Monday, November 3, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey

Butcher the Turkey, not the Meat!

Just playing around with some Fall/Thanksgiving table arrangements.

For many years, I have been preparing Thanksgiving feasts, big and small.   Friends and family seem to enjoy coming to the city this time of year, and often find themselves at our house to break bread.  Understandable I suppose, since it is one of the best times to be in New York -- the air is crisp, the trees still have color and there is bountiful holiday excitement on the busy expectant streets.  There is also a little parade that can't be missed. 

Without aging myself, I have prepared a few turkeys over the years (ok, let's say about 20 turkeys). I have tried the classic brined, braised and roasted turkey, the fried turkey, the smoked turkey, the low temperature, slow roast turkey, the blow torch turkey (kidding!).  But, by far, the most successful, worry-free method of cooking the bird is the Deconstructed Turkey. 

A Deconstructed Turkey is simply a turkey that is cut up and cooked in parts.   It is best to have your butcher take the bird apart (taken from experience).  But, be sure to keep all the parts, for stock.   

When a turkey is cooked whole,  the white meat cooks more quickly than the dark meat, resulting in dry breast meat. If it is deconstructed before cooking, each piece is removed from the oven at precisely the right time.   The cooking time is slashed dramatically.  And it is much quicker and easier to carve a deconstructed turkey -- the butcher has already done half the work! 

True, with the cooking-in-parts approach you'll lose the opportunity to showcase the whole bird to your guests for the 30 seconds they might see it before  you carve it to bits -- but the payoff is huge.  Each piece is cooked to juicy perfection. Have you ever considered how the restaurants cook all those turkeys on Thanksgiving?  Yep -- they are cooked in parts!

Here is how to do it:

First, I start with a marinade. Combine 1/2 stick of butter and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Once heated, add:

2 large shallots
2 scallions
4 cloves of garlic
4 sprigs of fresh sage
5 sprigs of fresh oregano
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns 

Add 2 cups of turkey stock (preferably homemade) and the juice of a whole lemon.  

Bring to a rolling boil for 15 minutes and then separate herbs from the liquid. Add the liquid to a food processor/blender/Vitamix and add cooked herbs back in (be sure to remove bay leaf and any woody pieces beforehand)

Refrigerate for 2-3 hours to obtain solid marinade. 

 Slather the bird with the marinade.  If you have room, refrigerate overnight.  Keep remaining marinade to re-apply later. 

Take the turkey pieces out of the refrigerator until room temperature.  Brown the pieces separately in a large sauté pan. 

After sautéing each piece, deglaze the pan with some wine and set aside for the gravy. 

Re-apply marinade before roasting. 

Lay all the pieces in a roasting pan, skin side up.  Roast uncovered for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the breast hits 155 degrees and the dark meat hits 165 degrees. 

Remove pieces individually. Let the meat stand for 5-10 minutes and then carve away! Perfect:


If you are cooking for a large group and need extra meat, or if your guests prefer more white meat than dark (or vice versa), pick up an extra breast or leg at the butcher/market, marinade and add it to the roasting pan with the rest of the turkey pieces.  

If augmenting with extra breast meat pieces, consider tying two pieces together with cooking string and stuffing the center with the marinade and some stuffing. Yum!

If you are hosting a very large group, and want to make sure there is bountiful amounts of food, buy a spiral, pre-sliced ham.  Hams are easy,  can be cooked early in the day, and play nicely with the turkey! 

So many fantastic food options in NYC!  Food trucks are all the rage.
Goa Taco stand in DUMBO and Park Slope -- unbelievable!!  More on this to come!

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