Hello friends- it’s that time of year! Cooks and nervous Significant Others will once again begin the planning and fretting over the Thanksgiving Day dinner: How large a turkey should I bake? Should we have ham? What about both? Dressing or stuffing? Sweet potatoes or mashed? Gravy? Soups? Green Beans? Desserts? Wine and Cheese? Oh dear…
I wouldn’t be Mister C if I didn’t offer at least a few suggestions, completely unsolicited (like advice from your old Auntie, who manages to hover at your elbow while sitting in the recliner in the den) but this is the season for unsolicited and vaguely helpful… er, help. So, I decided to publish a half-dozen recipes that you may enjoy or decide not to prepare for that all-important day of family togetherness, heavy social drinking and reminding oneself of why you all live so very far away from your relatives.
Turkey: So, with much further ado- we’ll start with the Big One- the turkey. Now, I’m not going to get involved in issues of whether frying or baking makes for a moister or more tender bird. Let’s just say that I’ve fried my share of turkeys, but for tradition’s sake I’ll stick to the baked variety. Oh, yes: and whatever size turkey you decide to bake, cook it at 350F until it reaches 165F in the thickest part of the bird. It will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven, although USDA recommends 180F I find that the turkey dries out as the internal temperature can rise as high as 220F before beginning to cool. That makes for one dry bird.
I’m a big fan of glazes and various basting concoctions for all manner of fowl. It helps to keep the meat moist and adds an additional layer of flavor in what’s usually reserved for a gravy platform. Do yourself a favor and save the gravy for the rolls and potatoes, and whip up a nice baste or glaze for the bird. Here are a couple of each to try out next time you think the turkey was a little boring.
Mister C’s Orange Ginger Sweet Turkey Baste
4 Large Juice Oranges, peeled and sectioned
¼ Cup Red Wine
¼ Cup Dark Honey or Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Butter (not margarine)
2 Tbsp Grated Ginger or Ginger Paste
This makes a sweet, tart essence as a baste – actually it’s very light so be sure to season the bird with salt and pepper or better yet, brine the day before. In a food processor, add everything except the butter and pulse until chunky but not smooth. Heat the mixture in a medium saucepan (except the butter) to just boiling and remove from the heat. Add the butter, stirring until it is completely mixed. Pour the warm mix into a small dish or bowl and baste the bird with a brush before placing in the oven. As the bird bakes, baste with the mix every 20 minutes until the skin turns golden or you’re out of baste, then place foil over the pan and continue baking until done. It helps to keep the basting bowl on the stovetop or other warm place so the butter won’t thicken. Before carving, spoon out a quarter-cup or so of the juices, mix them in the basting dish with whatever’s left over and give the turkey a final baste so it’ll glisten for your efforts.
To make a glaze, double the oranges, honey and wine, then reduce by at least half or until it’s thickened. Rub the bird with a thin layer of olive oil and then use half the glaze to cover the bird before baking. Baste again in one hour, making sure to cover the entire bird. This should caramelize and make a sticky glaze when the bird is done.
Mister C’s Rosemary Sage Baste
The idea behind a baste is to keep the skin of the bird moist by flooding it with juices and other savory stuff until just before the turkey is done, then browning the skin the last half-hour or so. A baste takes a lot more effort, but it does make for a more “marinated” taste and is pretty much guaranteed to give you a tender bird.
¼ Cup Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
¼ Cup White Wine
3 Tbsp Chopped Rosemary
3 Tbsp Rubbed or Fresh Sage
This is easy: Put everything in a food processor or blender, puree until smooth or it resembles Italian dressing- your preference. Some people don’t like the texture of herbs so process according however you like, it won’t affect the flavor. Pour the mix into a small dish or cup, and either brush onto the bird before baking or use a bulb. A brush will use less to cover the bird so you can use up the basting mix while the bird is baking. If you use a bulb, use no more than half the baste before baking- you’ll want to add a bit of the fresh baste each time you open the oven, and it will slowly infuse the juices cooking out of the bird. When you baste (every 20 minutes or so), first baste with the juices from the pan, then a bit of the fresh baste. This baste is very light, more of an herb essence for those who prefer their turkey less rich and ready for the gravy or cranberry sauce.
Tomorrow: Stuffing vs. Pan Dressing