Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving: Roast Turkey

Turkey is the star of my Thanksgiving. I take immense pride in how juicy and flavorful it comes out. It has taken me years to get it the way I want it to taste and I feel like I've finally mastered it. And it's a glorious thing to have.
Even though I felt like I've got the turkey roasting down, this year I decided to try to spatchcock my turkey. Why? Time. It's an immense time saver. It only took 1 hour in the oven. Yes, that's right. Just 1 hour. I was also able to make 2 turkeys at once. That makes for lots of leftovers. Sounds good enough to try.

First thing you do is prepare your roasting pan. I put vegetables on the bottom of my pan to make sure the juices do not burn. It also adds a ton of flavor to my homemade stock.
Make sure the vegetables are cut small enough so that your roasting rack fits comfortably in the pan and is level.
And now the turkey. To spatchcock a turkey, start with a smaller one. Why? When you flatten it out, it becomes much wider. The turkeys I chose were both under 11lbs and they just fit into a half sheet pan.

Now, take your kitchen shears (it's important to use good quality shears here) and cut out the backbone going from the butt up to the where the neck would have been. Take your time and carefully cut through the bones and ribs. Save the backbone for stock.
Once you have the backbone out, it should look something like this. Trim off the tail and any extra skin near the neck.
Before you flatten your turkey, take out the wishbone. It'll make the process of flattening much easier. You'll find the wishbone near where the neck of the turkey would be. See that bone that's right under the meat?
Take your paring knife and just cut around from top to bottom. It should come out easily.
Here are all the parts that will come away from the turkey before roasting: the removed backbone, extra skin, gizzard, heart, liver, wishbone, neck, and tail. All of these things can be saved for either stock, roasted alongside the turkey, and/or fried up to be a delicious treat. Fried turkey skin anyone?
To finish the spatchcocking, flip your bird around, place your palms on the breasts and press down hard. You should hear the cracking of the bones and your turkey should lay relatively flat. Here's my turkey on my prepared rack below. Doesn't it look like a frog now? Coincidence? Nope. Tuck your wings under and it's ready to be roasted. But before that, there are a few steps that make my turkey a bit different from everyone else's.
Herbed butter is my flavoring agent for the breasts. It helps keep it moist and adds a nice herbaceous flavor.
Rub that softened butter under the skin and lightly all over on top. This is easier if you pat your turkey down with paper towels removing any excess moisture. Once buttered, liberally season with salt and pepper. All over the skin and underneath too. Turkey can be really bland and this is your chance to not have bland turkey.
Then take some bacon and cover that sucker with it. The bacon isn't for flavor but it's for moisture. It's bastes the turkey in the oven. I hate basting myself but this just does it on it's own.
And what's even better is that you get to eat some bacon while the turkey finishes in the oven.
A beautifully bronzed turkey out of the oven. Let it rest before slicing into it. It'll allow the juices to run back into the meat.
With this spatchcocking method, I was able to make 2 turkeys at once. So I got 2 turkeys in 1 hour. That's just wonderful.
Carve that sucker up and it's ready to be served. Don't forget the gravy!

Recipe below is adapted from Serious Eats' and Kenji Lopez's recipe found here.

Roast Turkey

1 10-11lb turkey
1 lb bacon
1.5 sticks butter, softened
5 sage leaves
5 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves removed
1.5 celery stalks
2 carrots
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic

Preheat oven to 450oF
1. Finely chop herbs. Add to butter and mix well.
2. Slice celery, carrots, and onion to fit under roasting rack. Leave garlic cloves whole and place under rack.
3. Remove backbone of turkey using sharp kitchen shears. Remove tail and excess skin near tail and neck hole.
4. Find wishbone near neckhole of turkey. Using a paring knife, cut along the wishbone tracing it up and around the joints. Remove.
5. Flip turkey over and press down hard on breast. You should hear the bones crack and the turkey should flatten. Tuck wings under breast.
6. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Place half stick of softened butter under the skin of each breast. Use remaining half stick of herbed butter over the skin of the turkey.
7. Salt and pepper turkey liberally from underneath and on top of the skin.
8. Place bacon on top of turkey making sure to cover breasts and thighs.
9. Place thermometer into thigh of turkey.
10. Roast turkey for about 60 minutes until internal thigh temperature reaches 160oF. Remove bacon beforehand when cooked through, about 45 minutes. After removing bacon, place turkey back into oven to brown skin.
11. Remove turkey from oven. Allow residual heat to bring internal thigh temperature to 165oF. Use an instant thermometer to double check.
12. Let rest for 30 minutes. Carve and serve alongside bacon and gravy.

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