MORE TURKEY TALK
Didyaknow – Benjamin Franklin once wrote that he believed the turkey should have been our national bird because, among several reasons, it was an honorable bird as well as being native to America. I'm not sure it would be as easy to enjoy if you were sitting down to the dinner table with a roast representation of our country, even with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side.
In the South, preparing turkey seems to come down to two basic schools – roasting and deep-frying. What don’t we deep-fry in the South? Well, apparently nothing.
FRY ME A RIVER
I like to think of deep-frying turkey as an X-game in the sport of cooking. If you're willing to take on some challenges and a risk or two, then it's worth the effort. Some things to know about deep-frying a turkey:
* They DO make special equipment for this procedure which usually includes a large stock pot, a poultry prod and/or lifter, a thermometer, a propane tank, and a whole lotta oil.
* Do NOT fry your turkey in the house...or even close to a house...unless you have a good fire plan or have purchased a specifically marked indoor turkey fryer. Which they do have on the market now, they're like hyperbaric bird chambers.
* Do NOT stuff your turkey before frying unless you want to deal with oozing gooey stuffing bits floating (and burning) in your oil. If you want flavor, you can inject your turkey with a marinade before frying.
* You DO want your turkey to be completely thawed, or fresh, and patted dry. You know how oil and water don't mix? Now imagine that with 20-30 gallons of angry hot oil...you see where I'm going with this.
Why then, despite the risks and more than slight danger of cooking a bird this way, do people do it? Because the end product is crazy good and very moist and it takes less time than cooking turkey in a conventional oven.
Mirepoix is a mix of chopped onions, carrots and celery (traditional ratio is 2:1:1) which will add flavor to your drippings resulting in a nice rich-tasting gravy. One thing to keep in mind if you go that route, the bigger your bird, the bigger you need to make your veggie pieces (it’s all about proportion).
You also want to make sure you have the right size pan for roasting. It needs to be big enough to allow air to circulate, but close enough to prevent your juices from spreading out to far and scorching on the pan.
You’ll want to cook your bird uncovered. If you cover it with foil, you create a steam bath which will compromise the roasting. So keep that in mind when you get your pan, if the pan is too deep for your bird, it creates a similar situation.
Don’t forget to baste! Basting is key in keeping the turkey moistened since hot air around it is dry, so make sure to do that on a regular basis throughout your cooking process.
There is much back and forth on whether or not it’s safe/healthy to cook a stuffed turkey. The important thing to remember is that if you do stuff your bird, you want to make sure that the turkey and stuffing are the SAME temperature. Introducing a hot item into a cold bird is where bacteria get happy and you get into trouble.
BROWN BAGGING IT
Now when I say “brown bag” I mean a brown PAPER bag, not a plastic grocery bag that happens to be brown. You can use any ole paper grocery bag, but probably best to find one with little to no printing so that you’re not adding extraneous chemicals to the mix.
What you will want to do is make sure to grease down the upper part of the bag (on the inside) so that it doesn’t stick to the turkey whiles it’s cooking. Butter or olive oil works fine.
I conferred with my SIL and she said that she uses two bags, puts one on either end so they overlap in the middle, but you can use one (if you’re bird isn’t too big) and staple it closed. Do not use tape…please.
I know, I know, after telling you to cook your turkey UNCOVERED, why would I tell you about shoving it in a bag. Unlike foil, paper “breathes” which allows some of the moisture to escape while still keeping enough in to turn your turkey into a moist marvel.
IS IT SOUP YET?
Once your turkey has done it’s time in the oven (or fryer), the best way to test it is to poke it in the thickest part of the thigh. You want the juices that flow out to be clear, not pink or red. Either of the latter means it “ain’t dun cookin’ yet.”
After it is done, let your turkey sit for about 15 minutes so that the meat can settle and absorb the moisture you’ve worked so hard to maintain. If you cut it too soon, all those nice juices will flow out and you’ll end up with dry turkey. But if you have a little patience, glory sweet glory!
So here ends my treatise on turkey. I hope you all have a super wonderful food, friend and family-filled holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit!