The Turkey Torch Has Been Passed

So many recipes!

My mother, growing increasingly vegetarian, and increasingly averse to preparing animals of any kind, made it clear to us that last year would be the final Thanksgiving where she would make the turkey.

My brother and his girlfriend, being vegetarians themselves, could not take over the reins of the turkey-makers in the family, and so the duty now falls to my husband and me. In preparation, I have begun compiling and reading all of the turkey recipes I can get my hands on. I am amazed at the wide variety of recipes I am finding. How can it be that there are so many turkey recipes out there?

I have in my possession at least six different recipes (four of which come from Martha Stewart), that have six completely different approaches to turkey-making.  I suppose it is a good idea that I am beginning preparations well in advance of T-Day. I must say, I know nothing about turkey making, and while I know that there are some tried and true recipes that promise to make the BEST. TURKEY. EVER., I can’t quite decide which one is best.

The one that takes two or three days as you brine the turkey?
The one that takes only a few hours because you cut the turkey apart before you cook it?
Honey glaze?
Spice rub?
Traditional stuffing?

I will keep you posted about my progress, and the eventual outcome. But in the meantime, if any of you have some turkey recipes to pass along, I await your expertise.

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  • Summer October 20, 2009  

    I love turkey so much that I will buy as many frozen turkeys as possible when they go on sale around the holidays — at one point, I cleaned out my chest freezer and found I had FIVE, which didn’t even count the one in the fridge-freezer or the one I’d stashed in my mom’s freezer. I’ll cook turkeys for no special reason or occasion, just because turkey is delicious. And the reason that my turkeys are so delicious that I’ll ignore how ridiculous it is to cook a 12-lb.animal for a family of three: BRINE. It DOES make the best turkey. It doesn’t have to be a fancy brine; it’s the salt that does the trick.

    A few tricks and tips:
    1. Some people will tell you that “flavor injected” frozen turkeys shouldn’t be brined. Ignore that. Brine them anyway.

    2. The best container to brine a large turkey is a big hard-sided cooler. The evening before Thanksgiving, fill the cooler with brine, ice and your turkey. You can even stick the cooler out on your porch, balcony or in your garage.

    3. Brined turkeys don’t simply yield the most succulent, delicious meat — they make awesome gravy, too. Just remember that the drippings will be salty, so don’t add any extra salt, and use plain water rather than broth. All it will need is a little bit of fresh-ground pepper. I make gravy right in the roasting pan, just whisking in flour and warm water.

    4. This isn’t brine-specific, but if you’re working with a frozen turkey, accept that it is going to take FOREVER to defrost in the fridge. The bigger the turkey, the longer it will take. A week, at least. I can’t tell you how often I’ve thought I was going to cook a turkey, and then discovered it was still too frozen… not such a problem when you’re cooking a turkey for an ordinary Tuesday, but a big one when you’ve got a Thanksgiving deadline! The turkey will defrost more once you get it into the brine, but it’s got to be defrosted enough that you can get the giblet-bag out of it.

    This is making me hungry. Good thing I have a turkey breast in the fridge, ready to become tonight’s dinner!

  • Lindsay October 20, 2009  

    Best of luck with the turkey!
    My husband and I (Philly ‘burb kids that now live in Nova-yuck) Host a “Rogue Thanksgiving” for all of our friends and some other Marines that couldn’t get home. After serious time spent research we ended up making sage butter and rubbing it all under the turkey skin…WAY TO GO! Everyone loved it and we are doing it again this year. The only odd thing is the green gravy that you end up with.



  • erica October 20, 2009  

    i’m vegi but don’t mind the meat cookin… a few xmases ago i did the butter under the skin thing with some cornish game hens (i wasn’t going to spend hours on a turkey) and people loved it.

  • Tia October 21, 2009  

    I have to agree that brining is the way to go. I use the big ol’ cooler as well.

    For last year’s turkey we did a sun-dried tomato/rosemary/butter rub under the skin. It was delicious!

    Good luck with whatever recipe you decide to use.

  • La Morgan October 22, 2009  

    Cook’s Illustrated (December) has what is possibly the most ridiculously complicated recipe for turkey I’ve ever seen, but with one particularly intriguing suggestion for crisping the skin without overdrying the meat: Draping strips of salt pork over it while baking. I would love to try this, but I have a dwarf oven that barely fits a roast chicken, so I’m looking forward to hearing about your turkey adventures!

  • Lyndsey October 22, 2009  

    I saw that recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. I might just try it, although it seems a little overwhelming. I’m a big fan of their recipes, and they haven’t failed me yet!

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