Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey

Last year my sister was in Denmark and she wrote me to email her the recipe on how to make a Thanksgiving dinner. She wanted to show her host family a traditional dinner. Here is what I send her with some new tricks I learned last Thanksgiving. Every year I learn new ways to improve.



  • 1 turkey, approx. 15 lbs.*
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • Tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • Parsley
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme

[* Need help figuring out how big a turkey to get? Butterball has a turkey calculator that helps you figure out just how many pounds you need. In general, plan for:

12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people
15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people]


1 First defrost the turkey, if it is frozen, you will need to defrost it in the refrigerator for several days first. Allow approximately 5 hours of defrosting for every pound. So, if you have a 15 pound turkey, it will take about 75 hours to defrost it in the refrigerator, or around 3 days. Then the night before, first remove the neck and giblets (heart, gizzard, liver). Place the turkey in orange juice, coke, and rose wine, and spices (anything that the family likes).Place in the refrigerator over night.

The next day place the turkey outside and make sure it is room temperature.

*Handle a raw turkey with the same amount of caution as when you handle raw chicken - use a separate cutting board and utensils to avoid contaminating other foods. Wash you hands with soap before touching anything else in the kitchen. Use paper towels to clean up.*

2 Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

3 Drain out the turkey of the brine (orange juice and stuff). Pull out any remaining feather stubs in the turkey skin. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Lather the inside of the cavity with the juice of half a lemon and then cover the turkey with butter, making small holes on the skin so the butter is inside the skin. Take a small handful of salt and rub all over the inside of the turkey.

4 In this method of cooking a turkey, we don't make the stuffing in the turkey because doing so adds too much to the cooking time. For flavor, put in inside the turkey a half a yellow onion, peeled and quartered, a bunch of parsley, a couple of carrots, and some tops and bottoms of celery. Close up the turkey cavity with either string (not nylon string!) or metal skewers. Make sure that the turkey's legs are tied together, held close to the body, and tie a string around the turkey body to hold the wings in close.

The neck cavity can be stuffed with parsley and tied closed with thin skewers and string.

5 Rub either melted butter or olive oil all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle salt generously all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle black pepper over the turkey.

6 Place turkey BREAST DOWN (very important to have a juicy trukey) on the bottom of a rack over a sturdy roasting pan big enough to catch all the drippings. Cooking the turkey breast down means the skin over the breast will not get so brown. However, all of the juices from the cooking turkey will fall down into the breast while cooking. And the resulting bird will have the most succulent turkey breast imaginable.

Add several sprigs of fresh (if possible) thyme and rosemary to the outside of the turkey.

7 Chop up the turkey giblets (gizzard, heart, liver). Put into a small saucepan, cover with water, and add salt. Bring to simmer for an hour or so to help make stock for the stuffing

8 Put the turkey in the oven. Check the cooking directions on the turkey packaging.

-recommended cooking time of about 15 minutes for every pound.

For example for the 15 lb turkey, start the cooking at 400 F for the first 1/2 hour. Then reduce the heat to 350 F for the next 2 hours. Then reduce the heat further to 225 F for the next hour to hour and a half.

If you want the breast to be browned as well, you can turn over the bird for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking, at an oven temp of 300°F. (Oven must be at least 250°F for browning to occur.)

Start taking temperature readings with a meat thermometer, by inserting deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh, a half hour before the turkey should be done. The dark meat in the thigh should be about 175 F. The white meat in the breast should be 160 F to 165 F. If you don't have a meat thermometer, spear the breast with a knife. The turkey juices should be clear, not pink.

9 Once you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Turn the turkey breast side up to carve it.



  • 1 Onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 potatoes
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • Turkey stock (cook the gizzard and the neck in 4 cups of water with a little bit of salt, in medium heat, for 30 minutes)

For the stuffing, it there is no box for stuffing bread, then you need a day old French bread. You can cut it into small dices. Then you can cut into tiny cubes, celery, potatoes, onion and carrot. Steamed cook these vegetables, and then when the potatoes are soft, place them in with the diced bread in a small baking pan. Put enough turkey stock to cover half of the bread and vegetables. Cover, and bake for 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees F.

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