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Hello, and welcome to My Kitchen and I. Every year I choose a cuisine to explore. This year, it's the year of the Snake! And I'll be continuing to cook mostly Asian foods, particularly Chinese dishes. Have I finally found the best cuisine in the world? Come explore and cook with me and let's find out. Please feel free to share your stories and comment on anything you see here, and thanks so much for visiting. Hope you enjoy the Year of the Snake in food!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nina's favorite turkey

I do remember the first time I tried to bake a turkey. Probably one of the most disastrous episodes I've had in a kitchen. I'll spare you the gory details and simply say that learning to bake a good turkey is an adventure!

I can't say I've necessarily mastered the art yet, but this particular turkey recipe is loved by my dear niece, who seems to think it's the best turkey ever. I'm not going to argue with her, she's a very picky eater, and she takes seconds of this!

Our turkey taste tester.
If your turkey hasn't been treated with any salt solution prior to purchasing it, I personally would recommend a dry brine the night before, unless someone in your group is on a salt-restricted diet. Brining does make turkey a little more forgiving to bake and a dry brine is easier to manage than wet. It also results in a less spongy texture, a more meaty goodness texture, which is what you want for turkey.

On the other hand, if you just keep one simple principle in mind, your turkey will come out fine with or without brining ...

That one thing to know is ... breast meat cooks faster than the thigh and legs. So baste the breasts every 30 minutes with something cold to slow down their cooking. Don't cover them with foil, because that nixes the evaporation that helps cool them down.

I sometimes like to use some clean wine-soaked towels from the freezer every 30 or so minutes. You can lay them over a clean jar so they have the right shape, then just pop the old towel off, pop the new one on and douse things with a little white wine from the fridge for good measure. Or you can just chill a bottle of wine and pour that over the breasts. A less fuss, no muss tactic.

So far, either method seems to work well. Nina approves.

Nina's favorite turkey

Cut into quarters

1 medium onion
1 medium apple

Coarsely chop

1 oz or so of fresh parsley

In a small bowl combine

2/3 cup apple butter
2 T brown sugar
2 T dijon mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground red pepper

Loosen the skin of the turkey and rub the meat beneath it generously with the apple butter mixture. Sprinkle the cavity inside the turkey with some cayenne pepper and stuff the turkey with the quartered onion and apple as well as the ounce or so of fresh parsley. Douse the inside with some white wine or spiced rum. Sew up the cavity and truss the bird if you like. Personally I don't think trussing matters too awfully much, though many cooks swear by it. Here's a link to a video demonstration of how to truss a turkey if you aren't familiar with the procedure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRQMZZsYk0s

Put the turkey in your roasting pan and let it sit out about one hour, keeping an iced frozen towel on the breast meat. That will give the legs and thighs a head start on the breast meat. Put the turkey into a 325 degree oven and baste the breast meat every 30 or so minute with a clean new ice-wine towel or just a cold basting liquid of choice. I put a nice fruity white wine with an apple note in the freezer during the baking and that gives me a very cold liquid for basting and the long thin neck lets me pour it easily right where I want it.

It usually takes about 3 hours to bake the turkey, but the actual time depends on how big your bird is. There is generally a chart on the package of the bird and I usually go by that for estimated cooking times.

The USDA recommends cooking the turkey breast meat to a very safe and conservative 165. I've seen other cooks recommend no more than 145. If breast meat exceeds 155 it will generally be very dry ... but the legs and thighs have more connective and do need to cook to 165 for the best meat texture.

Here is an excellent article that discusses the whole science of baking a turkey, as well as these temperature recommendations. That way you can make up your own mind when your turkey is safely done. http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/11/the-food-lab-thanksgiving-special-herb-roasted-turkey-with-stuffing.html

I personally tend to take my turkey out of the oven when the breast meat temperature hits 150, and then let the meat rest 15 minutes. The temperature will rise a little bit more during the resting phase, continuing the cooking process a bit longer. This step helps the meat retain its juiciness, so don't skip this step.

After that you may carve your turkey and it should be wonderfully moist. This particular turkey recipe will come out looking very dark in places, but don't be concerned. That's just the way the apple butter looks after it's baked a while. It is not burned.

My sister insists on a nice turkey gravy. So I usually boil the neck separately for broth while the turkey bakes. After the bird is baked during the resting period, I mix

4 T of flour
3 T of turkey grease from drippings

in a small sauce pan, stirring over medium heat until smooth. I then add:

1 cup of cider
2 cups turkey broth
1 cup of milk

Simmer this three or so minutes stirring constantly until thick and serve alongside the turkey.

Baking a whole turkey is indeed a labor of love, but my niece loves the results, and I love to see her smile!

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