Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Cook a Turkey

When turkeys are cheap at Thanksgiving, I get as many as my freezer will hold, then I cook them up periodically through the year and they become tasty, fast meals.  I would even argue that the turkey is a fast meal in and of itself, it only takes minutes of prep time and bakes quietly for hours until you are ready for it.  Everyone is impressed, everyone feels festive, what's not to love?  I learned this method from my mom several years ago.  I was eating some nice turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and asked her how she had prepared it.  She looked at me funny, and then laughed.  "I don't do anything to them anymore!" I reeled.
 I had helped with countless turkeys in my youth, my brother and I standing over the kitchen sink washing and animating for our giggling pleasure a naked, slippery turkey.  We would then pat it dry and salt and butter the bird, maybe some stuffing, and mom would lift the heavy treasure into the oven.  Now my mother was explaining to me (a very sensible woman, too) that the birds are brined so heavily before you buy them that all she does now is wash and bake.  I tried it, and she is right.  Beautiful bird, no fuss. This will probably not work for an organic or free range turkey, but I've never found one of those to be cheap!

Here are the instructions for the no-fuss bird:

1) Frozen turkeys will need to be thawed for several days in the fridge. I take mine from the freezer and place it on a baking sheet in the fridge and forget about it for about a week.
2) Cover a large pan with aluminum foil,  I have used both my 9x13 baker and my 12x17 heavy duty baking sheet for this. The baking sheet is the one I prefer. If I had a roaster, I would use it.
3) Unwrap and wash the turkey, remove the giblets and neck.  Just rinse well with water.
4) Tuck the turkey's wings behind its back and place on the pan.

5) Bake according to instructions on the roasting table provided with the turkey packaging.  Tent with aluminum foil which you can remove the last hour of baking.

You can baste if you like, but it isn't necessary.  There will be a lot of drippings, if you are using a baking sheet, it is wise to remove some or most of the drippings before lifting a heavy bird out of the oven!

I serve the turkey in a series of meals: Meal 1 looks a bit like Thanksgiving dinner, I make a box of stove top and open a can of cranberries, potatoes, if I am in the mood, and a can of corn. I carve one side of the breast and a bit of one thigh.  Remember to refrigerate the turkey right after serving.  It takes a while for the meat to cool on the carcass.  The next day, when it is cool, I will make a series of packages of meat for the freezer.  1 wing and 1 drumstick go into a bag for soup (two of these) then I cut one side of the turkey breast off whole.  If it is a big bird, this gets cut in half and wrapped as two portions of meat.  Then I pull off as much as I can of the rest of the meat, making 2 cup portions in freezer bags.  I will get a few of these.  Then, the turkey carcass will be wrapped and put back in the fridge waiting for me to make soup with it when the time is right. (If you are not in the mood for soup just now, the carcass can be frozen too.)  I will now have 3 soup meals, the original meal, and several more packages of pre-cut, yummy meat to use in dishes like Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Tetrazzini and Chicken Monet.  It takes only about a minute to thaw them in the microwave and they are ready to throw in a casserole! So versatile!  Even though the process extends through time, none of the steps takes long, and having instant meals on hand is worth it!

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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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