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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEntertainment | Restaurants & Dining | November 2009 

The Art of Dining & Living Well: Turkey on the Brain... The Perfect Roast Turkey Made Easy
email this pageprint this pageemail usLiana Turner - PVNN
November 16, 2009



Anyone can make a good turkey dinner. All you have to do is follow some simple instructions. Feel free to me send an email at lianasea(at)msn.com if you have any questions.
American Thanksgiving is Thursday, November 26th. A really good turkey dinner is definitely something to be thankful for. Yes, it is a lot of work, but the rewards are great. My favorite reward is the leftovers. I can eat turkey all day every day for a week.

There are many "new" ways to cook turkey. I have had one that was cooked in a pot of hot oil, and frankly, it was just okay... definitely not worth the fortune in oil and special equipment that it would cost, not to mention the risk of explosion or serious burns. Brining is good, but to do that you must start several days in advance, and also have refrigeration space for a huge bird and the liquid to cover it. That's not always practical.

Anyone can make a good turkey dinner. All you have to do is follow some simple instructions. Feel free to send me an email at lianasea(at)msn.com if you have any questions.

Things That You Will Need That You Might Not Already Have:

1) Large roasting pan, preferably with a rack in the bottom
2) Large bulb baster
3) Instant-read thermometer
4) Friends or relatives to help

Note: The ingredient quantities given are approximate, for an average to large turkey (like the ones in Sam's Club).

First of all, buy a fresh or frozen turkey (I have been getting the same brand at Sam's Club (frozen) for years, and have had great success with them, so I'm not switching. They come in white and red plastic. Sorry, I don't remember the brand.

You can use the disposable aluminum pans, but I prefer a big roaster with a wire rack to keep the turkey off the bottom of the pan and for easy lifting when it's cooked. If the turkey is frozen you will want to buy it three days in advance to allow for full defrosting. Sometimes I will put it in a cooler for a day if the fridge is full. After 12 hours or so you will need to add some ice to keep the temperature down. Don't let it get any warmer than it would be in the refrigerator. Food poisoning is a terrible thing to have happen for the holidays.

Stock and Stuffing

When the turkey is thawed enough to start digging around in it, remove the neck and any giblets that you are lucky enough to receive as a bonus in your turkey. My last one had a gizzard but no sign of a heart. Put these aside for the stock, which will be used to make stuffing and gravy.

Stuffing... The Day Before

This can be started one day ahead. It will save you a lot of time on the big day. Cut about 1 ½ loaves of good bread into cubes. You can use white, wheat, sourdough or corn bread, or a mixture of whatever you like. Put them on a baking pan and put in the oven until the cubes are hard and dry. When they are cool put them in a bag or airtight container.

Dice two large onions, about 6 stalks of celery, 4 apples, and mince some garlic. Apples will turn brown overnight, but if you put all these things in a plastic bag and tie it up, they will be fine for the stuffing the next day.

If you want to roast the turkey with stuffing you will need to start really early, because it's not recommended to stuff a turkey with hot dressing for safety reasons. The turkey will cook faster without it, and using this stock it will have all the turkey flavor that you need.

Stock... Turkey Day

Start early in the morning on turkey day for a rich and flavorful stock. You could make stock the day before, but you would need a place to refrigerate it for the night. In cold climates we sometimes leave the stock out on the stove, but it's probably not a good idea here in Mexico.

Cut up a few onions, carrots, celery stalks and throw them in a big stockpot (you can also throw in the apple cores and whatever is left from cutting any vegetables, as long as it is clean). Add whatever parts you were able to get out of the turkey, except for the liver, which can make the stock cloudy, not to mention the odd flavor. Add some fresh thyme and basil and sage. Cover everything with water and simmer lightly for several hours. The more the merrier.

