I’ve never understood the turkey conundrum that permeates our nation at the end of November year after year. It wasn’t that I had a master way of making a turkey, or had ever deemed to try to make one, I just decided that those who fretted must, in general, not cook. But, other than judging those who likely take on a too high pressured task when all eyes are upon them, I just thought that cooking a turkey couldn’t be THAT difficult.
And, I was right.
It’s not that I have a magic wand or am the best cook ever. I follow recipes more than I don’t, but for the perfect turkey I felt that many opinions would meld well into one. Mine.
Martha, of course, was my main consultant. At the time I was researching she was putting a soaked cheesecloth on her bird. This was to ensure moistness and some other cook was soaking slices of bread and slapping them on the breast. I wanted none of either or these tactics.
I wanted to cook a bird with no tricks, but with loads of thought and yumminess. And I’ve done it successfully for the past 10 years. Sometimes 2 or 3 times a year. The smallest turkey has been around 14 pounds. The largest, 20 something. I haven’t kept good notes, nor do I have a written recipe. The ideas live in my head and every time I get a turkey in front of me, it changes ever so slightly. The main principles are the staples you know: celery, carrots, onions, sage, rosemary, thyme, and seasonings like salt and pepper.
Then my additions and what I think create the full flavored extravaganza which has garnered thank you notes is citrus. I use at least an orange or lemon, sometimes both. I’m not sure what it is about citrus, but I have yet to cook a turkey without it. Then, an apple or pear to add a slight hint of sweetness. Sometimes, in the roasting pan, goes white wine, chicken stock, or water, or a combination or all three. This begins the juices flowing and also affords a constant steamy environment from the onset of cooking. It doesn’t hurt, either, if you are a basting enthusiast. I wrap mine tight in tin foil and don’t open it up for the first hour, sometimes two before I begin basting. This Thanksgiving, and pictured above, there were leftover fresh cranberries. Why not? I thought. And so, hint of bright red peek out of the body cavity.