For many people, turkey is associated with the traditional US Thanksgiving dinner on the fourth Thursday of November. In Canada, where temperatures drop earlier, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October.
In both countries the indigenous turkey that feeds many is the main dish of this dinner, and was introduced in the early 20th century to new immigrants as a way to promote national identity.
The festivity originates from the settlers, who celebrated the harvest. Thanksgiving is an official holiday in the US since George Washington instated it after a request of Congress in 1789. In most families, Thanksgiving is a bigger event than major religious holidays, possibly since it is celebrated by all creeds and unites a nation that lends its power, innovation and economic growth from immigrants from all around the world. Thanksgiving is usually the holiday where family and friends travel the country to share a meal together.
While many people think a turkey dinner is a bit rich in calories , but it actually is not when compared to chicken. However, it becomes calorie-rich because we cannot stop eating!. Apart from the calories, some people hesitate to put turkey on the table, because oven-roasted turkey often turns out dry. Secondly, it is thought to be a time-consuming process. This puts a lot of pressure on the home cook, as many family and friends usually attend the Thanksgiving dinner.
This recipe alleviates both concerns: 1. It renders a much more succulent and juicy turkey and 2. it takes pressure off the home cook by spreading the preparation over two days. The cook can spend more time with the guests and be more confident, because the turkey will turn out great. I like to serve turkey with mashed potatoes, and green beans, but it can be easily served with steamed rice and a chutney.
The basic approach is that we first poach a thawed or fresh turkey and the next day we briefly grill it in the oven. It brings the cooking time partially forward to the day preceding the dinner. Then on the dinner day, the oven time is much shorter. The oven time savings increase when the bird is bigger. But apart from that, poaching first makes the meat more juicy.
Purchasing the turkey
If you cannot find a fresh turkey, buy a frozen one. Home cooks may not have so much freezer space that they can spare the space a whole turkey takes up. In that case, purchase the turkey several days before the day of the dinner. Thaw a frozen turkey in its original package in the refrigerator. Or in case of emergency thawed it(faster) in a large basin with cold water. For each 2 kg of frozen turkey, count a full 24 hours of refrigerator thawing time. So a 6 kg turkey will take just over 3 full days to thaw in the fridge. If we thaw the bird in cold water, it takes 2 h for each 2 kg of frozen turkey, provided every half hour the cold water is refreshed (don’t ever use warm water!).
- oven; large enough poaching pot to fully cover the bird with liquid;
- thermometer to check the temperature of the poaching liquid
- cast iron pan or similar that can be placed in the oven
Poached, then grilled Turkey with gravy and stuffing
DAY 1 For the bird and the poaching liquid
- 11 - 16 llbs (5-7 kg) turkey all left overs can be used later for other dishes
- 2 tbsp (24g) clarified butter or olive oil
- 3 medium sized (brown) onions
- 3 celery sticks
- 1 large carrot
- 2-4 tbsp (30 - 60 g) salt
- 10 or so parsley stems
- 2 tsp thyme leaves fresh or dried
- 2 tsp rosemary leaves fresh or dried
- 1 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 5 bay leaves
- 3 gallon (12 liter) water (or sufficient volume to fully immerse the bird during poaching)
DAY 2 for the gravy
- pan drippings of the turkey
- 2.1 oz (60g) all purpose flour
- 1.25 L turkey broth from the poaching
mirepoix (for the gravy)
- 4.6 oz (130) diced or small cut onions
- 4.6 oz (130g) carrots
- 4.6 oz (130g) celery (stick) mixed
For the stuffing
- 4.2 oz (120g) diced onions
- 4.2 lard or butter lard or butter
- 1 lb 7 oz (650g) cubed, day old bread that has been made dry in an ov
- 1/2 pint (250ml) turkey broth
- 1 egg
- 0.2 oz (6g) chopped parsley (2 tbs)
- 0.04 oz (1 g) chopped sage (1 tsp)
- 7 oz (200g) peeled walnuts
- 0.18 oz (5 g) salt (1 tsp)
- 0.04 oz (1 g) salt (1 tsp)
DAY 1 For the bird and the poaching liquid
- After the bird is thawed find a large enough pot for the bird to be fully submersed. Rub the interior of the bird with salt (1 tbsp or 15 g) and let sit at room temperature for 1 hr also to let it lose some of its chill
- 2. Meanwhile bring water to a boil. Add some 1 ½ chopped onions, the bay leaves, chopped celery sticks and a chopped carrot to the water/broth. For every 3 quarts (3 liter) of water add 1 tbs of salt. If the bird would have been packaged pre-brined, which can be seen from the sodium content of the packaged bird (some 400 mg sodium per 100 g) and as usually happens to frozen birds, then reduce the salt to one tsp per 3 quarts (3 liter) (brining is used to tenderize the meat)Simmer the broth for some 15 minutes and then stop the heat and let it cool down to about 90 C
- Immerse the bird fully and monitor the temperature of the liquid. It should not exceed 185 F(85 C) and not be lower than 176 F (80 C). Especially in the beginning , the cold bird will cause the liquid to cool down and more heat needs to be added. Do this intermittently, such as to keep the temperature in the range. It may also help to heap hot broth on the cavity of the bird, so that the interior of the bird is exposed to refreshed hot broth regularlyA 6 kg bird needs to be poached for 1h and 20 minutes, after which it can be let cooled down in the broth. When the temperature of the broth has reached 104 F (40 C) (after about 3-4 h) take the bird out of the broth and cool it down under rinsing cold water and ice water. When the bird is fully cooled down, let it air dry for 20 minutes and then put overnight in the refrigerator, covered with cling wrap. Alternatively, if you would like to proceed with grilling and serving the same day, take the bird out of the poaching liquid after 2 h cooling down (50-55 C) and then proceed with step 5The above procedure will ensure that the bird’s interior reached 165 F (or 74 C), which is the requirement to safely cook poultry. If you want to check this, do this right after the 1 h and 20 minutes of poaching by pulling the turkey partly out of its broth. Keep the turkey broth as much as you can. A part will be required for making the gravy and the stuffing the next day, but the broth will become fantastic after simmering the turkey carcass and neck and wing bones in it, after the meal on the next day.
