Written by: Amy Chu
Thanksgiving has just passed and the official start of the holidays is here! Long before Thanksgiving, I have been thinking about what to cook and write about, so naturally I decided on turkey. Lucky for me I found a frozen turkey in the freezer just in time for T-Day. Most would agree that cooking turkey traditionally is a holiday thing, as most people have it for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I am a firm believer that we should enjoy turkey year round.
History tells us that dishes involving turkey started as far back as the 1500s. Turkey was once exclusively a food for the rich, but gradually became affordable to the working class as time went on. Interesting fact: Today’s domesticated turkey is one breed out of six that is being farmed.
After thawing the bird, I began the prep and cooking process. For today’s recipe, I worked with an 18 lb. frozen turkey and a container of William’s Sonoma Brine. Considering the pot I had used was not a large enough, I brined one half of the turkey for about 6 hours and then flipped it over so the other half could brine for another 6 hours. Just a reminder to all you home chefs out there…anything is possible…even if you do not have all the best pots, pans and utensils.
Brining is essential in certain types of food preparations. It is normally used to enhance texture, to tenderize and bring out overall flavor and retain moisture for the given food. Brining is basically a salt and water cure, and added tenderness is what occurs when it is properly introduced to lean meats such as fish, poultry and pork. Typically speaking you are supposed to either rinse the bird post brining or soak the bird in fresh water for a few hours before roasting. These options I chose not to do for the sake of experimentation and possibly even added flavor.
I then rested the turkey at room temperature before cooking as I’ve learned, just like any other meat. Most meats come out better and much juicier when placed at room temperature for a while before cooking. I put the turkey in the oven at 450 for one hour before switching it to 170 degrees. The recipe I am using had suggested 170 degrees an hour for every pound of turkey, in which this case would be approximately 18 hours. I put the turkey in the oven at about 3 pm and the wait began.
In the mean time I remove the innards, which is the offal and the turkey neck, put them into a pot to ready them for a basic stock. I will make a mirepoix later once the turkey is complete and broken down. Mirepoix pronounced ‘meer-pwah’ is a culinary term derived from the French which is both a flavor and aroma enhancer in dishes, sauces and stocks. The traditional mirepoix is made up of onion, carrots and celery. The more finely chopped the vegetables the more aromatic and flavorful the dish is supposed to be at the end.
When the Turkey was completely cooked, I cut away the legs and the wings, which tore off relatively easy, and slowly cut away at the meat from the breasts, taking off one half of the turkey from the top and then the second half. After enjoying this wonderful turkey at our Thanksgiving gathering with many traditional accompaniments, I prepared the rest for future use, as we all know how much we love thanksgiving dinner leftovers. By the way, this turkey was flavorful, tender and delicious!
I placed the leftover meat and natural juices into a slow cooker, along with the mirepoix and a large dash of parsley. I let the stock that was being created slow cook on very low heat for 10 hours before putting it into individual containers for future use. The turkey meat itself will be used for any and every meal that it can be thrown into in the near future.
Turkey has been enjoyed through the centuries by the rich and the working class alike. There are many ways to cook and enjoy eating turkey. It could be relished during the holidays, or on any day of the year.
Idea corner: When it comes to the leftovers, imagine a bright red, meat-laden, cheesy pizza fresh from the oven. What if the red is cranberry sauce and the meat is leftover Thanksgiving turkey? This non-traditional “pizza” is a perfect way to get rid of some of those leftovers without making yet another turkey sandwich.
Whether roasted, put into stock, baked into dishes or made into other meals including pizza, turkey will always be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone in just about any dish.Happy holidays to all!
Amy is a self taught cook and baker. She grew inspired by food bloggers and chef’s alike in early 2006/2007. Her father is an English teacher, so writing came easily to her in her youth. Amy was an avid food blogger between 2007 and 2010, and she has been rekindling the fire for both food and writing. She was going to start her own television show called “THE CHU”, but the show “The Chew” already came out! Look for more of Amy’s work here on DinnerReveiws.com in the future.