Doctor Science Knows

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Traditional Turkey Day

As a public service, here are the recipes for My Traditional Turkey Dinner: Herb-Brined Turkey, Chestnut-Rice-Rye Stuffing, Roasted-Garlic Gravy, and Two-Cranberry Sauce with Grand Marnier.

In order of preparation:

1. Stock

6 lb turkey parts such as backs, necks, wings, drumsticks, or thighs
3 medium yellow onions, left unpeeled, then trimmedand halved
3 celery ribs*, cut into 2-inch lengths
3 carrots, quartered
6 fresh parsley stems (without leaves)
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
5 qt cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 500°F, put rack on lowest level. Roast turkey parts in large ungreased roasting pan, starting skin sides down and turning once, until golden brown, 30 to 45 minutes. Transfer to stockpot with tongs, then roast vegetables in fat rendered from turkey, onions cut sides down first, stirring halfway through roasting, until golden, 10 to 20 minutes total, and then add vegetables to pot. Deglaze roasting pan with 2 cups water. Pour pan juices into stockpot with rest of water and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming froth as necessary. Reduce heat and gently simmer, partially covered, 3 hours.

Remove pot from heat and cool stock to room temperature, uncovered, about 1 hour. Pour stock through a large fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids. Measure stock: If there is more than 10 cups, boil in cleaned pot until reduced; if there is less, add water.

Cool stock and remove fat.

2. Brine:

12-16 lb turkey
3/4-1 1/2 c salt
3 gals water
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
1/3 cup fresh thyme sprigs
1/3 cup fresh marjoram sprigs
1/3 cup fresh sage sprigs
12 Turkish bay leaves

Clean turkey, cut off tail and reserve, along with neck. Feed rest of giblets to cat if he cares for them.

Put a turkey-sized oven bag in a large cooler, then place the turkey in the bag. Pour in the brine and seal tightly. Place ice over and around turkey, close the lid tightly, and let it brine 8 to 10 hours, adding ice periodically to keep temperature at 40° or below.

3. Stuffing

2 cups rice (brown or white)
bay leaf
fresh or dried thyme
fresh or dried sage
1/4 c. unsalted butter
3 medium onions, chopped medium
3 stalks celery plus all the leafy bits from the bunch of celery*, chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 14-oz jar cooked peeled chestnuts (or boil or roast your own, but these are *well* worth the money)
1 big round Knackebrod wheel (or equivalent in other rye crackers), about 4 oz.
white wine

Cook the rice with the bay leaf, 3-4 sprigs of thyme, and 3-4 big leaves of sage.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and saute the onions and celery until the onions are translucent.

Put the rice in a big mixing bowl (or your largest salad bowl) and add the onions & celery with their butter and the eggs. Crumble in the chestnuts and Knackebrod. Crumble in thyme & sage to taste. Mix together with the hands. Taste the stuffing and add pepper if you like, but not salt -- it will get salt from the brined turkey. Moisten with white wine until it hold together nicely.

4. Turkey

Turkey, above
Stock, above
Stuffing, above
1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup mixed herbs, chopped: thyme, sage, parsley, winter savory
8 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
white wine
1/4 c. flour

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mash herbs into the butter.

Take the turkey out of the brine and wipe off the herbs. Wipe out the inside with paper towels, but don't obsess over getting out all the herbs & pepper. Dry off the outside with paper towels as best you can.

Loosen the skin over the breast with your hands and smear herb butter inside. Wipe your buttery hands off all over the turkey. Tuck the legs into their holder, tie or tuck up the wings. Stuff the small (head end) hollow and tuck or sew the skin flap over it. Stuff the large hollow (tail end).

Put turkey on rack over roasting pan, put in oven on lowest level, and immediately turn the oven down to 350°F. Put the remaining stuffing in a casserole and lay the neck & tail on top. Set it aside to cook after the turkey is out of the oven (because you only have one small oven).

Roast the turkey 30-45 minutes, pour a cup of stock over. Roast 30 minutes, pour over another cup of stock. After another 30 minutes, baste turkey with pan drippings. Continue to baste at 1/2 hour intervals until done.

When you figure you have maybe 30-45 minutes left (depending on size of turkey), lightly oil the garlic, wrap it all up in aluminum foil, and put it in the oven next to the turkey.

When the thermometer says the turkey is done, take turkey, pan and garlic out of the oven. Pour a cup of stock into the casserole dish of extra stuffing, put it in the oven, and turn the oven up to about 400°F. Put the turkey on the carving board to cool down. At some point while you're making the gravy you'll need to turn the neck & tail over so their greasy tastiness gets into the stuffing.

Pour off the drippings from the pan into a measuring cup so the grease rises to the top. Deglaze the pan (=heat up with liquid to scrape up tasty bits) with 1/2 c white wine or whatever you need.

Squeeze the roasted garlics out of their skins into a medium saucepan. Add 1/4 c. flour and 1/4 c grease (from the drippings) and mash the garlic into the flour and grease over medium-high heat. After everything is nicely blended, mix in the wine & deglazed goodies from the roasting pan. Pour or scoop the extra grease out of the cup of drippings, and slowly add them to the pan. When the mixture thickens up, add two cups of turkey stock. Let it thicken, then add another 2 cups. Thicken again, another 2 cups stock. Taste for salt & pepper.

Make someone else carve the turkey.

Take the stuffing that comes out of the turkey and add it to the stuffing in the casserole, or put them together in a large bowl, mixing the two lots of stuffing together for uniform tastiness.

For extra credit:

A. My cranberry sauce

2 bags of fresh cranberries, picked over
1 bag dried cranberries
orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
4 whole allspice
about 1/4 c brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)

Put the fresh and dried cranberries in large saucepan, add orange juice to barely cover (amount will depend on how many cranberries were bad). Add spices (reduce amount if lots of the cranberries were duds) and brown sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until most of the fresh crans have burst -- about 15 minutes. Taste, and add more sugar if necessary. Take sauce off heat, put into bowl, and add Grand Marnier to taste. Chill.

The herb brining comes from this Epicurious recipe, the herb butter from this one, the stuffing was invented by my mother (who finds traditional bread stuffings too gluey and greasy), the gravy and cranberry sauce are basically my own inventions -- insofar as anything in a traditional meal counts as any one person's invention.

*this year I used the tops from celeriac (part of our CSA farm share), instead of celery.

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