Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bone that Turkey, Roll that Tom, The Thanksgiving alternative

This a post I originally presented last Thanksgiving.  I've added some detail and photos.  

If you are cooking a turkey Thursday, you are starting to get turkey worried.  It's part of Thanksgiving. Turkey is a problem.  Turkeys are large, cumbersome, and challenging to cook.  Add this to the fact that we serve them on the most celebrated meal of the year, and we have a serious problem.  And if that is not enough of an issue, all iconic images of roast turkey show a crisp, brown twenty-pounder brought to the table on a giant platter to be carved and served medieval style.  IF you want avoid all of these issues read on! 

The turkey problem starts with fitting it in the oven and then getting it cooked without drying out.  One way to solve this problem is to get a bigger oven, but it may be more practical to make the turkey smaller.  At our house, we have a very small oven and have to make it fit the turkey. (OR!!!! Down below I'll tell you about turkey ala GRILL!)
The way I make the turkey fit is to take the bones out so the meat is more compact -- it will cook more evenly and in a shorter time.  Boning the turkey can eliminate both the problem of fitting in the oven and cooking evenly.  And oh yes, a boned turkey is so easy to carve! You can impress your guests with your carving skill and cooking!
It goes something like this:  First remove the first two sections of each wing – save them for stock making.  

Turn the bird breast down and with a sharp boning knife cut along the spine and start filleting the meat away from the rib cage.  The intent is to remove the bone from inside the meat leaving the meat attached to the skin.  When you reach the thigh joint, separate the hip joint and work the knife along the thighbone to remove the meat.
Here you have to make a decision whether to remove the leg bone (the drumstick) or leave it in (attached to the meat).  Recently, I did a turkey like this and left the leg bone in and it went very well.  Read the rest of this to decide which you will try.
Boned with drumsticks
If you are removing the leg bones, continue as you did the with the thigh but you will encounter some bone-like tendons that must be cut away or pulled out with pliers.  Working from the inside, remove the remaining wing bone.  You will now have a sloppy slab of meat with skin on one side.   Rub the meat with seasoning; salt, pepper, sage and rosemary are a good choice.  Some people like to add olive oil or butter to the surface the meat, but I don't. There are three ways to proceed now: rolled and tied; stuffed, rolled, and tied; or flattened.  
A rolled and tied turkey is rolled, skin side out and tied with butcher’s twine into something that looks like a loaf of bread. This will firm up while roasting and slice like a beef or pork roast. A rolled, stuffed, and tied turkey is done the same way except that bread stuffing is prepared and wrapped in the center of your turkey, rolled, and then tied. Try to completely cover the meat with skin when rolling and tying to keep moisture in. Some wooden skewers might be handy for bringing the roll together.  The easiest way to handle the turkey is the third way, which I call flattened.  Boned and seasoned, the turkey is placed meat-side down in a roasting pan and sides pushed in so the meat is slightly mounded.  This works well if you want to leave the legs on.  When I use this technique I like to put a good layer of stuffing in the bottom of the pan and then
the turkey on top, or chunk up carrot, celery, and onion to lie under the bird for a richer gravy.
All three techniques are cooked the same way.  Rub the seasons on the skin (with a little butter or oil if you want).  Cover with foil and cook at 300-325 until done 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove the foil about 1/2 through for browning. 

Plan B — there is always a plan B: 
If this seems like entirely too much work.  Cut the turkey into quarters.  To do this, split the bird down the back, lay it skin side down and split the breast so you have two identical halves.  Then cut each thigh and leg away from the breast.   Season each section and roast in a pan skin-side up.  You may want to cut the breast meat away from the bone but that's a personal choice.  If you cover the bottom of your pan with chunks of carrot, celery, and onion and lay the meat on those to roast, you will have a good base for gravy or stock.
Note!  The breast will probably be cooked before the legs so pull them out early.  

Stock for gravy:  
If you bone your turkey, you can use the bones for a nice stock.  To make stock, season and roast the bones thirty to forty minutes then simmer them in water and vegetable trimmings for 4-6 hours.  Strain stock and skim the fat to get a rich stock for gravy.  Save that fat and the fat from the roasting pan too.  
We'll do gravy next —stay tuned!  Here;s the gravy link: Turkey Gravy better than Mom's

Speed up the stock process with a pressure cooker and make the stock in 30 minutes.    

 AS Promised.  Turkey on the grill
So, you want to try cooking your turkey on the grill. If you have the common grill with a hood, whether charcoal or propane.  It can work great and free up the oven for other things.  Use indirect heat and a mild wood for flavor.  I recommend roasting in a foil pan or get an old roaster that you dedicate to the grill. Have plenty of foil to cover the turkey after it browns. Monitor it with a thermometer and really, just think of the BBQ as an outdoor oven.  Low and slow! 

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