turkey 2006 = huge success

Last year, I made my first turkey. The turkey itself came out pretty good, but as I noted in the blog posting, the gravy was weak and watery. It took about 2 hours of reducing to get it to thicken up, due to lack of enough roux.

This year, we tried again with another early Thanksgiving. I wanted to try a new recipe, so I found this one: Sherry’s German Turkey, which I used to prepare our 20 lb. bird (another behemoth). The one thing I changed in the recipe was to add an overnight brining step. This required purchasing the largest pot I’ve ever seen in my life — a 21 quart monstrosity, and I wasn’t sure the shelves in my fridge were going to be able to handle the weight, but everything held up.

(edit: Jenny tells me that not everyone knows what brining is. The short story is: rub salt all over the inside and outside of the carcass and then cover the entire bird with water. Add more salt to the water, and then let it sit overnight. For a 20 lb. bird, maybe 1/2 cup to 1 full cup of salt is the right amount. Some recipes call for kosher salt or sea salt, but any salt will do. The next day when you’re ready to cook, dump all the salty water out and rinse the existing salt off the bird. Now begin whatever recipe you’re following.)

The recipe calls for soul food seasoning, which took me a while to figure out (actually, kudos to my coworker Matt who teased out the correct ingredients with his google-fu). To save you the same trouble (and because you probably don’t know Matt): soul food seasoning recipe.

After brining the bird, I followed the recipe to a tee. The combination of the brining, the bacon, and the orange resulted in a deliciously moist bird, and I received compliments on it all night long.

Fixing the gravy debacle of last year was similarly easy, using this Easy Turkey Gravy recipe. When you use an oven bag, all the juices stay inside the bag until you’re done roasting. That’s not a problem with this recipe…

When you take the bird out of the oven, it has to rest for 15-20 minutes anyhow before you start carving it. This is plenty of time to make the gravy. Cut the bag away from the bird and throw it away; this will obviously cause all the drippings to flood into the bottom of the roasting pan. Your hardest task will be transferring the juices from the roasting pan into a cooking pot. You can do it the slow, safe way by siphoning it out with a baster, or you be more risky by enlisting a helper. As you tilt the pan over the pot and pour the juices in, the helper plays “D” by holding the turkey in place and not letting it fall out, which would result in unmitigated disaster. You can probably get 90% of the juice out in 30 seconds this way, and get the remaining 10% using the baster.

The juices should come to a boil pretty quickly since they’re already hot. A 20 lb. turkey will create a lot more than 5 or 6 cups of drippings, so I basically doubled the recipe, using 2 cans of soup, twice the seasonings, and twice the milk and flour. It should take a lot less than 15 minutes to dump all the ingredients in and mix them up, and when you’re done, you’ll have a beautifully thick, savory “home made” gravy with only a little bit of cheating. Of course, your guests should be doing their part at this point, getting sauced and enjoying themselves, while not noticing your indiscretion, so no one will be the wiser.

Last year, I anticipated a few years of stumbling around until I finally figured out how to make a turkey that everyone would enjoy, believing this learning process to be a part of manhood and what eventually makes one into a good dad. I’m gonna go out on a limb though, and say that in my 2nd year, I’ve pretty much found the winning combination that I will use until I die (let’s say some time in 2053). The only point of deviation will occur if I ever purchase a deep fat fryer, in which case I’ll obviously be trying to make a fried turkey. Maybe if we ever get laser beam cookers or something else crazy in the future, I’d try that too. But as long as I cook turkeys with conventional oven technology, I’ll be using the notes from this blog post to do so.

All in all, we fed about 25 people, all of whom brought their own delicious sides and desserts for a great time. I believe a Fort Collins tradition is taking root.