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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How to Make a Golden Brown and Perfectly Tender Turkey

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When it comes to making a turkey that's thoroughly cooked, golden brown, and perfectly tender, success will ultimately depend on two factors: heat and moisture. Braising creates a moist environment, so the white meat doesn't dry out, as long as you cook it low and slow. The bird comes out fall-apart tender and the leftover cooking liquid makes the most delicious gravy.

I braise my bird in the oven to ensure an even temperature and take it out when it reaches 160F. It doesn't require any fancy equipment, just a roasting pan and a meat thermometer. You can estimate the cooking time of your turkey in advance, but always determine doneness by checking the internal temperature. It's the only way you can be sure to avoid under-cooking or over-cooking your bird.

Ingredients:
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Garlic cloves 
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh herbs: sage, thyme, rosemary
  • Sea salt
  • Ground peppercorn
  • Red chili flakes (optional)
  • Turkey (thawed if frozen)
  • 4 cups bone broth (or water)
24 to 48 hours in advance:
  1. Roughly chop enough onion, celery, and carrots to cover the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to comfortably contain your bird. On top the vegetables, scatter some garlic cloves, a couple of bay leaves, and some fresh herbs. Season with sea salt, freshly ground peppercorn, and red chili flakes (optional). Toss everything together to coat the vegetables with the seasonings.
  2. Remove anything inside the turkey including anything plastic like a hanger or pop-up timer, and things you should save for bone broth like the neck and giblets. Never add liver to bone broth. Instead, serve it as a starter.
  3. Season the bird generously with sea salt, inside and out. Set it on top of the vegetable mixture. Using the cover of the roasting pan or aluminum foil, cover the turkey loosely to allow air circulation that will dry out the skin. Transfer the turkey to the fridge.
To finish: 
  1. Remove the turkey from the fridge two hours before you plan to cook it, to allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  3. Add the bone broth to the roasting pan. Cover the roasting pan tightly, with aluminum foil if need be, and transfer it to the preheated oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. After 30 minutes, check to see that the braising liquid is slowly simmering. If it hasn't come to a boil, increase the oven temperature to 350°F and check again. If it's simmering rapidly, reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and check again. Once you know it's simmering slowly, do not open the roasting pan or the oven again until you are checking for doneness.
  4. If you can monitor the internal temperature of the turkey while it braises without opening the oven, remove it when it reaches 160°F. If you have to open the roasting pan to check the internal temperature, estimate the total cooking time based on the weight of your turkey and start checking periodically about a half hour before you expect it to be done, to avoid over-cooking it. 
  5. Remove the turkey from the braising liquid and cover it with aluminum foil, then a dishcloth, to keep it warm while it rests.
  6. Strain the braising liquid, discard the solids, and return the liquid to a pan on the stove top (the roasting pan or other). Bring it to a boil and simmer until it reduces to about 2 cups of liquid. If you want to turn this pan sauce into a gravy, combine 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of flour in a saucepan, then whisk in the liquid and simmer until thickened.
  7. After the turkey has rested 30 to 60 minutes, carve it and serve with the pan sauce or gravy.

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