My husband is a very content Pescatarian most of the time but once a year he is adamant about eating a turkey supper with all the tradition trimmings. I still remember the first time I made turkey, it was about 10 years ago for Cam and his equally eager turkey eater father. I wasn’t actually eating animal products at the time and I hadn’t much experience with cooking meat, much less a huge turkey! It was daunting but the whole meal got a week long praise from both my husband and father in law.
This year we gathered with friends who are leaving town for the holidays for a winter gathering. Turkey supper is one that I often feel like seems to be more of a big deal than it really is. Okay okay, I usually make a couple phone calls to Paxye before and a few during the cooking process for advice. Her esteemed advice is likely what makes the supper go so smoothly. I’ve decided to write down what I do here so I’ll be less inclined to bother friends while they are cooking (or eating thanks to time zone differences) their own turkey suppers.
My turkey recipe is Alton Brown’s. I’ll share it here and add a few of my own thoughts about the process. Here’s what I do:
If you’re buying a turkey frozen, you’ll want to thaw it in the fridge two to three days before the night you’ll be eating it. The night (8-16 hours) before is when you can brine the turkey. Brining it will give you a more moist, tender turkey.
- 16 cups Water (or Veg Stock but I just use water)
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- 1/2 cup Demerara Sugar
- 1 tbsp whole Peppercorns
- 2 tsp Candied Ginger
- 16 cups Cold Water
- In a large pot, bring the first 16 cups of water to a boil with the salt, sugar, peppercorns and ginger. Stir occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Remove from heat and cool.
- Pour cooled brine into a very large pot (I use my canning pot) and place thawed (or mostly thawed) turkey (don’t forget to take out the gibblets and neck), breast down in the pot. Add 16 cups cold water (or more) to cover the turkey. Cover and refrigerate (I put mine in our cold basement) overnight and turn the turkey over in the morning or halfway through brining.
- Preheat oven to 500’F. Prepare aromatics (recipe below) and your roaster with a rack. I make a rack in the bottom of my roasting pan with carrots and celery. When you are ready to cook the turkey, take it out of the brine and give it a very good rinse off, inside and out. Dispose of the brine. Pat the turkey dry and place it on the rack in your roaster with the breast side up. Liberally oil the skin with (non gmo) canola or other and pour aromatics and herbs inside the cavity.
- Place in the oven uncovered at 500’F for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, cover turkey with foil and turn oven temp down to 350’F. Roast until internal temperature of the turkey is 161’F. This could be 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I checked mine at 2 hours and was surprised to see it was finished.
- When the turkey is at the ideal internal temperature, take out of oven and let sit covered. The turkey should sit at least 15 minutes but can sit longer if needed. Don’t worry if it cools because you’ll be serving it with many warm dishes.
Broth made from the gibblets is an excellent addition to gravy and makes your house smell delicious before you even cook the turkey.
- Gibblets and Neck from turkey
- 1/2 Onion, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks Celery, roughly chopped
- Put the gibblets and neck in a pot with onion and celery and fill pot with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for a few hours. Add more water occasionally as needed. Eventually you’ll want about a cup of reduced liquid. I usually start this in the morning and sometime before lunch, I’ll strain it, clean the pot and set the liquid aside for making gravy later.
The aromatics are going to be placed in the turkey before cooking it. You may need to double the amounts if you’re cooking a larger turkey. My most recent turkey was about 16-17 pounds so I doubled my aromatics.
- 1 Red Apple
- 1/2 Onion
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 cup Water
- 4 sprigs Rosemary
- 6 leaves Sage
- Simmer apple, onion, cinnamon stick and water in a pot on the stove for about 15 minutes.
- When the turkey is oiled and ready in the roaster, pour aromatics and herbs inside the cavity of the turkey.
You can make this stuffing earlier in the day and have it ready to go in the oven for an hour when the turkey comes out.
- 9- 12 cups stale Bread Crumbs (I bought a couple loaves of sourdough bread a few days before I needed them and cubed them the night before, leaving them in a large bowl on the counter uncovered overnight.)
- 3/4 cup Unsalted Butter
- 3/4 lb Button Mushroom, chopped (Optional)
- 2 Onions, chopped
- 4 stalks Celery, chopped
- 6 Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Cracked Pepper
- 1 tsp Thyme
- 1 tsp Rosemary
- 1 tsp Sage
- 1/2 tsp Savory
- 1 tbsp Parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp Poultry Seasoning
- 1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped
- 2 large Eggs
- 4- 5 cups Veg Stock, warmed
- In a large skillet, melt butter. Add mushrooms, onions, celery and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.
- Add salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage, savory, parsley and poultry seasonings and mix well. Add walnuts and mix well again.
- Beat eggs and add them to bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add vegetable mixture and one cup of warmed broth. Mix well.
- Add more stock slowly. Use at least 4 cups stock. Remember that you’ll be baking the stuffing so it’s okay for it to be moist. It shouldn’t be too dry.
- Transfer to baking dish and cover with greased foil. Bake at 350’F for 45 minutes covered and an additional 15 minutes uncovered.
I was able to double my gravy recipe this evening because my turkey produced so many drippings.
- 1/4 cup Butter
- 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
- Gibblet Broth (approximately 1 cup)
- strained Turkey Drippings (add water to if you need to, to make approximately 2 cups)
- optional seasonings to taste, Thyme, Sage, Braggs or Tamari, 1/4 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar… (more important when you have less drippings)
- When the turkey is resting, strain the drippings from the roaster into a large measuring cup or bowl. Deglaze by pouring some hot water into roaster and scrape and loosen any drippings stuck to the pan.
- Make a roux by melting the butter in a pot and whisking in the flour. Whisk constantly as it thickens. It will start to brown and smell nutty.
- Slowly whisk in the gibblet broth and then the turkey drippings. Keep whisking it all together. It will clump and separate all of a sudden, don’t fret (or call Paxye in a panic), just add more drippings or broth and keep whisking.
- Whisk in seasonings if you like, like thyme, sage, braggs or tamari or apple cider vinegar for a little zing.
The cranberry sauce can be made the night or morning before you need it. Just don’t forget about it when it’s supper time!
Orange Cranberry Sauce
- 1 bag fresh Cranberries
- 2- 3 Oranges, juiced (or 1 cup Orange Juice)
- 3/4- 1 cup Sugar
- Heat orange juice and sugar in a pot until sugar dissolves.
- Add cranberries and stir intermittently until cranberries pop and the sauce thickens. Take off heat.
- Mash the sauce as little or as much as you like. It will thicken as it cools.
I promise I’ll add photos the next time I make these dishes. It was such a grey day the last time I made this meal that I didn’t bother taking many pictures. I also make quite a few other dishes to make this a full turkey supper like sticky carrots and mashed potatoes but friends brought over their own dishes so I’ll add more recipes another time.