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Turkey Trials and Tribulations

First Turkey
You would think at my age, and being once married, I would have cooked a traditional turkey before. Alas, I am still learning a lot about cooking, and it was time this obstacle got crushed.

I read the advice, watched the television shows, read cookbooks, and searched online. I kept hearing about “brine”. What is that? A little searching and I found out brining is soaking the meat in a water, sugar, and mostly salt solution. As the meat releases oxygen, the oxygen mixes with the content in the water and carries it as it re-enters the meat. The salt acts as a catalyst, and also helps keep bacteria away. The brine adds incredible moisture and flavor to the turkey.

The brine

This turkey was only around 10 pounds, but I could not find a container/pot big enough to fit the turkey adequately and fit in the refridgerator. As typical in Louisiana, there’s always a crawfish boil pot around! This actually worked out really well aside from continually adding ice to it to keep it cool. This brine was 36 hours prior to roasting.

Come Thanksgiving day, I started preparing the cavity ingredients and making an herbed butter. Inside ingredients consisted of lemon, onion, garlic, rosemary, celery, scallions, salt, and pepper.

Cavity Ingredients

The herbed butter mixture contained room-temperature butter, basil, parsley, and rosemary run through a food processor. This will be spread in between the meat and the skin and layered on the top of the turkey.

Herbed butter

Time to stuff and spread!

Stuffing and spreading time

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

The turkey went in the oven uncovered at 350 degrees for about 3 hours. There was a basting argument in which I didn’t want to baste and another person could not believe the turkey would not be basted. Being my first, I figured I should listen to them. The skin was not as crispy as I would like, but I did wonder if the basting added moisture to the top of the turkey meat. So while the turkey was cooking, I went on to prep other things like salad and mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes in progress

I had also been growing my own basil plant, since every time I went to the store they were either out of fresh basil or it was horrible. I have to say I use the fresh basil from the plant a lot, give it tons of abuse, and it just keeps growing. My next herb to grow is rosemary, as that is always in such short supply and expensive. From what I have read, it takes abuse and keeps on growing, so I am looking forward to buying that next.

Salad and basil plant

I threw the removed turkey parts into the crockpot with onions and herbs to make stock for the gravy later.

Stock for gravy

Getting all the little sides and prep work out of the way, it was time to check the turkey. It had the little red pop-up indicator, but everything I read said not to go by that. I used a meat thermometer inserted into the side without touching the bone to ensure the turkey was done and any possibility of bacteria was gone.

Temp check

 Now time to cover the turkey to “rest”.

Shhh, I'm resting!

Now you may ask what is resting and why should we do it? Resting, which is covering the cooked meat with foil for about 20 minutes, allows the juices to be re-absorbed into the meat as it starts to slowly drop its temperature. If you took it out of the oven and just starting carving, all the juices would just run out.

Turkey Success

The turkey was moist, packed with flavor, and everyone loved it. My first attempt was definitely a success. It was requested again for Christmas, and I’ll get that posted as well.

Key points in my perfect turkey were the brine, the herbed butter, checking for the accurate temperature, and the resting. Do those and you will get a great turkey every time.

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