Six Seasonal Seasonings
Courtesy Petr Kratochvil, PublicDomainPictures.net
When it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey there are two basic considerations. First, the process: how-to shop for and cook the bird, and second, the recipe: what ingredients will make it taste memorably good.
As for the process part, I can share some of the tips and tricks that have worked for me: kosher poultry, which has “brined” meat, always assures good flavor; fresh is always preferable to frozen. Size: about one pound for person, so a 10-12 pounder for the 11 of us. If I have guests, I prefer to buy two small turkeys rather than one large one, because the meat is more tender. I make them a few hours ahead, cover the carved meat and bones with foil and keep the food warm or rewarm in an oven set to 140 degrees F.
I don’t use a foil tent because I think it makes the meat too wet and steamy. I have found the best results when I roast the bird backside up for about half the time, then turn it over for the remainder of time. Foil only near the end if the skin seems too dark. Basting begins about 30 minutes after the bird is in the oven, then every 20 minutes until about 20 minutes before the meat will probably be fully cooked.
A meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the breast is a must. Remove the bird from the oven when that temp reaches 160 degrees F. “Pop-up” devices are useless because they are programmed for too high a temperature and the white meat becomes dry and stringy. I let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes before carving, which helps keep the meat moist and makes it easier to carve. The temperature will go up somewhat during this resting period, when it is properly done at 165 degrees F.
The recipe? A basic preparation, the recipe my mother taught me, is simple: brush the skin with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Baste with orange juice (about 1-1/2 to 2 cups for 10-18 pound turkey). That’s it.
But turkey meat is so accommodating, you can flavor it in countless ways. Let me suggest a few (10-18 pound turkey):
- Substitute any fruit juice (tangerine, apple, orange-pineapple, apricot, mango, and so on) or use cider, chicken or vegetable broth, or white wine.
- Pineapple Glazed Turkey: in a saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups pineapple juice with 1/4 cup honey, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger, and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until syrupy; use as a basting fluid.
- Southwest style: combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 large finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, 1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Spread this mixture on the turkey. Baste with apricot nectar.
- Wine and Balsamic Vinegar Turkey: brush the turkey with olive oil. Sprinkle the turkey with 1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger, 2 large finely chopped garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Mix 1 cup sweet white wine, 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons honey; use as a basting fluid.
- Herb and White Wine Turkey: Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, 2 large finely chopped garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture on the turkey. Baste with 2 cups dry white wine.
- Orange and Rosemary Turkey: Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons grated fresh orange peel, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger, salt and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture over the turkey. Combine 1 cup sweet white wine, 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup orange marmalade; use as a basting fluid.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com, friend on Facebook at RonnieVailFein, Twitter at @RonnieVFein, Instagram at RonnieVFein.