Monday, 15 October 2012


Something’s are truly sacred in cookery, especially at holiday times...the presentation and the carving of the turkey is a penultimate moment for the whole family to share. What I am writing today may have some traditionalists turning in their graves or at the very least burning their aprons in effigy…I am suggesting a different way to roast a turkey.  I will go even farther than that…dare I say that turkey isn’t just for holidays anymore.

I am not saying that the prep time is reduced to minutes but I can certainly tell you that if you follow my method on preparing such a delish and healthy choice of protein…it will cook perfectly, quickly and simply! Gone are the days of having to cook a turkey for the majority of a day only to result in dry, tasteless meat that hangs around too long like an unwanted guest.

I have to admit that I have only cooked turkey for my friends and family a very few times…partially it was due to my Father saying that turkey is dry and not to his liking. Also, my own preconceived thinking of the same.  When I think back to my childhood days, visiting friends and family during the Holidays, remembering the sheer horror of having to suffer through and washing down turkey drier than the desert, you can imagine that it left me with a very negative impression.

Now, I can tell you that in my professional Chef days, we roasted tens to hundreds of turkeys a season for banquets, a la carte and for clientele pick ups.  Suffice it to say, I have a pretty good idea of what works and how best to cook a beautiful bird.  One of the major problems is that white meat and dark meat cook at different rates, causing there to be an uneven end result. Also, the size of the bird and the stuffing work against an even distribution of heat and a juicy tender outcome.

Taking a look at the process to simplify your turkey preparation, follow these steps and you will enjoy a much more desirable and tasty outcome.

Why do you ask that we do this?  Well, to put it simply, turkey is delicious, juicy, healthy and economical.  It shouldn’t just be considered around the holidays and has many uses or follow-up uses after the main meal…but I can tell you that if you cook your bird following these instructions…there might not be much left over as you might think.

Preparation time is a day or two ahead of the date desired to feast.  It’s a simple step-by-step process though.

Brine is crucial to the process to increase flavour and juiciness in the end product. My brine recipe is included below.  If you buy frozen…leave the turkey in a baking pan from frozen for about 5 days…let it defrost naturally.  The brine is easy to make if you prep all the ingredients first.

Once the brine has done its job, remove the bird and pat dry removing any of the spices or other flavouring ingredients from the cavity or the surface.

Gather you tools that you will need to get this bird done correctly and safely…Roasting pan, sharp knife (Chef’s Knife), flavouring items (mire poix), butter, herbs and other seasonings.

We are going to go ahead and butterfly the turkey, we do this to reduce the thickness of the bird, therefore reducing the cooking time, allowing for a higher heat application and shortened cooking and standing time.

 We remove the spine of the turkey, using the knife and guiding it along one side of the neck towards the pope’s nose (the butt) and then repeat on the other side…be careful as you get closer to the hips of the turkey you may need to exert more force….a sharp knife will do wonders.

Once the spine is removed, do not discard; instead place it in the roasting pan. We will not waste any part of an animal that we know has some use, in this case to add flavour to the juice that collects at the bottom of the pan.

When the spine is removed, the next step is to remove the rib cage and the breast bone. Using your sharp knife…I use a boning knife (pictured) to run along the ribs and the breast meat…you can do this by hand as well if you feel a bit barbaric…I don’t mind either way will do.

The breast bone is a bit tricky…I run the knife along both sides of the bone scraping the meat off little by little…and then with a flick and a tug you can remove the breast bone in one piece. It does take a bit of finesse but once you have learned how to do it…its very simple.

Now that you have a turkey splayed out without bones except for in the wings and legs you have a choice….to season or not to season? I mean it has been brined and should be full of flavour…so it is your choice…another choice you have is…to Roast or to BBQ? In this form, this bird is great on the BBQ, sear it off at a high heat and then reduce and cook till done…yum!

Getting back to roasting, the next thing to do is tuck in the wings and the legs. The easiest way to tuck in the legs is to make two incisions on the lower part of the breasts and tuck each leg in one at a time. The reasoning is to compact the bird, like trussing a chicken in order to make it cook evenly.

Once that is done, we can turn our focus to the roasting pan…we will place all the trimmings minus the fat into the pan, we will also add aromatics, here I have placed:  peppercorns, onion, lime, cilantro, carrots and trimmings. This will infuse and roast in a rich lovely flavour into our bird.  This is what I call blessing the pan.

I place the bird in the roasting pan, grab some herbs, I used cilantro as I was going Asian themed, but sage is traditional herb and a large amount of butter. Making my way in between the skin and the meat I make pockets of flavour in the breast, leg joints and thighs…I am drooling now, things are looking great!

Once I am done liberally applying butter and herbs, I will season the outside of the bird with kosher salt and cracked black pepper and a bit of olive oil drizzled. It helps make the skin crispy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place into hot oven for about 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and cook until the internal temp reads 170 degrees Farenheit.

Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest…the WORST thing you can do is cut into the bird at this stage…the meat isn’t done yet, the carry over cooking will take care of the bird the rest of the way.

Note: at this point, I would use a glaze or a cooked sauce to baste the bird…and place back under a broiler watching carefully not to burn the skin.  But you can leave it as is, there is enough flavour packed into the bird.

Let these ingredients inspire your flavour profiles beyond the traditional for turkey. They all work individually or combination. 
Once the temp of the bird reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit its time to eat! Enjoy! This bird took less than 2 hours to cook completion! Fast, easy and truly delish!

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