Have fun - Preparing the perfect turkey from start to finish

Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner is now easy task and I am sure the Harvest of 1641 was no exception for the Plymouth Pilgrim Colony. You think you have your work cut out for you, they had 90 Indians show up and the feast lasted three days. There are many things that you need to know about preparing a large feast even you are only have 9 Indians show up at your house.

You will first need to decide all the side dishes and number of people so you have enough and it is best to error on the side of too much rather than running out. You do not want to get scalped by any of your guests, additionally if they bring some food to the meal such as the Indians did at the Harvest Feast which was essentially the model for the Thanksgiving Holiday, then you need to make sure they do not forget. By the way the Indians brought venison to the first feast.

One of the most important things to remember when cooking a turkey is that frozen turkeys can take up to twenty four or more hours to thaw out. So you really have to have the cooking time, plus the thaw out time figured out correctly. Also if you have some little kids and you are going to put them at a different table, you might consider paper plates. It saves of the wrinkled fingers doing all those dishes and it really does help prevent breakage. Please be thinking about a strategy in serving your Thanksgiving dinner, write it all down and have a plan.

Preparing the perfect turkey from start to finish

By Ken Rubin (England)

President Truman wasn't just being optimistic when he said: "We should all get together and make a country in which everybody can eat turkey whenever he pleases"-he was foreseeing the future. As a nation, our annual per capita consumption of this bird has gone up dramatically in the last 30 years, from under 8 pounds in 1970 to almost 25 pounds today. Turkey has also gone upscale, with many varieties available for sale and even new cuts (such as turkey "tenderloin" and "scaloppine") that appeal to consumers who want a quick and easy dinner. What's more is that we now eat turkey outside of the "holiday season" and today's turkey transcends the dry, tough bird that you may remember growing up with.

Our national admiration for turkey can be traced to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote a letter in 1784 proclaiming: "I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country...the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America." Archeologists believe that turkeys were domesticated in south-central Mexico at least 2000 years ago.

The turkey has been featured at the center of quintessential holiday table for the last 200 years; it symbolizes Thanksgiving. This step-by-step guide will take you along on your quest to create the perfect turkey for you and your loved ones to enjoy.

Preparation and Seasoning

Preparation begins by choosing a turkey that will large enough to feed your guests. There are many options to choose from, including "free-range" birds and a number of heritage varieties that tend to have a deeper flavor and a greater proportion of dark meat when compared to the more contemporary hybrids.

Turkey cooking aficionados all agree that the greatest challenge to cooking a turkey lies in the fact that light meat and dark meat are best prepared when cooked to different temperatures. The light meat (such as the breast) is perfectly juicy and done at 155F to 160F, while the dark meat (such as the thigh) typically requires temperatures of 170F-180F to become fully tender.

One way to level the playing field is to soak the entire turkey in brine overnight. Brine is simply a solution made from salt, water, sugar and sometimes other seasonings such as herbs, spices, and fruit juices. Brining ensures that meat will stay firm and moist during the cooking process by hydrating the cells of the muscle tissue (through osmosis and diffusion) before cooking. Brining also denatures the protein, which speeds up the overall process of cooking since this chemical process essentially jump-starts the transformation from raw to cooked. After brining, the turkey will be ready for seasoning before being roasted to perfection.

Basic Brine

2 cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 gallon water (warm)
1 1/2 gallons water (cold)

In a clean 5 gallon bucket, combine the salt and sugar with warm water and stir to dissolve. Add cold water and mix to incorporate. Add the fresh or thawed turkey to this solution and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Reserve the neck and giblet for roasting the following day. Once the turkey is brined, remove the bird from the brine solution, rinse it inside and out with cold water, and place it "breast-side up" in the roasting pan. Pat the dry with paper towels, being sure to remove as much moisture on the skin as possible. Discard brine. Note: Do not brine a kosher or so-called "self-basting" turkey that has been injected with a salt solution.

Seasoning Mix

2 T. canola oil
2-3 T. paprika
1 T. black pepper
Sprigs of fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary, and marjoram
1 orange, quartered

Mix the oil with the dry spices and liberally slather over the turkey and inside the cavity. Place the herb sprigs and quartered orange inside the cavity. Next, tuck the wing tips under the turkey to prevent burning and simply tie the legs together with butchers twine. Add the reserved giblets and neck to the roasting pan--this will add flavor to the drippings.

Cooking

Once your turkey is brined, rinsed, dried, and seasoned--you are ready to begin the cooking process. The turkey will benefit from being roasted initially in a very hot oven to help develop some color on the skin.

Begin by placing the turkey in a 450F preheated oven. Roast for 30 minutes until a golden color begins to develop. Turn the oven down to 350F and place a piece of aluminum foil over the breast to prevent it from becoming too dark. Roast the turkey until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 155-160F --approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours (depending on the turkey's exact weight and the accuracy of your oven). A good kitchen thermometer is an essential tool for this part of the process.

It is very important that, once cooked, the turkey is removed from the roasting pan and has a chance to "rest" for 20-30 minutes before carving. This will help retain moisture in the meat and ensure that you have ample time to heat the side dishes and prepare the gravy.

Gravy

1/2 cup dry white wine, stock, or water
3 to 4 cups pan drippings-strained (add chicken stock if necessary)
1/3 cup turkey fat (reserved from drippings)
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper as needed

Skim all of the fat from pan juices, reserving cup of the fat and discarding the rest. A device called a "gravy separator" works well for this. Next, deglaze the roasting pan with 1/2 cup white wine or water over medium heat, scraping up the brown bits. Bring this liquid to a boil. In a saucepan, whisk together the reserved fat and flour to make a roux. Continue to cook over medium heat for 2 minutes until smooth. Add white wine mixture and strained drippings in a stream and simmer for 5 minutes--whisking to prevent any lumps. Taste the gravy and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

Article from: www.businessday.co.za