12 November 2012

Happy Week-Before-Thanksgiving!  Do you have your menu planned out yet?  You don't?  Oh well, I can probably help you with that!  Last year I shared with you a whole week of Thanksgiving sides and a dessert, so if you need some inspiration, check out this post.  It has the links to all of them.  I have a few new recipes to share with you this week: a great pumpkin dessert that is a nice alternative to pie, a great sweet potato recipe that won't hog any space in your oven, and this gorgeous turkey.

I have posted a turkey recipe before.  Four years ago I shared with you my very first turkey.  I used Alton Brown's brining and roasting method and it turned out perfectly.  I made that turkey for three years with great results every time.  Last year I got a break from the turkey because my sister made her first.  I have actually made two turkeys this year, one in May and one last month.  They are so incredibly cheap right before Thanksgiving (58 cents a pound here), that I bought two extra.  I buy the biggest ones I can find, because it's the same amount of work no matter how big it is.  The one in May was huge; I want to say over 25 lbs.  We ate it for lunch that day, and had leftovers for dinner, then I ended up getting 13 cups of cubed meat off of the thing.  That stocked my freezer for quite a while!  I tried a new recipe/method and I love it.  It is so much easier than doing the brine, and the results are just as good, if not better.  Definitely better when it comes to crispy skin.  The breast meat is incredibly moist and super duper flavorful.  This recipe is courtesy of another Food Network chef, Michael Symon.  He made this turkey on The Chew, and I couldn't wait to try it.  I adapted it very slightly; here's how I do it.

Cheesecloth Turkey

One 20 lb. turkey, thawed, neck and gizzards removed
¼ cup kosher salt
2 heads garlic (halved through its equator)
8 sprigs fresh oregano
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 onions (peeled and quartered)
2 sticks butter
½ cup chicken or turkey stock or water

The day before roasting, rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water, set on a clean kitchen towel, and pat dry. Season the turkey inside and out with the salt. Wrap the turkey in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours prior to roasting to bring to room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 425° with the oven rack set on the lowest rung. 

In the turkey’s neck cavity, place a half of a head of garlic, a few sprigs of oregano, a few sprigs of thyme, and a half of an onion. Wrap the neck skin over and around the cavity to enclose the seasoning ingredients.

In the body cavity, place half of the remaining garlic, 2 onion halves, and half of the remaining oregano and thyme.

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack set into a large roasting pan. Fold the wings and tuck the tips underneath the bird. 

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the remaining garlic, onion, oregano, and thyme to the pot with the stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid simmers, and continue to cook at a lower simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle, soak a double layer of cheesecloth big enough to cover the bird in the butter mixture and drape over the breast and legs of the turkey. Pour the remaining contents of the pan over the bird, pushing the pieces of vegetable and herbs into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 45 minutes (Warning: there might be smoke. Open the kitchen window). Turn the oven temperature down to 375° and continue to roast for another 15 to 20 minutes per pound, removing the cheesecloth for the final 10 minutes to brown, if needed; or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a thigh registers 160°, about 4 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Makes 12-14 servings.

That's all there is to it.  Not complicated at all.  Basically, you are just stuffing the bird with aromatic onions, garlic, and herbs, and then draping it with cheesecloth soaked in butter and herbs.  Really very easy.  

Here is the turkey all covered in its "blankie", ready to go into the oven.

Look how gorgeous it is when you take the cheesecloth off!  I couldn't believe how brown it got with the cheesecloth on there.  It browns right through it.

This is a great recipe if your guests enjoy the crispy skin.  This is the turkey I made in May.

This is the turkey I made last month.  You may notice isn't not quite as evenly browned.  That's because I goofed up and skipped a step.  I totally forgot to salt it the day before.  Oops!  But I was curious to see how  it would turn out without that step.  And it turned out just fine.  I will definitely include that step in the future, but it's nice to know that you will still get a terrific bird if you forget.  

 This bird was about 15½ lbs.  I put it in the oven at 12:30 and it was completely done at 3:30.  Three hours for a bird that size is pretty good!  I forgot to note how long the 25+ pounder took, but it wasn't more than 4 hours, I don't think.

 The only thing I changed about Michael's recipe was doubling it (his called for a puny 10 pounder), and I don't use fennel like he calls for.  I just don't like it that much.  You can use any herbs you like.  You can see in this picture that I used some sage too.

 Look at that beautiful breast meat!  And it really is super flavorful.  You can really taste the thyme and oregano in it.  

 My husband uses an electric knife for the carving.

I can't wait to do this again next week!

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  1. The turkey looks absolutely perfect! Interesting technique with the cheesecloth - I'll have to try it!

  2. What a picture perfect turkey! I would never in a million years have thought to cover a bird in cheese cloth! Weird technique, but I guess it works!