By Kim Dannies
Cooking a moist turkey takes time, but not much effort. Over the past several years, the media, desperate to spin holiday frenzy, has gobbledygooked the simple task of cooking a bird into a national obsession. Brining, basting, frying, stuffing? What’s a host to do? For starters, relax– it’s a turkey! Here’s a simple guide to get your bird going; in the meantime, quaff a few glasses, kick back and enjoy the holiday.
Two hours before cook time, make sure you have a defrosted bird (12-14 pounds), a heavy-duty roasting pan lined with a roasting rack and an oven big enough to hold it. Collaborate with a family member to manage the day’s schedule and cooking time, about 2.5-3 hours. Place the turkey in the pan, remove and reserve the giblet packet and wipe the bird down with paper towel.
Because there is air circulation within the cavity, an unstuffed turkey cooks more evenly, and faster, than a stuffed turkey; stuffing the bird also poses significant food-safety challenges. Instead, stuff 4 orange halves into the cavity along with a fistful of herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) and some peeled garlic. Sprinkle all over with kosher salt. Use soap and hot water to wash down everything the bird has come in contact with. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes.
When it’s time to roast, place the turkey in the oven, add 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock to the pan, and reduce the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the bird; no looking, no basting.
When your timekeeper says it’s OK (and various parts of the bird all register 165 degrees on a meat thermometer) remove the pan from the oven. Carefully lift the turkey and roasting rack onto a large platter. Reserve the pan drippings for the gravy. Tent the turkey in heavy-duty foil. Allow the turkey to rest, up to an hour. In the meantime, the stuffing and other side dishes can heat up in the oven while you make the gravy.
For more detailed roasting tips and exceptional gravy, consult Williston’s award-winning cookbook author Molly Stevens’s “All About Roasting.” Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters. Archived Everyday Gourmet columns are at kimdannies.com. Kim@kimdannies.com.