Roast Turkey and Thanksgiving Recipes

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Thanksgiving is almost here and it's time to start planning the menu and sourcing recipes.  I love a good food holiday.  I also really like turkey but eat it only once a year on Thanksgiving.  It's the delight of the table.  And gravy, there must be gravy.  

This month is going to be dedicated to classic Thanksgiving recipes.  Look out for mashed potatoes, garlicky green beans, glazed carrots, stuffing, craberry sauce, dinner rolls and maybe some desserts!

Let's talk about the turkey.  Whether you decide to go fresh, frozen, domestic, kosher, wild or heritage; it's going to be great.  If you do get a frozen one, you will have to decide if you will be thawing in the fridge or in a cold water bath.  Fridge thawing, where the bird remains unwrapped, breast side up and on a tray,  is easier but requires at least 1 day of thawing per 4 lbs.  Cold water thawing, where the bird remains completely covered in cold water,  requires more attention as the water must be changed every 30 minutes to keep the temperature constant.  Cold water thawing takes at least 30 minutes per pound.  Ours took a little longer than originally calculated.

Once thawed and ready to roast, unwrap, remove giblets, neck and what not from cavities.  Wash turkey inside and out with cold water.  Dry inside and out with paper towels.  

Heat oven to 500 degrees.  Place turkey, breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan.  Place giblets, neck, carrot, onion, celery, fresh herbs and 1 cup water or stock in bottom of roasting pan.  These add aroma and flavor to the turkey and drippings.  Rub the turkey with oil or butter.  Rub with prepared rub if using.  If not, salt and pepper.  Oil and season inside and out, and under breast skin.  Stuff turkey with stuffing if stuffing.  Neck and body cavity maybe stuffed.  Do not pack stuffing too tightly.  Tie legs together with cotton kitchen twine.  

Place in oven and roast 20 minutes of so until top browns nicely.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue roasting.  Baste every 30 minutes with pan liquids.  If the skin becomes too brown cover with foil or if pan liquid disappears add water or stock 1/2 cup at a time.  Roast until thermometer inserted inthickest part of thigh reads 165 degrees.  This will take 3 to 5 hours for a stuffed turkey depending on size.  Less for an unstuffed bird.  

Remove turkey from oven and transfer to a carving board lined with a kitchen towel and let rest 20 minutes before carving.  I recomend making the gravy while it rests.  

Place the roasting pan on the stove oven two burners.  Skim off what fat you can and remove the large solids of giblets, carrot, celery, onion, garlic and herbs.  Turn both on to high heat.  Add stock and scrap bottom of pan to dislodge any brown bits stuck to the pan.  Reduce about 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.  Salt and pepper as needed.  Strain liquid into a sauce pan or into a bowl and then back into the roasting pan.  Shake a little flour in a bit at a time while whisking until thickened. Keep warm and serve with turkey.

Carve turkey as you like and remove stuffing.  Stuffing is what's cooked in the bird and dressing is what's not.  

Turkey Rub (enough for a 12-22 lb turkey)

4 teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Cobime all ingredients and use as a rub on meat before cooking.  

Roast Turkey 

1 thawed whole turkey

olive oil or warm butter

s + p or 1 prepared portion of turkey rub

1 onion, quarted

1 carrot, halved

1 stalk celery, halved

some thyme or parsley

1 cup water or stock, plus more if needed

Turkey Gravy

6 cups stock, turkey or chicken

s + p

a couple tablespoons flour