Sunday, November 27, 2011

HOLIDAY RECIPE - Turkey with Stuffing Dinner PROLOGUE

Holiday turkey dinner has always been very important to me....from earliest memories when I wondered what made the windows steam through my first chance to help in the kitchen all the way to present day, this meal above all others holds great significance. I'm not alone in this, either.

Entire magazines, television programs and even newspaper sections are year after year dedicated to the cause of sharing the latest craze, gizmo and secret so it must be important to somebody!

The goal is to make a turkey that is moist, tasty, savory and at the same time pleasing to a wide range of palates. Luckily for us, this particular breed of poultry lends itself to any number of expressions be it Cajun, Deep Fried, Curried, Roasted, Grilled or Stewed...to name just a few.

Guinea Hen
Originally known as a Guinea Hen, the birds of our forefathers were most likely not so plump and juicy as our present day, domesticated Tom or Thomasina. But they, nonetheless, served as a good and available food source.

Present day turkey
Back in 1621, when the original Thanksgiving celebration occurred, the tables were laden with these critters to be sure, but also there was seafood, corn, nuts, berries, squash and foodstuffs that never make it to our modern celebration. Although I'd not be surprised if there were a few traditionalists that included such things as venison as part of the festivities.

As far as stuffing goes, in the middle ages it was known as "farce," from the Latin "farcire" (and French "farcir") meaning to stuff. The term "stuffing" first appears in English print in 1538. Around 1880, it seems the term fell out of favor with the Victorian upper crust, who began referring to it as "dressing."

Happily we've come to terms with who we are and what we do with our food and are more tolerant with what things are called.  And I'll argue that stuffing by any other name would still taste good, so long as it is made right!


Everybody has their own "Classic" or "Traditional" recipe.  Far be it from me to say that mine is better than any body's, because that's certainly not the case!  This method and recipe is being shared not in an attempt to change any one's ways, but to simply have it out there on the off-chance that someone might want to try it.

I also publish this in homage to my mother and the things she taught me in the kitchen, to her mother who taught mine about the secret to making turkey brown and moist, to my sister Carolyn...my culinary cohort, to Jan and Vincent and my other cooking companions and collaborators through the years, to my home economics teacher who taught me to be courageous in the kitchen, to PBS, the Food Network and other food channels who through the years have added to my culinary education and to all cooking blogs and websites.
 

Warning to all - this is a multi-day, multi-stage process....not for the fainthearted or any one rushed for time.
But if you're willing to invest the time and put forth the effort, you'll be pleased with the results.


Due to the lengthy nature of this preparation, I'm breaking it up into a few blog entries....much like how it happens in real-time, spread over a few days.     


This entry covers a few thoughts and a few basics.  The thoughts we've already handled, the basics?  Here they are in Q and A format.


How much turkey should I buy?
That depends on how many people you're planning to serve and how much leftovers you want.  The rule of thumb is 1 lb of turkey per adult, anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 lb per adolescent or child....after that it's all leftovers.   Again, that's a general rule of thumb.  This doesn't include your dear Cousin Ralph who can eat a 25 lb bird all by himself...so if you are inviting Ralphie, make sure to buy two turkeys so that others have a chance at something to eat!


What are the proper turkey cooking times? 

TURKEY COOKING TIMES AND TEMPS
Turkey Oven Roasted at 325°F
Type     Weight     Approximate Cooking Time
                               Unstuffed              Stuffed
Turkey (whole)     8 - 12 lbs.     2 3/4 - 3 hours     3 - 3 1/2 hours
Turkey (whole)     12 - 14 lbs.     3 - 3 3/4 hours     3 1/2 - 4 hours
Turkey (whole)     14 - 18 lbs.     3 3/4 - 4 1/4 hours     4 - 4 1/4 hours
Turkey (whole)    18 - 20 lbs.     4 1/4 - 4 1/2 hours     4 1/4 - 4 3/4 hours
Turkey (whole)     20 - 24 lbs.     4 1/2 - 5 hours     4 3/4 - 5 1/2 hours
Breast (half)     2 - 3 lbs.     50 - 60 minutes   
Breast (whole)     4 - 6 lbs.     1 1/2 - 1 1/4 hours
Breast (whole)     6 - 8 lbs.     2 1/4 - 3 1/4 hours
Drumsticks     3/4 - 1 lb.     2 - 2 1/4 hours
Thighs     3/4 - 1 lb.     1 3/4 - 2 hours
Wings     6 - 8 oz.     1 3/4 - 2 1/4 hours
Note: Start with turkey at refrigerator temperature. Remove the turkey from the oven when the
meat thermometer reads 175°- 180°F; the temperature will continue to rise as the turkey stands.


Grilled Turkey
(internal temperature 180°F)
Type                                                      Weight   
                                                 Approximate Cooking Time
                                                  Unstuffed     Stuffed
Whole turkey (indirect heat)     8 - 12 lbs.     2 - 3 hours   
Whole turkey (indirect heat)     12 - 16 lbs.     3 - 4 hours

Note: When grilling with Indirect Heat generally the coals (or burners on a gas grill) are heated to a high heat.
When grilling with Direct Heat the coals (or burners on a gas grill) are heated to a medium heat. Use these heat settings unless you have a recipe that states something different. See how to test the grill temperature.


Turkey Cooked at 350°F in an Oven Bag
 Type                                Total Weight       Approximate Cooking Time
Regular-Size  Oven Bag 10" x 16"       

Whole turkey (unstuffed)     8 - 12 lbs.     1 1/2 - 2 hours   
 Whole turkey (unstuffed)     12 - 16 lbs.     2 - 2 1/2 hours
Whole turkey (unstuffed)     16 - 20 lbs.     2 1/2 - 3 hours
Whole turkey (unstuffed)     20 - 24 lbs.     3 - 3 1/2 hours

Large-Size Oven Bag 14" x 20"     Turkey-Size
Whole turkey (stuffed)     8 - 12 lbs.     2 - 2 1/2 hours   
 Whole turkey (stuffed)     12 - 16 lbs.     2 1/2 - 3 hours
Whole turkey (stuffed)     16 - 20 lbs.     3 - 3 1/2 hours
 Whole turkey (stuffed)     20 - 24 lbs.     3 1/2 - 4 hours

Oven Bag 19" x 23 1/2"

Turkey breast (bone-in)     4 - 8 lbs.     1 1/4 - 2 hours   
Turkey breast (bone-in)     10 - 12 lbs.     2 1/4 - 2 3/4 hours
 Turkey breast (boneless)     2 1/2 - 3 lbs.     1 1/4 - 1 3/4 hours   
Turkey breast (boneless)     5 lbs.         2 - 2 1/4 hours
Turkey breast (boneless)     8 - 12 lbs.     3 - 3 1/2 hours
Turkey drumsticks     1 1/2 - 2 lbs.     1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours   
Turkey drumsticks     2 - 3 lbs.         1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours

Oven Bag Instructions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add 1 tablespoon flour to the oven bag and distribute evenly on the inside of the bag prior to inserting the turkey. Brush the turkey with vegetable oil or butter. Remove the turkey from the oven when the meat thermometer reaches 175°- 180°F. If using a turkey-size oven bag for a turkey smaller than 12 lbs., gather the oven bag loosely around the meat allowing room for heat circulation; then close the bag with a nylon tie, and cut away any excess oven bag.


Next installment, Bird Prep!


As always, please feel free to share your recipes here...you'll be given full credit for your contributions.
Happy holidays!
Enjoy!


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