One turkey, giblets removed, preferably thawed, but if you
forget, its okay, too.
One large, deep, roasting pan with cover (or a roll of wide,
heavy duty tin foil if you don't have a cover)
Onions - 3-4 large
Carrots - 3-4 large
Celery - 4-5 stalks
Parsley - half bunch
Bay leaf - 2-3
Garlic - lots of it!
Salt & Pepper
Spices - Thyme, dill, rosemary, basil, oregano, etc, etc.
Olive oil - optional
Cream Sherry or cooking sherry
Procedure to this point:
Chop onions, carrots, and celery into large chunks. Using two
burners and your roasting pan, saute on medium high with lots of
butter. If you are bad-cholestoral conscious, use 1/3 part olive
oil to 2/3 part butter, but hey, these are the holidays, don't
worry about it! Throw everything else in (including the giblets)
after the onion, carrots and celery are coated.
Sauteing on Med Hi to Hi heat is important to flavor - allow to
brown and stick but not scorch or burn. Stir fervently to loosen
carmelization on the bottom. This is the basis for your turkey
and gravy - season up!
Note: Onions, carrots and celery are the most important flavor
base in cooking. This is called mirepoix. (Pronounced
meerehpwah.) The basic ingredients may vary slightly, (ie, in
Louisiana, it is onions, celery, and bell pepper), but getting
this nice and brown is important to the rich finished flavor of
your meat and gravy. The rest of the herbs and spices are called
bouquet garni. It is normally tied up in a ball with cheese
cloth and placed in the broth to steep. No need for that this
time, just throw it all in while you are sauteing. The
ingredients to bouquet garnis are very personal and
individualized. If you tend to like one flavor over another, be
a little heavy on that. On the average, you should be using
about a teaspoon of each, but don't measure! Personally, I like
garlic, basil, and thyme. I might use a tablespoon or more of
garlic. Don't be afraid to experiment. IF you use fresh herbs,
you must use lots more than if you use dried. Go for it.
Next: Place your turkey in the pan *breast down*. Prop it up
with vegetables so it sits straight. Pour about 1-2 cups of
sherry over the turkey and into the pan. Fill the pan with water
until *AT LEAST* the half way mark on the bird. Make sure your
pan is deep enough as the water rises a bit as the turkey cooks
and settles into the pan. If you have a cover, place it on the
pan. If you are using tin foil, first put a wire rack over the
turkey. A flat cookie rack will do, bend it to curve over the
turkey, then seal everything in with the tin foil. The rack is
there to prevent the foil from touching the turkey skin and
discoloring it. Heat the whole shebang on the stove for a few
minutes to take the chill off the water and then put it in an
oven pre-heated to 400 degrees.
Check the turkey in an hour and a half. Be careful taking it out
of the oven as the liquid will have risen. Carefully again,
remove the cover or if you are using foil, expose the half of the
turkey with the drums. Shake the drum to see if it is loose. It
shouldn't be yet, but we just want to make sure. Cover and
continue to roast 20 min to half an hour more, removing when the
leg comes off if you pull it but before it falls off.
Note: I overcook my turkey *every year*. I never believe it will
cook so fast. Check, check, check. But if you do over-cook, not
to worry, it is just easier to cut. Next. With a large pair of
forks, and/or large spoons or spatulas, carefully lift the turkey
out and place it on a platter or bowl to cool a bit. The bird
should now look like an ugly mess of mashed vegetables and
ripped, sagging turkey skin and meat. YUM! You have half the fun
ingredients to a fabulous turkey dinner.
Forget the turkey for a minute. Cover it with a clean towel to
keep foreign objects like family members off it. Only cooks are
allowed to sample.
Heavy sauce pan - not aluminum
Wire whip - invest in a restaurant quality whip at least 12" in
length, tip to tip. I have two, a small 12 inch narrow flexible
one and a long, 16" stiff one.
In a heavy, anodized aluminum or copper clad steel pan, (never
regular aluminum as it discolors sauces and adds a metallic
flavor which is unhealthy), slowly melt two cubes of butter. I
hope you're not still worrying about calories and cholesterol
because it gets worse. When the butter is melted, use a wire
whip and mix in about a cup of all-purpose flour. The consistency
should be like cookie dough right at first, but it will thin down
as it cooks. Stir constantly on medium heat. Cook for about 7-10
minutes. This will seem like an eternity but cook for *no less
than* five minutes. The longer, the better, up to 15 minutes.
Whisk constantly, do not stop. Do not allow to burn. If the
mixture seems to be burning, remove from the heat and allow to
cool a bit while continuing to whisk. Return to heat, after
turning it down a bit and resume.
The finished product will be golden brown and have a rich, nutty
aroma. This is called roux, (pronounced roo). It is the
thickening and flavoring agent for your gravy. Remove about half
the roux to a heat-proof bowl. Be careful, because it is about
500 degrees now and will burn a hole right through your skin,
forget the blister. Leaving the pan on the heat, use a wire
strainer and a large ladle and add the juices from the turkey
pan. Whisk quickly, and add some more. Start with about a quart
of juice and whisk, whisk, whisk. In a few moments the mixture
will start to simmer and thicken. Add the turkey liquid and roux
until you have made a big pot of medium-thick gravy. If it
thickens too much, add turkey juice, if it is too thin, add roux.
Be patient and allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes
after adding a bit of roux. If you run out of roux, make a
little in a small sauce pan. If you are really lazy, make some
white-wash with some flour and water. though for flavor reasons,
this is not recommended. You should not be in trouble of running
out of liquid.
Salt - this is not a soup, it should be a *little* salty when
taken by it self. It will compliment the flavor of the meat
more. I use garlic salt. White pepper, or black. Sherry -
splash it in. Kitchen Bouquet - This is like brown paint for
food. It adds no discernable flavor. Theoretically, the browning
of the roux and the mirepoix gives your gravy the rich brown
color. I like to make mine a little darker and richer looking.
A drop goes a long way, be careful.
Hard Butter - 1/4#
When your gravy is thick and you have as much as you want.
Season with the first set of seasoning ingredients. As I said,
make a little salty, you will love it on your mashed potatoes.
Simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Now your gravy is ready - almost.
It is thick and brown, there is lots of it, and it tastes good!
But...is there *something* missing? Here is the secret to great
sauces, and it *isn't* MSG. Squeeze the juice of 1 to 1 1/2
lemons into the gravy, mixing well with your wire whip. With a
table knife, take the hard butter and start to cut little chips
of it into the gravy. Before the chips can melt, incorporate it
by whipping like a mad person until it all disappears. Do this
until the 1/4 pound block of butter is gone. Entirely whisked in
and incorporated into your sauce. Voila! Sauce fit for a king.
Presentation: By now the turkey should be warm but cool enough
to touch. With the turkey breast side up, remove the breasts
from the bird by cutting down, following the breast bone.
Similarly debone the thighs and drums, and whatever other meat
comes off in big enough chunks to serve. Slice the deboned meat
thin and arrange around a platter.
Now, for those who actually ARE watching their cholesterol,
The key thing about this recipe is the idea of roasting the
turkey upside down, i.e. with the breast down. You can actually
flip it back over partway through if you want the whole-bird
Norman Rockwell presentation. What happens while it cooks upside
down is that all the juices fall down through the breast, instead
of draining out of the breast, and thus your white meat stays
nice and juicy instead of cardboardy. You do not have to add any
more fat, etc. than you normally would. If you prefer roasting
with the stuffing inside the bird you can do the upside down
thing with the stuffing in. Also, consider adding sliced mushrooms to your gravy. Chicken may be treated this way as well.