The concept of cooking a Thanksgiving meal can be very intimidating. During the past few years, I’ve been attempting to teach myself to cook through trial and error, and I promised myself that this would be the year that I finally made my favorite component of the Thanksgiving meal myself: a pumpkin roll. I’ve also been craving a REAL turkey sandwich (blog with recipe to follow), so I figured I would conquer another fear: roasting a whole fresh turkey. And I had to make mashed potatoes to go along with it! Gravy would’ve been pushing it – that will be next year. So here we go …
Whenever I have a question about the proper way to do something, I usually ask my family, do some Google research and I turn to two cooking bibles that have really helped me through a lot. The first is Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, a book which details through instructions and step by step photographs how to do everything from roasting a turkey, making a pie crust, preparing a souffle, etc. The second is a book which was a gift from my grandfather, called James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. He is a chef and swears by this book, so I don’t take his advice lightly. And you can’t go wrong with James Beard.
For Thanksgiving disasters, the New York Times also has a wonderful column called the Help Line where you can submit your own questions. http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/whats-a-good-entree-for-a-veganvegetarian-thanksgiving/?ref=dining So basically, this meal is a pretty big deal. And I wanted to prove I could do it.
So after I did some research, I began the process of roasting my first turkey. Right from the start, it was almost a near disaster. Holding a fresh fifteen pound turkey in my hands made me so uncomfortable, and I almost quit before I even got started. I genuinely felt sad for the turkey and I briefly contemplated becoming a vegetarian. (Removing the frozen neck from the “cavity” really put me over the edge. Why include the neck of the animal? I know they include the giblets, etc to make turkey stock and gravy but the NECK? I nearly gagged.)
The good news is that if you can get through the cleaning step, and maneuvering the little turkey legs so that it is in the proper position for roasting, the rest of the process is pretty simple. My advice is to just suck it up, do it, and move on. The way the house smelled while the turkey was roasting was amazing and how I imagine Donna Reed’s home smelled everyday. Plus, the leftover turkey I had to make sandwiches made it all so worth it. I was so happy I did it!
One slight problem: while the flavor was delicious, it was slightly dry because I left it in too long. Why? Because I followed the package instructions instead of trusting my gut!The package instructions on my turkey said to take it out at 170 degrees and other recipes I consulted said 180, so I went with 170. It was still too long. I should have taken the turkey out at 160! So remember to keep checking your turkey, use a thermometer and KNOW your oven.
13-15 lb fresh turkey
2 tbl poultry seasoning
1 tbl salt
1 tbl pepper
2-3 large lemons, halved (plus more for garnish)
A few springs of fresh rosemary (plus more for garnish)
1 stick of melted butter
2-3 cups of chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the giblet package (and neck) from the turkey. Rinse the turkey with cold water. Pat dry. Tuck in the turkey legs under the turkey so they don’t stick up. (There’s a great illustration on how to do this in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School.) Combine the poultry seasoning, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the turkey. Put the lemons and sprigs of rosemary in the cavity of the turkey. Pour the melted butter over the whole turkey. Add the chicken broth to the pan.
Cook the turkey, uncovered for an hour at 400 degrees until it is browned. Then lower the temperature to 325 degrees and cover with a sheet of tin foil for the remainder of the cooking time. Roast for about three more hours, or until the temperature reaches between 160-170 degrees. (You can baste with the chicken broth every hour, but experts from the NYT swear that the best way to roast a turkey does NOT include basting. So, baste at your own risk!)
Let the turkey sit in it’s juices for at least 30 minutes before carving. Serve!
2 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup of light sour cream
1 stick of light butter
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of reserved liquid
1 tbl of chopped fresh dill
1 tbl of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (plus more for garnish)
Peel the potatoes and boil them until you can stick a fork through them easily. Drain the potatoes, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Let cool slightly. Return the potatoes to the pot and add the butter, sour cream, and cheese. Mix well. Add the reserved cooking liquid as needed to bring the potatoes to your desired consistency. Mash by hand or use an electric mixer to puree the potato mixture. Lastly, stir in the dill and parsley. Garnish with more flat leaf parsley. Serve.