Thanksgiving Turkey Tips From A Pro

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Plan on serving this turkey at least 1 hour AFTER it’s done cooking. You’ll feel more relaxed about the post-turkey details, like making gravy and side dishes. A rested turkey increases in internal temperature before it starts to cool, and it’s also easier to slice.
One hint for first-timers: Do this with a friend, mate or spouse. One reads the recipe aloud, the other performs the work by following the dictation. This prevents accidentally skipping over steps.
Best new invention: digital probe thermometer, about $25.
Serves 8 to 10
½ stick butter, take out of refrigerator to soften
12- to 14-pound turkey
1 rib celery
3 large carrots
1 to 2 large onions
Vegetable oil
White pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack on the lowest notch. Keep the oven at this temperature through the entire cooking process.
2. Remove the turkey wrapping with scissors. Remove the clamp*. Find the paper bag(s) that hold the giblets; they’re in the cavities at the tail and neck.
3. Put the giblets, liver, neck and heart in a pot on the stove with enough water to cover them. If  you like, add a small onion and a carrot stick. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 2 hours. You will use this liquid and the giblets later.
1. Wash and trim the celery and carrots. Cut both into 3-inch chunks. Strew them on the bottom of a roasting pan.
2. Peel the onion, cut it in big chunks. Add to the roasting pan.
3. If you’re using a sling-type turkey lifter, lay it over the vegetables now.
1. Wash the turkey inside and out in your sink with cool running water. Rinse several times until water runs clear.
2. With a wad of paper towels, pat dry the cavity. Pat the skin dry with paper towels, too. Throw these towels away.
3. Rub the inside of the cavity with the soft butter and some salt. You won’t be stuffing this turkey. Bake stuffing in a separate casserole; easier and safer from thorough heating.
1. Optional trussing. The idea is to make the turkey round; protrusions burn.
          Twist the wing tips underneath the turkey, like putting your own arm behind your back at the elbow. With the drumsticks facing you, run a single strand of string under the turkey’s girth and up and around each side, catching the tucked-under wings under the string. Continue the string to the drumsticks. Tie them together, catching the fatty tail flap.
1. Set the turkey, breast-side-up (drumsticks pointing up) on the vegetables in the roasting pan. Rub the turkey all over with vegetable oil, salt and white pepper.
2. Don’t be in a hurry. Let it sit 10 minutes to let the seasonings soak in.
3. If using a digital probe thermometer, insert its probe now into a fleshy part of a thigh (area under the drumstick).
1. Place the turkey in the oven. Set a timer for 1 hour. When the bell goes off, add 2 cups water to the roasting pan.
2. While you’ve got the oven open, check the turkey for overbrowned spots. If you see any, cover with loose pieces of aluminum foil.
3. Set a timer for 1 hour more. When the bell goes off, check doneness.
          Here are some ways to tell if a turkey’s fully cooked:
          a. Stab a thigh with an instant-read thermometer. It should come to 175 degrees F. If not, keep roasting.
          b. Slit the skin between a thigh and drumstick. If juices run clear, the turkey’s gone. If still pink, keep roasting.
1. Remove the entire roasting pan from the oven and set it on a protective hot plate or wood board. Lift the turkey to a cutting board or platter for carving (with sides to catch more juices).
3. Get out a large measuring cup (at least 4 cup) and a strainer. Strain the juices from the roasting pan into the measuring cup. Throw vegetables away. Quickly set the strained juices in refrigerator to force fat to rise.
Make gravy. Carve turkey.
          Strained pan juices from turkey, still in the refrigerator
          Liquid from cooked giblets
          Additional juices released as the turkey rested
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cold water
Steps 1 – 3 for plain pan juices. Step 4 is for thickened gravy.
1. Scoop risen fat off the chilled pan juices; discard fat. Pour de-fatted juices into a medium pot.
2. Add giblet liquid and any more juices. You should have 3 to 4 cups, in all. This amount will vary every time you roast a turkey.
3. Bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid and concentrate flavors. If you like straight pan juices, season with salt and pepper and serve!
4. If not, proceed to thickening.
1. Measure the flour and water into a cup, like a coffee cup. Stir BRISKLY with a fork – NO LUMPS! Make a smooth paste.
 2. With the pan juices at the boil, slowly pour the flour paste, a little at a time, into the boiling juices until the gravy becomes as thick as  you like. You may not have to add all of it,
Chop the cooked giblets and add them to the bubbling gravy.  TASTE! Is there enough salt and pepper? If not, add more.
* The clamp is a cruel gadget visited upon the modern turkey. To remove it, employ counter-intuitive thinking.
     -- Slip the drumsticks out of the clamp, that’s easy enough.
          -- Now PUSH (DON’T PULL) the clamp to release it from its grip in the raw flesh. Sometimes you push IN, sometimes you push UPWARDS.
          -- If it’s slippery, hold on with a paper towel. Don’t bake the turkey with a plastic clamp still inside.