DAY 2 (grilling, making gravy and stuffing)
- The next day, take out the turkey from the refrigerator at the least one hour before placing it in a pre-heated oven of 402 F (250 C), and about 3 1/2 h before the dinner. This is to take the chill off
- Meanwhile, stuff the bird with some parsley stems, and a few quart onions, oil the skin with a bit of olive oil or melted clarified butterfat and then season with the herbs (rosemary needles and thyme leaves) and a bit of salt
- Place the bird inside the oven on a rack above a dripping pan, which contains mirepoix. (see making the gravy section) and the bird is grilled for 45 min. Check the color of the bird’s skin every 10 min: maybe it needs a little longer. When the skin is browned, switch off the oven, but keep the bird in the closed oven for another full hour, so it can heat through. Check your oven temperature after 30 min or so. If needed, add some heat after 30 min to bring the temperature to 302 F (150 C) and then switch the heat off again. Please note that if the poaching was done the same day, the grilling time may be slightly shorter and the bird may be taken out of the oven 30 min after the grilling has stopped as the internal temperature when the bird was put into the oven was already quite a bit higher
- After in total 2 h in the oven, take the bird out, let it rest for a further 30 minutes and then serve and cut
- Meanwhile make the pan gravy and finish cooking the stuffing in the warm oven
Instructions for the gravy
- Place the mirepoix on the dripping pan and place it in the oven just before the poached turkey is placed on a rack over the dripping pan. While roasting, bird juices will drip on the freshly cut vegetable bed and will not burn, but will be infused with the vegetable aroma’s
- After the bird is resting, take the dripping tray and pour most of the fat off and then sieve the remaining juices and the cooked mirepoix through a siff in a pan. Take time to push most of the mirepoix through the siff as this will impair a wonderful aroma to the gravy
- Add 60 g of all purpose flour and mix with the lukewarm fat and juices using a whisk
- When a pretty homogeneous mixture is obtained start heating the mixture gently, thereby stirring continuously
- Add the turkey broth gradually and stirring and heating all the time, such as to create a thick consistency, but such that the gravy is easily pourable when hot
- Check the taste. You may add salt or pepper as desired, but often I find no additional salt or herbs are needed. All the good taste is already in the mirepoix/juice mixture and in the turkey broth
Instructions to make the stuffing
- While the turkey is still in the oven, panfry the onions in the lard or butter until tender (about 10 min)
- Combine the bread, cold or lukewarm stock, the whisked up egg and add the onions, add the parsley, sage, walnuts, salt and pepper and mix well
- Place the mixture in a buttered or oiled cast iron pan and heat up the contents a little so the cold is off. Cover it with parchment paper. Bake the stuffing at 350 F (177 C) for 35 minutes in the still warm oven where the bird was just taken out from.
- If you prepare a smaller turkey, adjust the times as follows: poaching time should be 50 min for a 3 kg bird and add 10 min for each kg extra. Grill smaller birds immediately following the poaching.
- When you have enough time on the day of the dinner, then you can poach the bird on the same day. Take it out of the poaching liquid when the temperature has dropped to around 122-140 F (50-60 C), some 2h after the poach. Then proceed with basting with oil or clarified butter, lightly seasoning the skin.
Stuff the bird with onions and parsley stems. Then place it in the 402 F (250 C) pre-heated oven. You will find the grilling time to be shorter (30-45 min). So is the resting time in the oven after the grilling, as its inner temperature is sufficiently high. It certainly will not negatively affect the succulence!
- After the meal, cut off all remaining meat from the carcass. Place bones and carcass in the poaching liquid. Simmer for about 1 hr and then remove the carcass and bones, scrape off all the cooked meat and discard the bones. The meat can be excellently used for a turkey ragout. Use diced onions, diced mushrooms, the meat, flour and the turkey broth. Freeze remaining turkey broth and use later for soup or sauces!