My family doesn’t observe the holidays traditionally known for the big turkey dinner, so despite being a lover of all things delicious, I’ve only cooked a turkey once in my life.
This weekend, I was craving the comfort food that comes with a big, juicy, roasted turkey. Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and of course, the bird itself.
So, when the week began, I tossed the big bird in the fridge to thaw, invited some friends over to help me eat it all, and started reading up on what to prepare.
The results were pretty yummy.
First, the turkey.
I decided to brine the 19 pounder, which turned out to be no small feat in itself. Sure, making the brine was simple enough – salt, sugar, aromatics, and water set to boil then cool – but pouring all that liquid in plastic bag big enough for me to sit in without making an enormous mess was another story. And then getting it into the fridge.
I brined on Friday night, after giving the turkey sufficient time in the fridge to thaw. (It took a good three days, and that included a good rinsing to melt the ice that formed in the cavity.)
Saturday, I kept it simple. I rinsed the brine off, then set the bird in a roasting pan. The botttom of the pan was lined with the same contents I stuck in the bird – large chunks of celery, carrot, apple, onion, garlic, and sprigs of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
While the bird rested on the counter before heading into the oven, I toasted cut up french bread and cornbread for the stuffing. 350F until the pieces looked golden brown.
With the toasted bread out of the way, I lightly salted the skin and popped it in the oven. 350F, covered in foil. I occasionally peeked in and basted with pan drippings, but for a good part of the cooking (a total of about 4 hours) I let it be.
On the stove, I tossed the turkey neck and giblets in a pan with some onions, celery, and herbs and let them all simmer in water for two hours. I set the resulting stock aside (along with the meat from the turkey neck) to make gravy later.
While the stock was cooking, I put together the stuffing elements. I kept it super simple. In addition to the toasted bread, I added chopped up fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
I also added some pistachios for some added texture and salt.
I melted a healthy bit of good Irish butter in a pan, careful not to brown it, and softened onions, celery, and a little garlic.
When the veggies were translucent, I tossed them with the bread mixture, added enough stock to moisten all the stuffing, and poured it all in a casserole type dish (i.e. whatever dish I had that was large enough to contain it all).
In another pot, I tossed in a combination of golden and red creamer potatoes to boil, and stuck a couple of heads of garlic in a ramekin full of olive oil. When the potatoes were boiled and the garlic roasted, they got smashed together with a little cream, a lot of butter, and a bit of salt and pepper.
In the last 45 minutes of turkey roasting, I took the foil off and rubbed the skin with butter to ensure that pretty golden brown color. With 20 minutes left, I slid the stuffing dish in next to the turkey.
When I knew the turkey had hit the appropriate temp, I took it out of the oven, soaked a cheesecloth in the pan drippings and covered it. (I did this to keep the breasts moist but I don’t recommend this if you like crisp skin.)
While the turkey rested, the mashed potatoes warmed, and the stuffing spent it’s last few minutes in the oven, I made a roux from turkey drippings (fat), Irish butter, and flour. When I’d whisked it into a nice paste, I whisked in the turkey stock from earlier and added a bit of cream and the meat from the turkey neck. (Pressed for time, I didn’t do a dark roux, and I used more butter as my fat than turkey drippings, so the gravy was more white, not brown. But, you know, butter, so yum.)
As you can see, there are no pictures of gravy making and such, because this is the point of turkey dinner with that apparently there is NO time for pictures.
But I did manage to snag a quick photo of the end results before we dove in and destroyed it all.
For the second time ever making a turkey (and the first making non Stove Top stuffing) I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
What are your favorite comfort foods? Any recipes to share?