It's that time again: Thanksgiving is tomorrow

And The Early Show offered a heaping helping of help to anyone getting set to make a turkey for the big day -- as three great chefs shared their secrets for making the perfect turkey.

Personally, my receipe is a bit exotic:

At the El Dave home, I cook all day and I arrange the following:
One stick Butter
Chicken Broth
Wine Bottle
Orange Juice
*** Inject all of the above into turkey meat, stuff a pear and orange into turkey, pour thyme, salt, pepper and then drink the wine and Guinness remainder and be hearty.

But that's just me.

Each of the culinary stars uses a different method to achieve delicious results.

CLASSIC ROASTED TURKEY: John "Doc" Willoughby, of Gourmet magazine

The recipe is officially called "Extra Moist Roast Turkey." The secret to this succulent bird? A cheap roasting pan! That's right. When you cover the pan and roast at a high heat, you are essentially roasting AND braising the turkey at the same time which means it stays incredibly moist. You take the cover off during the last 15 minutes of cooking to crisp up the skin.
The great thing about this recipe, besides the fact that the results are tasty, is that the turkey cooks so quickly and with so little work. You stuff the cavity with an onion and some thyme. You tie the bird up, brush with melted butter and put in the pan. About halfway through the cooking process you add some water to the pan to help the braising along. And that's it!
The turkey is served with a gravy made from the pan drippings. The recipe is straight-forward. Doc just reminds us that you need to make the turkey stock for the gravy the day before.

SMOKED TURKEY: Alex (Alexandra) Guarnaschelli, of Butter restaurant and the Food Network's "The Cooking Loft"

This recipe because is quite simple, but very unique. Alex roasts the turkey using a very traditional method. During the last 10 minutes or so of roasting, you soak some woodchips - she prefers apple wood or cherry wood. You drain the wood and put it in the bottom of a pan that's large enough to hold your turkey. (You can use the same roasting pan if you wish, just clean it first) Place an oiled rack on top of the wood and place the pan on your stovetop over medium-high heat. Soon, you'll see the woodchips begin to smoke. At this point place the roasted turkey on the rack and either put a lid on the pan or cover the bird with foil. Allow it to "smoke" for 10 to 15 minutes. This recipe not only brings a unique flavor to your bird, it makes your kitchen smell incredible, and leaves you with wonderful leftovers for sandwiches.

CAJUN FRIED TURKEY: Kent Rathbun, Abacus restaurant in Dallas

Fried turkey has certainly become more popular lately. Kent recommends frying turkey because the bird winds up quite moist, and with really crisp skin. Some people mistakenly think that fried turkey is very unhealthy; he says it's actually less fattening that roast turkey because the method renders so much of the fat out of the skin ... Kind of like very crispy bacon ultimately has less fat than limp bacon because much of the fat has been cooked out. Kent brines his turkey for a day or two before Thanksgiving in cajun spices. This infuses the whole bird with flavor. Some people avoid brining because a turkey takes up a lot of space in the fridge. Kent recommends dumping all of the brine ingredients into a cooler, then you don't even have to worry about refrigerator storage. After pulling the bird from the brine and drying it well, he then fries it for 2-point-5 to 3 minutes a pound. While frying a turkey makes for a tasty turkey, it can be dangerous. Be sure to set the fryer up in an open space, not under your eaves or a low hanging tree. Don't put too much oil in - you don't want it to overflow once you place the bird in the fryer. Finally, be sure to fry the turkey in a basket, don't just toss it in the oil because you want to be able to pull it out safely and securely and not worry about it splashing back down into the hot oil. They do make indoor electric fryers, but of course Kent prefers the real deal outside, over an open flame.

Extra-Moist Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy

Serves 6
Active time:25 min Start to finish:3 hr (does not include bringing turkey to room temperature)
Gourmet, November 2008

The secret to this succulent bird is an inexpensive metal pan. We used the kind of old-fashioned oval roaster found in most supermarkets, not fancy cookware stores. These lightweight enameled pans with lids simultaneously roast and braise the turkey, so it stays moist even as it cooks quickly. Simply uncover it at the end to crisp the skin. Ample pan juices add a fragrant richness to our easy gravy.

For turkey
1 (11- to 12-lb) turkey at room temperature 1 hour, reserving neck, giblets (excluding liver), and wing tips for stock
1/2 medium onion
1 bunch thyme
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 cup water

For gravy
2 cups hot turkey stock
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Melted unsalted butter if necessary
Reserved chopped giblets from stock (optional)

Equipment: small metal skewer; a 24-inch piece of kitchen string; a covered turkey roaster, or a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan and heavy-duty foil; a 2-qt measuring cup or a fat separator
Garnish: thyme sprigs

