Hi everyone, Quay Lo here. When it comes to making turkey for the holidays Quay Po surrenders her apron to me. She takes it back again when it comes to preparing the many other dishes we serve, especially the pies.
I’ll start with a promise. If you follow the recipes below you will make a perfect turkey, perfect gravy, and a perfect side dish called “dressing” not to be confused with “stuffing” which I will explain below. In my family Thanksgiving and Christmas were crowned by the dinner at which the turkey was featured. It was highly anticipated and with all of the various recipes for ways to use the left overs we ate turkey for a week beyond the holidays as well. Those were my favorite two weeks of the year. The smell of sage and roasting bird in the house is enough to almost bring tears to my eyes (or was that the onions I’ve just chopped?)
Let’s start with preparing the turkey. If you want a moist, savory roast turkey, marinating the whole bird in a brine solution for several hours before the roasting will provide the best results. Since most turkeys come frozen in the market, we’ll start about 3 days before the big event by placing the frozen turkey in the regular side of the refrigerator to allow it to thaw slowly. Another solution that will make more room in the fridge is to simply put the turkey in an ice chest, and cover with ice. This keeps big bird safely out of the way, as long as you don’t have a very clever dog.
About 16 hours before you are ready to pop the bird in the oven, we are going to prep it with a soak in a brine solution. You will need a large, deep soup pot with a lid or a bucket that can be covered and is large enough for the whole bird plus the brine solution.
- 12 cups water, divided
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped candied ginger
- Herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, 2 bay leafs) any mix ratios, up to one cup.
- Black pepper
- 6 cups ice or one block of ice
Instructions 10 -14 lb turkey
- In a pot larger than the turkey simmer 6-8 cups of water and add salt, sugar, and candied ginger. Stir until dissolved.
- Stir in 6 cups cold water, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, herbs and 4-6 cups of ice cubes.
- Remove giblets and neck from the thawed bird’s cavity. Rinse the outside and inside of the turkey under a cold faucet. Completely submerge the turkey in brine solution without the turkey rubbing the sides. Cover with a lid. Marinate for 12 hours for a small turkey (8-10 lbs), 16 hours for a 12 – 16 lb. and a full 24 hours for a bigger bird. You can wrap wet towels around the pot and keep it inside an air conditioned room as long as you replenish the ice before you sleep. Overnight it should be fine, just pack it full with ice before retiring and again in the morning.
- Pre heat your oven to 165ᴼC (325ᴼF). Rinse turkey inside and out thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels. Chop some herbs, (sage, rosemary, and thyme) and add them, and some black pepper, to a ½ cup of butter and rub every part of the turkey. The herbs and butter will eventually join the natural juices at the bottom of the baking pan and become the basis for your flavorful gravy. Place a whole orange or a lemon, halved, plus four stalks of celery halved, fresh herbs (not chopped), and 3 large carrots split length wise and halved, inside the cavity of the bird.
- Place a rack inside a large roasting pan. Place the prepared bird on the rack, breast side up. Place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, taking care not to touch a bone. The thermometer should read 74ᴼC or 164ᴼ F to be done and still moist. (It will continue to cook a bit as it rests out of the oven and that is fine, it is in the calculation) A 12 pound turkey should take about 3 hours or a little over to reach the desired temperature. Be sure to monitor for surface doneness. Most often, the turkey will get a nice golden brown on the surface but still require some baking time. If your bird gets that lovely lacquered appearance, but still needs time, just baste it again then lay a piece of aluminum foil, with the shiny side out, on top and loosely formed over the bird, and let it continue until the temperature is reached.
- Remove and discard the aromatics in the cavity, place the turkey on a platter and cover with aluminum foil (shiny side facing the bird this time) and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Do NOT discard the roasting pan drippings. While your bird rests, move on to make the gravy. You are going to perform wizardry with the pan drippings.
Most stores sell heavy gage aluminum foil roasting pans during the holidays and they work just fine. Place the bird on a small rack set inside the pan.
