This year turkey day was a bit unusual for Jonathan and I because instead of traveling and enjoying a meal at one of our family's houses, we decided to host dinner...not only for our immediate families but for twenty-two people! I was a little bit nervous since I had never cooked a whole turkey before. And with my crazy travel schedule for work I didn't have time to do a trial run. So, after looking at a ton of turkey recipes, I decided to bite the bullet and experiment on our company. I suppose being brave in the kitchen can be a good thing as long as you have a back-up plan (we also prepared a ham just in case...).
The recipe I ended up using is more of a technique than an actual recipe and I discovered it in an old issue of the LA Times. Basically the article describes Judy Rogers' method for roasting turkey which is pretty similar to a trick she uses for her famous Zuni roasted chicken. Since I've made her chicken before and the dry rub technique so far has been pretty fool-proof, I decided this was the safest technique to attempt on my company. And I was not disappointed. The vote's in and the results were awesome - a moist, wonderful turkey and I did it on the first try - on two birds! Thank you Judy Rogers!
Luckily I did have some help over the weekend with Jonathan and my family bringing many of the side dishes - things like fluffy and sinfully delicious cinnamon rolls, sweet, salty and tangy broccoli salad, flaky, buttery crusted pecan and apple pies, creamy mashed potatoes, crisp green beans, steaming sweet potatoes with a crunchy sweet topping and a simple lettuce salad. We definitely had more than enough food to feed twenty-two and then some. So in the end, I felt like what I was responsible for wasn't unreasonable since all I had to do was reheat the ham, brine and cook two turkeys, prepare and bake the stuffing and, of course, make the cranberries.
I talked about the perfect turkey but the other thing that received rave reviews was the cranberry chutney. The recipe I selected is an unusually spiced combination of cranberries, pistachios, golden raisins, dried apricots, mustard, cinnamon and ginger. The surprise ingredient, ginger, gives the entire dish a nice bit of heat to go along with some sweetness and tang. So in other words, it's a true treat for your tastebuds. And, BTW, it's great on toast or pumpkin pancakes the day after.
You'll find the recipes for my turkey and cranberries below. And who knows, maybe you'll find some inspiration from them and want to experiment with these on your next holiday crowd too. Let me know if you do :)
- 2, 12-oz bags of cranberries
- 3 c sugar
- 2 whole, medium tangerines, diced (DO NOT PEEL but remove any seeds) (MM tip: If substituting, pick an orange that has a thinner peel to avoid some of the bitter white pith)
- 1/2 c jumbo golden raisins
- 1/2 c toasted, shelled pistachios
- 10 dried apricots, finely chopped
- 2 T freshly grated peeled ginger
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1 t dry mustard
- 1 t salt
- Cook all ingredients in a non-reactive pan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.
- Increase heat to a boil and cook until cranberries pop (takes about 3 minutes)
- Cool and refrigerate - the chutney will keep up to 6 months in fridge if you keep it tightly covered
- 12-16 lb turkey (MM Tip: Fresh is best but if buying frozen, look for one that does not have much solution/salt added)
- Smoked Salt (MM Comment: Can also use kosher salt but I think smoked gives the turkey more depth in flavor and a sense that it was cooked in a brick oven instead of a regular stove. You can also experiment with other flavored salts too)
- DAYS 1 & 2
- Wash the turkey inside and out and pat dry
- Measure out 1 Tb of salt for every 5 lbs of turkey
- Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt and then rub the remaining salt all over the outside of the body
- Place the salted turkey in a plastic bag (MM Tip: I used kitchen size garbage bags but you can also use 2 gallon sealable bags if you can find them) and wrap/seal tightly, placing the turkey breast-side up in the in the refrigerator
- Chill the salted bird for 2 days
- DAY 3
- Turn the turkey on to its breast and chill for one more day
- Day 4
- Remove turkey from the bag and place breast-side up on a plate, refrigerating uncovered for at least 8 hours
- Day 5 - THANKSGIVING
- Remove from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for around 1 hour
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Place the turkey breast-side down on the roasting rack in a roasting pan and place in the oven (MM Comment: I was able to fit two, 14 lb birds into one large roasting pan. I recommend cooking the turkeys unstuffed to ensure proper temperatures and cooking times)
- After 30 minutes, remove pan from the oven and carefully turn the turkey over so breast is facing up (MM Tip: I recommend using silicone oven mits to do this)
- Reduce oven temperature to 325, return turkey to oven and roast until the temperature in the thigh reads 165 (~2 3/4 hours of total cooking time)
- Let turkey stand for 30 minutes prior to cutting to allow the juices to redistribute