried recipes are simply tossed out and published for all the world to try. Sometimes that's great...sometimes, you end up with blackened turkey coated in way too much tarragon.
In the end, I ended up adapting this recipe to my own preferences because it was still a good idea. Mustard tarragon turkey with red potatoes sounded like a great dish. The execution and directions on the site were - to say the least - not accurate nor useful, but the concept was there for the taking and the rest (I.E. the cooking) came down to my own experience. It's a cautionary tale - if you feel that your cooking sense is high enough to detect 'bad directions' by all means, go out and explore these sites. If you are still in the novice "I only do what the recipe says" range - I'd recommend sticking to published, trusted (and tested) recipes.
As much as I love my wife - my little cooking partner - I know without a shadow of a doubt that this recipe (or ones similar) would have nailed her - even with all of her experience. Recipes such as these have in the past. When one of her dishes doesn't turn out, I usually ask "How much of ingredient X did you use?" She responds "well 3 tablespoons... " I retort "3 Tablespoons! Holy cow! Didn't you think that was too much?" She'd reply "Yes, but that's what the recipe said to use" As you can tell, we've been down this road a few times! (And in her defense, she is getting better at adapting on the fly). It just goes to show, don't just follow - think it through and create the dish in your head - if it seems wrong - do some research. It just might keep supper from going up the chimney!
That's all we have for you tonight. Thanksgiving week continues tomorrow night with a turkey day classic that is almost as synonymous with the holiday as turkey itself. Be sure to stop back tomorrow evening to see what we've got cooking. Until then,