The Turkey

There is a little math to be done for the turkey roasting. Allow about 15 minutes per pound, or about 35 minutes per kilogram. Plan to have the turkey done about one hour before the actual meal time. This will allow for carving, gravy making and other last minute things. Take the turkey out of refrigeration about one hour before time to start roasting. Remove plastic and tuck the ends of wings down under the first section of wing close to the body.

Now it's ready to roast. Use a large roasting pan with a rack in the bottom if you have one. If not, a couple of saucers turned upside down will do nicely. This is to keep the turkey raised for even cooking and so it doesn't stick to the bottom. Spray the pan with cooking oil or brush lightly with vegetable oil.

Place the turkey in the pan. Some people say breast side down, and I have tried that but it doesn't seem to make much difference, and the turkey is prettier the normal way. Place in a preheated 325 degree oven (160-170 Celsius) uncovered and leave it alone while you work on the stuffing and other stuff.

If your oven is like most ovens, you will want to turn the pan around every hour or so to make sure that it is cooking evenly. For the last hour and a half you will baste the turkey. This will require a bulb baster, or under extreme conditions you may use a large spoon, but it will take longer.

Get a good instant-read thermometer. When you think it should be close to done start checking the internal temperature in the meaty part of the thigh (don't let the thermometer touch bone). When it reaches 165 degrees remove the turkey immediately and cover with foil to cool a bit.

Apple Sage Stuffing... The Morning of Turkey Day, While the Turkey is Cooking

Get out your prepared onion, apples, celery and garlic. Sauté this in as much butter as your conscience will allow until the onions are beginning to go transparent. Then add about 3 cups of your rich turkey vegetable stock (strained) and 1 ½ cups of apple juice (you can also add a little wine or bourbon at this point). Add generous amounts of fresh thyme and sage, all chopped fairly finely. Let this simmer for fifteen minutes or so, and season with salt (or powdered chicken stock) and fresh ground pepper.

Let cool for a few minutes and then pour over dried bread cubes. Stir to moisten the cubes. You don't want them soggy, but well moistened. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt if necessary. Transfer to a shallow baking pan, which you will put in the oven about one hour before the turkey is scheduled to be done. First cover with foil for the first half hour and then uncover it for the last thirty minutes to crisp the top a bit.

Gravy

When the turkey is cool enough to handle remove it from the roaster and cover with foil. This is when you can attempt to get someone else to do the carving while you make gravy. Good luck with that.

Scrape all of the crispy bits and extra juice and whatever from the roaster into a wide saucepan (or just make the gravy in the roaster if you have enough stovetop space, and you are not using the diposable roaster) and heat on low. Add about 1/4 cup butter to melt. Add about 1/2 cup flour and whisk together 'til smooth to make a thickening roux.

Keep whisking and let the roux cook to get rid of the raw flour flavor. If it gets too thick you can add more butter. Add a few cups of stock and whisk well. Turn heat up to medium - high. This will need to reach a boiling temperature in order to thicken. If it's not thick enough you can make a slurry of stock and flour to add little by little, but be careful. This stuff will thicken up fast. If it gets too thick just add more stock. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and enjoy your feast. Happy Holidays everyone!

Note: If you don't want to work so much for your turkey, but you still want to eat at home with friends and family, then you can order a full turkey dinner from Paradise Bakery & Catering. You can pick it up or have it delivered. Send me an email or phone for more details.

Liana Turner, is the chef and owner of Paradise Bakery and Catering. Serving the "Best Cinnamon Rolls in Vallarta," along with delicious sandwiches, salads, main dishes and yummy sweet treats every day but Sunday, and providing all styles of catering services, from pre-prepared meals to-go for informal gatherings to full service elegance for dinners, cocktail parties, wedding receptions and special events, Paradise Bakery & Catering is located at Sierra Aconcagua 299, Prolongacion Brasil, Colonia Lazaro Cardenas, Puerto Vallarta. For more information, call (322) 222-5133 or visit VallartaCatering.com.

Click HERE for more articles by Liana Turner.



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