Throughout the baking process, baste the turkey every twenty minutes or so, drawing from the juices collected in the pan. If the turkey gets a nice golden brown but the thermometer suggests there is still more baking time required, lay a sheet of aluminum foil, with the shiny side facing outward, over the turkey and continue baking until done. Be sure to monitor this closely as it can happen
We’ve had better luck with smaller birds in the 12 – 14 lb range. Much larger turkeys tend to be more tough and sinewy. If you need more meat, just bake a second turkey the day before and warm up the pre-sliced meat in an oven or microwave before serving.
- 24 ounces chicken broth
- 8 ounces red wine
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme or rosemary
- Freshly ground black pepper
- After you remove the turkey from the roasting pan and set aside to rest, leave the drippings from the turkey in the pan and place the roasting pan over medium heat. If you’ve used a temporary aluminum foil pan transfer the contents into a large frying pan. Heat up the drippings, then transfer to a quart size, heat resistant measuring cup or a jar. Allow it to sit for 5 -8 minutes to allow the fat to separate and to rise to the top.
- Return 2/3 cup of the fat to the roasting pan and place over medium-high heat. Skim any remaining fat from the pan drippings liquid and save while discarding the excess fat.
- With the fat heated up in the pan, add the flour and whisk to combine into a roux. Cook, whisking continuously, until the mixture starts to thicken and becomes smooth and brown, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Once this happens, gradually add the reserved liquid back to the pan and whisk until smooth.
- Add 1 cup of red wine and 3 cups of chicken stock, all at once. Whisk to combine, continuing to scrape the bottom of the pan until all of the bits have come loose and you have reached your desired consistency, approximately 5 to 6 minutes.
- Season the finished gravy with salt and pepper but be sure to taste before that.
There are two terms used to describe this favorite side dish; “dressing” or “stuffing”. In general it is called stuffing if, in fact, you cook it inside the turkey’s chest and stomach cavity along with the turkey. The resulting combo can be delicious as the seasoning of both the bird and the stuffing co-mingle along with the roasting juices absorbed by the stuffing. However, I don’t recommend this approach for a couple of reasons. One is that the pan juices are not going be as generous for gravy making because the stuffing absorbs much of it. Secondly, it takes longer for the stuffing to reach a safe 165ᴼ. In the meantime, the turkey itself risks becoming considerably overdone. That would be tragic in my humble opinion given all of the effort to brine the turkey for exactly the opposite. Besides, no one wants to try to eat a “tough old bird”. So let’s talk “dressing” which is named that simply because it is specifically designed to accompany and complement the turkey, carrying it savory notes into a carbohydrate side dish. (Not that we need one as typically there will be mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, and hot dinner rolls also served. I once heard it said that Thanksgiving and Christmas were holidays invented so that Americans could eat four or five kinds of starchy dishes at one meal.
So while I would concede that the following recipe may be easily sacrificed by families here in Asia, I must also stipulate that if I am cooking, I will make it every time. The fact is that two days later, when half a pan of dressing is in the fridge and you need something right then, the dressing will taste like it has transformed into something far more exquisite than you imagined.
- 3 cups cubed dry bread
- 3 cups cubed or crumbled cornbread
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 500g pork sausage, crumbled
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon each dried sage and poultry seasoning
- ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
Note: Serves 8, double recipe if you are feeding more people and if you want some generous leftovers. Hint: You DO!
PREHEAT oven to 375°F (190ᴼC).
- Grease with butter or olive oil, a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
- COMBINE bread and cornbread in large bowl, set aside.
- COOK onion, celery, and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened. Add crumbled sausage; continue cooking, stirring frequently, until sausage is half done.
- STIR sausage mixture into cornbread and bread bread cubes.
- Stir in remaining ingredients; mix well.
- BAKE 40 to 45 minutes until lightly browned.
- If there is still some time to go to finish the baking and the top is already golden brown, just lay a piece of aluminum foil over the pan with the reflective side out.