Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

This lesson involves tackling a turkey. You will learn how to make the brine, prepare the turkey itself, and also create gravy. Keep in mind that the turkey needs to soak in brine for up to 24 hours as part of this recipe, and the turkey will require an additional four to five hours of cooking time beyond that.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Making the Brine
To make the brine, heat one gallon of water. Add sugar, salt, and Dijon mustard. The water needs to reach 185 degrees for the sugar and salt to completely dissolve. Whisk the mixture to help it along. Once the brine is ready, pour it into a container, and then add an equal portion of ice. Set the brine aside.

Starting the Turkey
Assess the size of your turkey. Generally speaking, turkey cooks at a rate of about 15 minutes per pound. Break the turkey down, following the chef’s demonstration in the video lesson. Save the giblets, kidneys, liver, and heart foruse in sauce. Once the limbs are off, place the body of the turkey in the brine. Make sure it is completely covered. Separate the legs from the thighs and put the legs in the brine.

Remove the bones from the thighs and save them for the sauce. Join the pieces of thigh meat together using butcher’s netting and put that into the brine as well. Place the container in the refrigerator and wait. The turkey needs to sit in the brine for 7 hours for osmosis to occur, but 24 hours is the recommended soaking time for best results.

Once the turkey is done soaking, take it out of the fridge. Put the turkey on a roasting rack. Take the turkey out with the cavity down and drain it as much as possible before placing it on the rack. Dispose of the brine immediately.

Pat down the outside of the turkey with a towel to dry it. Cover the turkey with vegetable oil. Rub the turkey to make sure all of the skin is covered. Wash your hands, then season the turkey with black pepper and salt. Once the turkey is ready, put it in the oven at 265 degrees for three hours.

The legs and the thighs will come out a bit earlier, likely 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours into the process. They need to reach an internal temperature of 167 degrees, and then carryover cooking will take them to 169 to 170 degrees.

Starting the Cranberry Sauce and Gravy
To begin the cranberry sauce, put frozen cranberries into a pot. Add one quarter of their weight in sugar, followed by orange juice. For example, if you are using one pound of cranberries, use four ounces of sugar and four ounces of orange juice. If desired, add one tablespoon of jalapeño cut into a brunoise with the ribs removed. The cranberry sauce will likely take 30 to 45 minutes. Give it a stir and bring it to a boil. Once the sauce is ready, it should sit off the heat for 15 to 20 minutes to cool before serving.

While the cranberries are working, you can start working on the gravy. Put the turkey neck, wings, and thigh bones on a rack in an oven for 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Heat a pot with a generous amount of oil in it. Add leeks, shallots, parsley stems, bay leaves, and thyme. Cook until the outside of the leeks and the shallots gain some color, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, check on the cranberry sauce. The edges of the pot need to be very clean, so scrape down as needed. If sugar sticks to the edge, it will burn quickly.

Once the leeks and shallots have browned, add tomato paste. Season both pots with salt. Add turkey bones to the gravy. Heat the pan that was holding the turkey bones on a burner; the pan should have a fond on it.

Once the cranberry sauce reaches a full boil, turn it down to low heat and let it cook for 20 minutes. The goal is to get all of the moisture out and break the cranberries down into a jelly-like state.

Turn the heat off under the pan that was holding the turkey bones. Pour a quarter of a gallon of the chicken stock into the pan. Use a spoon to scrape the fond off. Pour the chicken stock and fond into the gravy base. Put more stock in if necessary to cover the bones. Season with more salt and pepper and let the mixture cook. Make sure nothing sticks to the sides.

Making the Stuffing
To make the stuffing, cook mirepoix with oil in a pan until the onions are becoming translucent. Turn the heat down when this occurs.

Meanwhile, check on the gravy. Bring it up to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer. The goal is to get it to roughly 205 degrees. Also make sure the cranberry sauce’s pan has liquid in it. If the liquid dissipates, the sugar will burn, and the sauce will become very bitter. Add water if needed.

When the onions for the stuffing are completely translucent, turn the heat back up on the mirepoix. Add butter to the mirepoix and stir until melted. Then, addthe sage and stir. Fully cook the sage. Add diced chestnuts and stir again. Cook the water out of the butter. Once the butter begins to brown, add the bread cubes and stir to coat them. Finally, add enough stock to moisten the bread.

Check to see if the cranberry sauce is done. If it is, turn off the heat and set the sauce aside to cool. After it has been cooling for about 10 minutes, you can put it in a bowl.

Stir the stuffing, making sure the bottom does not burn. Season with salt and pepper, and then remove from the heat.

Finishing the Turkey
Check on the turkey. After three hours at 265 degrees, it should be cooked to 167 degrees internally. Check inside to make sure the juices are running clear, not pink. Set aside to rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Making the Roux
To make the roux using the technique from the video lesson, use the fat from the bottom of the pan the turkey is resting in. You could also use whole or clarified butter, grapeseed oil, or a combination of those. In general, the basic ratio for thickening a sauce is one pound of roux per gallon of stock. For example, if you are making one quart of gravy, you will need four ounces of roux. That, in turn, calls for a 50/50 oil/flour ratio. In this case, that would mean two ounces of fat and two ounces of flour.

Pour the fat into a sauté pan. Add the flour. With a spatula, mix the two ingredients together in a cold state. Stir until it reaches a peanut butter–like consistency. Add more flour if necessary as you stir.

Once it reaches the proper consistency, the next stage is to cook it. Heat the pan and stir the roux as it cooks. It will begin to tighten up and then relax and spread out. Keep in mind that the flour needs to cook for at least 20 minutes.

Roux goes through four stages: white roux, blond roux, brown roux, and black roux. This recipe’s goal is brown roux.

Turn off the heat under the gravy. It needs to be below 185 degrees. Remove the roux from the heat and cool it down slowly, stirring constantly. As the protein in the flour pushes the fat out, the roux will become shiny.

Add some more chicken stock to the gravy if necessary to bring the temperature down. Stir the pot, moving the bones to one side. Using the spatula, add the roux, and then use a whisk to mix it in. Bring this back up to a full boil.

Periodically use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent the roux from sticking to it.

Finishing the Gravy
Once the gravy reaches a boil, remove the bones with tongs or tweezers. Turn the heat down and cook for 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and continue scraping the bottom of the pot from time to time. When the gravy is ready, strain it into another pot. You can use a fine mesh strainer and a ladle for this step, pushing the liquid through the mesh. Discard the material that remains in the mesh.

To prevent the gravy from developing a skin, put a small amount of butter in it. The butter will melt and prevent a skin from forming.

Final Steps and Plating
Put on two pairs of gloves for added heat protection before handling the turkey. Use a carving knife and a pair of scissors to break down the turkey, following the chef’s demonstration in the video lesson. For the breast, you will also need a boning knife.

Begin the plating process with a portion of the stuffing. Add a portion of breast and thigh meat beside the stuffing, followed by gravy around the perimeter. Finish with the cranberry sauce.

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