Traditionally, I spurn cooking a traditional turkey. Hailing from a tiny island on Caddo Lake in Uncertain, Texas, my Thanksgiving meals typically include crawfish, the Cajun Holy Trinity, and a dark roux. Trying new things in the kitchen tests my confidence and competence; which is something I relish more than my food. Ironically, in homage to the spirit of embracing the unusual, I made a traditional turkey for the first time in my life.
Brining the Turkey
1/2 cup celery salt
1/4 cup nutmeg
1 cup salt
1 whole onion
2 heads of garlic
Ideally, brining the turkey begins a few days prior to cooking. Placing the turkey in a vessel large enough to bathe it in, add the afore mentioned ingredients. The flavors of onion and garlic reside in their papery outside, as well as the juicy inside. So, to get the most out of your onion and garlic, simply chop them in half- paper and all- and chuck them into your brine. In any recipe, over chopping onion and garlic unnecessarily sacrifices a lot of precious flavor.
Commanding the Gravy Train
Always grab a turkey with neck and innards. Removing the neck and innards can take place before, during, or after the brine. Remember, you can never start broth too early.
Place the neck and innards in a medium-sized pot, add a hefty pinch of salt, cover with water and start a gentle boil. Boil for at least an hour, or up to several days. Whichever you choose, be sure to keep an eye on the water level. The water should just cover the bones at all times.
Though the broth can be started at any time, the starting the gravy should wait until the turkey is about finished. Truly, the stronger the broth, the more flavorful the gravvy.
Baking the Turkey
1 tbs thyme
2 garlic heads
2 celery stalks
5 bay leaves
1 lb butter
1 tbs rosemary
1 tbs sage
2 tbs freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs salt
While the oven heats to 325, get to chopping and stuffing! Now, placing the turkey breast-side down will yield a more juicy breast. But, if it’s looks you’re going for, a juicy breast can still be maintained- it just requires a little more effort. Typically, I go for a tasty dish over a pretty dish. But, for this recipe, I placed the turkey breast-up so I could shoot for a crispy skin.
When chopping these veggies, you will want to remove the skin from the onion and garlic as they become their own tasty side dish. Crushing garlic is always preferred to chopping, as precious flavor is leaked when chopping. After roughly chopping the vegetables, stuff the turkey’s cavity with the carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaves, and celery.
Next, gently lift the skin from the meat. Cut a stick of butter in half longwise, and insert under the skin. Push it as far back under the skin as the skin will allow. Generously coat the turkey with the herbs and spices. Then, chop and distribute the remaining pound of butter on and around the turkey. Before putting the turkey in the oven, fill the vessel half way full with water.
Out of the Oven
Honestly, I never measure or time anything. Intuition is my measuring cup, and aroma my timer. But according to the internet experts, about four hours should do the trick for your turkey. So about two hours in, ladle some of the juice onto the top of the turkey to help fry the skin.
After the four hours are up, look at the leg for recessed skin that exposes the bone. Typically, this is your indication that it is done. While you’re allowing for the turkey to cool, ladle the liquids in which it has cooked into containers. Though it may not seem like much, this liquid actually a small gold mine. In fact, it’s bone broth, which can be used for a million things under the sun.
Have fun playing with this recipe. Truly, it’s basic as can be and is really just an excuse cook with a pound of butter.