November 16, 2004

Now What?

Damn me, I seem to have gone and bought a turkey the other day at the store.

Well, I mean, I'm poor. It was $0.79 a pound. That's right: Cheaper than the roasting chicken I was going to buy instead.

Now I've got this bird in the fridge, all nicely defrosted, and I have no idea what to do with it . . . other than I have some fresh sage that I think I can use with it. So do you stuff that in its behind or what? Or I could make an herb butter with it, I suppose. Does thyme go well with turkey? Because I have some of that fresh too.

Stupid, stupid Ilyka. A turkey. It's not like I'm going to be eating one at my parents less than 2 weeks from now, is it?

Blogging will be nonexistent while I learn how to roast a turkey the hard way. Why must I do everything the hard way always?

UPDATE: "Turkey is not the easiest thing to mess up," said Rob, in the comments, and as usual, Rob is right. That bird was gooooood.

Posted by Ilyka at November 16, 2004 05:32 PM in were you going to finish that?

Check out They offer how to on everything from the simple up. They even taught Nin how to make rum balls last Xmas, and till then the only thing she'd ever cooked was taco salad [g] In fact, I found a recipe there last night for caribou that I'm planning to tackle when I get to my parent's place in UT -- assuming I can find a place that ships caribou!

Posted by: Ith at November 16, 2004 06:02 PM

Caribou? Now that's ambitious.

I'm cribbing off of an article on iVillage (I know, iVillage, blech) so far. I took the sage and a stick of unsalted butter and some chardonnay and made a beurre marchand du vin, and for stuffing I've got sausage and stale bread and mushrooms, celery, shallots and, uh, more sage. We'll see. It'll either be terrible or awesome.

Posted by: ilyka at November 16, 2004 07:40 PM

Mmm! Sounds good. Make sure you put some wine in the stuffing. That's my mum's secret turkey thing :) And her stuffing is awesome.

I'm hungry now.

Posted by: Ith at November 16, 2004 07:56 PM

If you're really not up on turkey cooking I'd recommend against the stuffing. Especially sausage. Here's an easy, pleasy cooking method:

Cut up a stick of butter into 'pats'. Stick these under the skin on top of the breast. Rub the skin with garlic and sage. No, wait. Do the rubbing first, otherwise you'll knock the butter pats al over hell and back. Drop another stick of butter inside the turkey's...hole. Unwrap the giblets and stick those back in the hole too. Cook it for 1/2 the expected time with an aluminum foil tent over it, the other 1/2 just out in the open. Baste if you want to. I do, mostly because I get a woody looking at the thing turn golden brown.

The skin is to DIE for. Damn I love turkey skin. I keep asking Lovely Wife to do some extra turkeys so I can skip the meat and just have skin for dinner. So far no luck but I'm nothing if not persistent.

Posted by: Jim at November 16, 2004 08:53 PM

YES! Thyme is great spice for the turkey, goes well with the sage too.

Posted by: Okieminnie at November 16, 2004 09:16 PM

You hush, Jim Peacock! The stuffing's the only portion of this meal I'm supremely confident about, probably because I been snacking on it here and there. You know, to make sure it came out all right. :) Half of it went into the bird, the other half I'll cook on the side. We'll eat the stuff cooked on the side and discard what went into the bird. No salmonella happening in this house, thank you.

Of course, in retrospect, I probably should have hauled ass down to the store and bought ordinary sausage instead of using the hot italian I had in the house already. It's, uh, kind of SPICY stuffing I have here. Good, yes, but definitely different.

And Ith, you gotta dial down the telepathy, because I swear I read your advice about the stuffing RIGHT after I'd decided a little wine could only help matters. Eerie!

Okieminnieme, thanks. I threw some thyme in with the sage in both butter and stuffing so I think it's all good.


Posted by: ilyka at November 16, 2004 09:29 PM

You should always brine a turkey, or any sort of poultry, for that matter. It condenses the proteins or somethingorother that makes the bird moist, moist, moist. Make sure your stuffing is moist, too, and use a cooking bag.

Only way to go. Yum!

