November is upon us and two celebrations come on the 23rd day of this month. First is, of course, the “Day of Thanks”. Second, and not the least, is the celebration of birth for our youngest child, Madeline a.k.a “Maddie Moo”, so double the fun this year, yea!
Now, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving Day: breakfast of sweet rolls, turkey for the meal with all those sides synonymous with T-day- from ambrosia to green bean casserole, stuffing that was stuffed to stuffing that wasn’t, pecan pie to pumpkin pie- followed by Dallas Cowboy football, a quick nap slid in their somewhere and turkey sandwiches for a late dinner.
This year’s quandary isn’t who’s coming or not, it’s what type of turkeys are we preparing. I will be doing one “traditional”, baked in my grandmother Newton’s oven roaster (right), the other will be either smoked or deep fried, Cajun style. I’m letting the family vote on this one and will let you know once the battle has been won- let the fight begin!
To kick off November, here is a quick guide for a traditional roast turkey. Check back later for gravies and sauces, as well how to smoke or fry a turkey. You can also subscribe to the right so you never miss a delicious post!
Let’s talk preparation of the turkey. My very first step is the selection of Tom. I never worry about a few pennies when it comes to buying. To hell with those bargain birds: It’s a straight up Butterball, pound for pound the finest commercially grown bird out there (and no, no one is paying me to say that!). Don’t be cheap or skimpy when it comes to the main course with pricing or size. I like the big bird, 20lbs plus, before cleaning.
Once home with your Tom, it’s cleaning time. This perhaps is the most important step, simply for safety and the well being of your guests (unless Aunt Marge is being a pain in the butt and you need to take her out- However, hopefully she’s on her meds and there is peace in the Newton household). Start by working on a large clean surface, a countertop is perfect, and I like to get a big piece of butcher paper, the wax sided type. If you don’t have any, when you go to buy your bird, batt your pretty eyes at the butcher, slip him a couple bucks, and ask him for two 3’ to 4’ pieces of butcher paper. They’ll accommodate, after all it’s the beginning of the “Season of Giving”.
It’s time to take out those toys stuffed in the carcass. Remember, there are two cavities, one inside the breast and one in the front of the breast. Nothing stinks more than cooking a parchment bag of vital organs, so set those aside for sauces and gravies.
The proper way to thaw your bird is slowly, in a refrigerator, so go clear a space out in the fridge for Tom first, then place him in a pan and cover with plastic wrap - I use those disposable roasting pans - and set him in the fridge for 48 to 72 hours before cooking. Once thawed it’s brining time.
Brining should be done for no longer than 12 hours and completed just in time for cooking. This step simply helps Tom retain moisture in the cooking process. You can also add some flavor to the bird during the brining. I like to add a little pickling spice, oranges and apple juice to my brine.
In a large sauce pan, add two cups of kosher salt with three cups of water, add your flavorings at this time if using, bring to a boil and allow to boil until the salt is completely dissolved, it takes a minute or two at the most. Find a container that will hold Tom and allow you to cover him with the brining solution. I use an old Igloo water container seen on those work trucks around town. I’ve had mine for ten plus years. Be sure to clean the container thoroughly before and after use - I use a bleach solution, and rinse very well when completed.