by John Rudy
This recipe, with some adjustments, came from Sally and Jimmy Weiner ~1985. I believe it came to them from WBZ daytime personality Dave Maynard. The teaching lesson here is that, if any meat is cooked at too high a temperature, all the juices evaporate and the meat dries out. (The same is true, by the way, for Prime Rib which I cook at 250° until the last 20 minutes.)
Use an 18-20# Turkey for ~ 12 hungry people which, depending on the amount of appetizers, may end up about half eaten. I have very successfully used frozen turkey, and the closer to the holiday, the lower the price. It takes about 5 days to thaw and might be more of the refrigerator is particularly cold. They can be kept a few days in the refrigerator in the vacuum wrapping, so leaving more days for thawing is best. I prefer to cook the stuffing outside the turkey though others like the turkey juice to infiltrate the stuffing. The decision affects the cooking time.
- Season the turkey, inside and out, 24 hours in advance, and keep it in the refrigerator. I use salt, pepper and Lawry’s Season Salt. Put 8-10 stalks of celery into the turkey cavity to provide extra moisture. These will be discarded at the end of the cooking.
- Take out the neck, gizzard, liver and heart (and anything else they stuff in) and add another 2# package of gizzards. Boil them with salt and a chicken cube or two for at least 2 hours to make chicken stock. Remove the meat and boil it down by 50%. This will be added to the pan stickings to make the gravy. It is even better if you have left-over (frozen) gravy from a previous chicken or two. Put aside the liver for making paté. Pull the meat from the neck and cut the grizzle from the gizzard. Chop everything finely and it can be added both to the stuffing and the gravy.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Turn to 325° when you put the bird into the oven. If you have a new oven it will cool down too slowly so you might have to help by opening the oven door for a minute.
- Put cold butter slices inside the skin of the breast, if you can. Don’t cut the skin. VERY IMPORTANT: cook breast side down for about 1.5 hours. This is best done on a small cooking rack to keep the breast skin off of the bottom of the tray.
- Turn the turkey over. The easiest way to do this is by wearing rubber gloves. Put aluminum foil over wings and drumsticks so that they don’t dry.
- Baste regularly (every ~20 mins) by ladling pan drippings onto the cheesecloth. It takes ~15 minutes /per pound to cook. Remove the cheesecloth for the last 30 minutes to crisp the skin.
- Turkey is best if left to its final cooking with the oven turned off. Can be put back in for 20 minutes just before slicing, if it has been removed from the oven to bake other things.
- These times below are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 325 degree
|Weight of Bird||Roasting Time (Unstuffed)||Roasting Time (Stuffed)|
|10 to 18 pounds||3 to 3-1/2 hours||3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours|
|18 to 22 pounds||3-1/2 to 4 hours||4-1/2 to 5 hours|
|22 to 24 pounds||4 to 4-1/2 hours||5 to 5-1/2 hours|
|24 to 29 pounds||4-1/2 to 5 hours||5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours|
- I prefer a combination of regular and cornbread stuffing. I use 1 bag (Pepperidge Farm) of each. It requires about 30% more water than called for. Make at very last minute so that it doesn’t have to be heated. If absolutely necessary to heat, use the microwave so that the pan doesn’t burn!
- Add pan-fried onions, pieces of celery (10-15 stalks chopped), and fresh mushrooms. The pieces of giblet (grizzle removed) and neck meat can be put through the grinder or can be chopped up and added to the stuffing.
- I sometimes make oyster stuffing with about 1/3rd of the stuffing, by cutting up 4 to 8 oz of oysters and gently, VERY quickly pan-frying them in butter before adding them to the stuffing.
- Thicken the soup that was made with the giblets with roué. Roué: Take ¾ stick of butter and melt it and add ½ cup of flour while whisking. Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes until the mixture starts turning a light brown. Then whisk the gravy into the roue. Whisk continuously and bring to a boil.
- Add the pan droppings after removing all of the fat. Add water to the pan, if necessary, to remove any pan stickings that are burned into the pan.
- Bring mixture to a boil to thicken the gravy. Adjust the flour to the quantity of gravy. I sometimes supplement the gravy with gravy from Boston Market or Neillios (Lexington), the only decent commercial gravies I have found. I also save gravy from roast chickens (and freeze) for a month.
If all this is too much effort, and if you are the only one for Thanksgiving, an alternative is to make an origami turkey. Here, thanks to MIT, is the method:
John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age. (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)