Posted by: willow at November 16, 2004 09:36 PM

And use a light hand with the sage. Too much and not only does stuff start to taste soapy, but you'll guarantee yourself a wonderful case of hearburn (or "acid-reflux" if you're being picky).

Posted by: John at November 16, 2004 10:11 PM

Willow: To channel Alton Brown, brining makes the meat moist because the cells desire to be in equilibrium with their surroundings (that is, to be neither less nor more saline than them).

Surrounding the meat with salty water makes them take in salt AND water, flavouring the heck out of the meat and filling it with moist goodness. (The previous link suggests that this is not exactly the mechanism, but it's close enough for cookin'.)

Posted by: Sigivald at November 16, 2004 10:25 PM

Hey Sigivald, did you notice Alton has a blog now? It's linked at left. Cool stuff. I dig him, and I did read about the brining, and oh, I was tempted--but I'm an apartment dweller. Meaning I only got an itty-bitty 20 year-old fridge. No room for a bucket o' brine.

Sometime if I plan ahead a little better, though, maybe.

I'm an hour into it and if the smell is anything to go by, I might have actually pulled this off. Knock wood.

Posted by: ilyka at November 16, 2004 10:42 PM

Sounds like a good explanation to me. But I was thinking of something I'd read in a Cooks Illustrated "Science of Cooking" section - they get all scary into that food chemistry stuff and it's just fascinating. I don't have my back issue at work (imagine that) and I just tried to get to their online version of that article on this page but you need to get a subscription to see the four articles they have about brining. Drat. It's interesting though, if you've a mind to pay for a peek.

Posted by: willow at November 16, 2004 10:47 PM

Oddly enough, I watched Alton's Thanksgiving ep on Sunday and he suggested brining the turkey in a construction site size water cooler. Going to pass that on to my mum, cus it sure lookes easier than how she does it now!

Posted by: Ith at November 17, 2004 12:59 AM

OK, here's my 0.02. When turkey is done, and you have eaten your fill, strip the meat from the bones and throw the bones and unidentifiable meat bits into a stock pot with some celery and onion. Oh, and a carrot or two. Then simmer for 2-3 hr and you have some nice turkey broth to make soup with - a whole other meal.

Posted by: Dr Alice at November 17, 2004 01:22 AM

Got a secret, Ilyka. Turkey is not the easiest thing to mess up. I once put a thawed turkey on my barbecue pit on low heat. I added absolutely nothing to it or on it. No salt, pepper, thyme, butter, sage, etc.....Whenever the smoke got going real good, I turned it off the heat. After about 4 hours, I stuck a thermometer in it to make sure it was hot enough. That turkey was outstanding.

Posted by: Rob at November 17, 2004 02:26 AM

"Turned off the heat", he said.

Posted by: Rob at November 17, 2004 02:27 AM

The oven bag is totally the way to go. Other than that, you seem to know more about cooking a turkey than I do.

Posted by: Erica at November 17, 2004 02:35 AM

I knew nothing! Though I've done chickens before, so that helped.

But you should have seen me staring at this thing after I opened the package initially . . . first of all, it wasn't exactly a Butterball. You don't get Butterball for $0.79 a pound. So they'd stuck in a bag of, God help me, GRAVY MIX, made of every artificial ingredient known to man. They stuck it right there in the turkey's ass. But I didn't read the labeling on the bag right away, so I thought it was the giblets.

Then there was like this plastic dealy all stuck up in there, binding the legs. I had to wrench that out, which wasn't pretty. Then I wasn't sure if maybe I was supposed to leave it but, uh, plastic? Oven? No, probably not supposed to leave it.

But what with the gravy bag confusion I came this close to leaving the organs and giblets in there, IN THE OTHER PLASTIC BAG. The one that wasn't gravy. Here I thought everything had been accounted for, and then I'm washing the damn thing out and oh, what's this?--Another bag? What in the name of corn?

Rob is right, though. It's just not that hard. A lot of work and tedium, yes. But not hard.

Posted by: ilyka at November 17, 2004 06:27 AM

Glad it turned out well for you. It will probably last you until Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Rob at November 18, 2004 03:13 AM