Make turkey:
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in lower third.
Rinse turkey inside and out, then pat dry. Mix together 2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and rub all over turkey inside and out. Put onion and thyme in large cavity. Pin neck skin to body with skewer. Center kitchen string under back of breast and bring ends over to pin wings, then crisscross string and tie ends of drumsticks together. Put turkey on a metal rack in roaster and brush with 4 tablespoons melted butter. Cover pan (if using a roasting pan, cover turkey with parchment paper, then foil) and roast 1 hour.
Baste with pan juices and add water to pan. Continue to roast, covered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into fleshy part of each thigh (test both; close to but not touching bone) registers 170°F, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Baste with remaining tablespoon melted butter and roast, uncovered, until skin is browned, about 15 minutes more (total roasting time: 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours). Carefully tilt turkey so juices from inside large cavity run into pan. Transfer turkey to a platter and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 30 minutes (temperature of thigh meat will rise to 175 to 180°F).
Make gravy while turkey stands:
Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into 2-quart measure and skim off fat (or use a fat separator), reserving fat. Pour pan juices into a bowl and add stock.
Whisk together flour and 1/3 cup reserved fat (if there is less, add melted butter) in a heavy medium saucepan, then cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Add pan juices and stock in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then bring to a boil, whisking. Stir in any turkey juices from platter. Chop and add giblets (if using). Simmer gravy, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe by Ruth Cousineau
Roasted and Quick-Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

One 14-16 pound turkey, innards removed
1 double layer cheesecloth, about ½ foot in length
1 stick unsalted butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 pounds small wood chips (I like apple wood and cherry wood.)

I generally follow the rule of 12-15 minutes per pound if the bird has stuffing in the cavity. A little less if no stuffing is involved.

1. Preheat the oven to 500F.
2. Place the turkey on a flat surface, season with salt and pepper on the inside and out. Truss turkey or, alternatively, if stuffing the bird, tie the legs closed with a strong piece of kitchen twine to assure the stuffing doesn't fall out as the turkey roasts.
3. Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan, fitted with a roasting rack if desired, and soak the cheesecloth in the butter. Brush any remaining butter on top of the bird and cover the breasts with the cheesecloth to prevent the top skin from burning before it is cooked. Lower the oven to 350 F and place the roasting pan in the center of the oven. Cook for about 12 minutes per pound the turkey weighs.
4. After 11/2 hours of cooking, remove the cheesecloth from the top of the breasts, thoroughly baste the breast meat with the drippings and return the turkey to the oven. Cook for an additional 30-45 minutes or until the breast meat browns. While the turkey finishes cooking, soak the wood chips in water for about 10 minutes.
5. At this point, take the temperature of the bird near the thigh area where the meat is most dense. If the meat registers between 155F and 160 F, remove the bird from the oven and allow it to "rest". Note: do not rest the turkey on top of the stove but somewhere where the heat is not so intense.
6. Prepare any pan (with a fitted cover) large enough to hold the turkey and a rack. It is important that the cover not be too snug around the turkey. There needs to be room for the smoky air to circulate around the turkey. Remove the wood chips from the water and place them in the bottom of the pan. Place a lightly oiled rack above the chips. Place the pan over two burners of the stove, cover it and begin to gently heat it. Wait a few minutes for the heat below the pan to gently heat the wood chips and they will begin to smoke.
7. Remove the cover and transfer the turkey to the rack. Cover the turkey and allow it to "smoke", covered, for 10-15 minutes. If the smoke is copious, you can shut off the heat and just allow the momentum of the smoke to flavor the turkey. If the smoke is somewhat tame, leave the bird in the pan for a few additional minutes. When finished, the turkey skin should smell smoky. Allow the bird to "rest", uncovered for a couple of minutes before carving, Note: the smoky flavor will "settle" a little overnight and make your leftovers as special as your Thanksgiving dinner!


This procedure is really great, because it makes the entire turkey very crisp on the outside and renders much of the fat from the skin of the turkey.

Serves 8

16-20 pound turkey, fresh, if possible
5 gallons ice water
2 pounds kosher salt
1 cup cajun seasoning
8 ounces sugar
5 gallons canola oil

1. In a large cooler or tub mix water, kosher salt, cajun seasoning and sugar until dissolved.
2. Submerge turkey in brine for a minimum of 24 hours.
3. Remove turkey from brine, and let drain until dry.
4. Carefully submerge turkey in hot frying oil and deep fry for 2 1/2 -3 minutes per pound at 350 degrees.
5. Carefully remove turkey letting excess oil drain. Set turkey on a sheet pan with roasting rack to allow excess oil to drain.
6. After turkey has cooled for 10-12 minutes, remove breasts, legs and thighs and serve.

To ensure the proper level of frying oil, fill the pot half way with water and submerge turkey in water to get the level of oil needed. Use extreme caution before submerging turkey in oil to ensure you do not overflow the pot.

8 ounces smoked bacon, diced
1 ounce canola oil
4 cloves garlic , chopped
4 each shallots, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 each bay leaf
2 cups brewed coffee
2 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons corn starch mixture
2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
2 ounces whole butter
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 each poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, deseeded
and diced

1. In a large sauce pot on medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Add canola oil and saute garlic, shallots, onions, celery and carrots until caramelized.
2. Add 2 of the roasted diced poblano peppers (reserve the other four), cracked black pepper and bay leaf. Deglaze with coffee and reduce by 75%.
3. Once coffee is reduced by 75%, add chicken stock.
4. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 2 hours.
5. Thicken sauce with 2 tablespoons of corn starch, if needed.
6. Strain sauce through a large-hole china cap. Return to heat and begin to simmer and remove excess fat.
7. When stock has thickened to sauce consistency add basil and thyme and steep for 10 minutes.
8. Strain through a fine chinois into a clean container.
9. Whip in whole butter and season with cracked black pepper and kosher salt.
10. Garnish with remaining diced, roasted poblanos.

Great sauce for roasted or grilled meat and game dishes.

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