The Star of The Show!
This is the eagerly anticipated, sometimes delivered on time, annual Turkey Cookin’ Vic Farms Newsletter! A couple of caveats for those of you new to our family: I don’t follow instructions well, so I don’t do recipes. I’m going to tell you how I do things but absolutely encourage you to make it your own. Here is the only rule I need you to follow.
Get a GOOD meat thermometer. Ok, in all fairness, this newsletter is getting to you very late and the best you can probably hope for if you don’t already have a good thermometer is a cheapo one from the local mega-mart. How do you know if your thermometer is any good (or if it’s off, by how much?)? Stick it in a pot of boiling water. Sorry, let me be clear…stick the business end in a pot of boiling water. If it’s working it should read 212F pretty quick. If not, at least you now know how far off it reads.
So you’ve dry brined your turkey, rinsed it and let it come to room temperature. Now what??? It’s time to stuff the sucker!
I don’t stuff my turkey with a bread stuffing, and it’s not because I’m worried about getting sick. As long as your stuffing reaches 160 degrees you won’t be running to the ER- at least not because of your stuffing. The reason I don’t stuff my turkey is because I don’t want a giant sponge in the center of the very thing that I am trying to keep moist! That is essentially what you are doing if you stuff your bird with a bread based stuffing. Now, I know that Grandma stuffed the bird because she wanted all those juices to flavor the stuffing. I do too, and that’s why we all made stock a few days ago…right???
Stuff the cavity of your bird with aromatics. This is a great use of all the scraps that you have used for the rest of your dinner. Onion tops, celery leaves and ends, carrot chunks and apple peels all make great stuffing because they get tossed later anyway. Feel free to use some citrus peels and any herbs that you like as well. Don’t forget to salt and pepper the cavity first.
The next step is to prepare the skin. The trick to getting crispy skin is to brown it evenly while rendering out the fat and not drying out the meat. What could possibly go wrong? One of the challenges is that the skin will get the perfect color long before the meat is cooked. So we need to slow or stop that process. Here is how I attack it.
I make a diamond shaped shield with heavy duty aluminum foil doubled up. Form it around the breast before you put the bird in the oven, then take it off and carefully set it aside. This will allow you
to put the foil over the breast nice and tight without losing layers of skin off your hands while trying to mold foil around a screaming hot turkey later.
I do like to butter the skin and as luck would have it we have an amazing compound butter we call Turkey Bricks. Use you hand to create a pocket between the skin and breast and get a bunch of that flavorful butter in there. Then, after you salt and pepper the skin, smear the rest of that butter all over the turkey skin.  I like to put large chunks of that famous mirepoix trio (carrots, celery, onion) under the bird along with some garlic cloves and a liberal amount of white wine. All this goodness slowly cooks in the turkey juices and will become an incredibly flavorful gravy later.
I start my bird at 475 and cook until the skin is nicely browned (about 30-40 minutes). Then I shield the breast with the foil and reduce the oven to 350 and cook until the thigh hits about 165 and the breast is about 145. Remove it to a cutting board and tent with foil. As it rests it will continue to cook and come up to a perfect doneness with the thigh hitting
about 170-175 and the breast 150-155. It can rest as long as 45 minutes to an hour and still be hot. At least that’s what I tell all our guests while I’m scrambling to get all the stuff done that didn’t get the memo on my perfectly choreographed culinary dance.
I learned a long time ago that the last thing to hit the table, and I mean after everyone has said what they’re thankful for and little Timmy has said grace, is really hot gravy. Encourage a good helping of that to everyone and the fact that everything else has been getting cold on your beautifully laid out table will be forgotten.
I think that about covers it. If you have any questions, you know the number. I promise you would not be the first to call me on Thanksgiving morning just to confirm something in the “precise” instructions I have laid out above. Truly, I hope some of this helps you make the best Thanksgiving meal ever. But if it doesn’t keep this in mind. As much as we that cook the meal think that the weight of the free world depends on juicy turkey and lump-less mashed potatoes, it really doesn’t. What matters is who you feed it to and why you invited them to your table.