Turkeys - Let's talk cooking techniques
Cooking a turkey is like traveling. There is no wrong way to get there. All roads lead somewhere, so some routes just take longer and may be more frustrating.
What I'm saying is don't be intimidated by cooking a fresh turkey. It's like a big chicken. Here are some quick ramblings on cooking a turkey. For further details, see the Thanksgiving Recipe Guide listed below, starting at page 7.
Brine vs No Brine
Brining seems to be the big trend the last several years. I like to think of it as a form of insurance on your turkey. The brine uses salt and/or acid to change the structure of proteins in the turkey. The change makes it easier for them to lock in moisture and prevent you from drying out the bird.
But a brine isn't always necessary. In fact, with good quality birds, it is almost unnecessary. In fact, I won't be brining this week simply because I won't have time.
Roasting the Turkey
If you are worried about drying out your turkey, consider cooking it covered. This probably sounds sacrilegious, but it is a technique that works. When we were doing the Thanksgiving Beer Dinner earlier this month, I had to cook 4 turkeys at exactly the same time in 4 different ovens at 4 different locations a few miles apart. Yeah, no stress there when you need to serve them to 100 paying customers later that night!
So I started by brining my birds in my standard brine (listed in the Thanksgiving Recipe Guide). My brine is more like a pickle solution as it is high in vinegar. It has worked well for me so I don't change it. I brined for 12 hours. I then let the birds rest, uncovered, in the refrigerator to dry out the skin and help the skin form a protein called pellicle.
For each turkey, I placed it on a rack in a roasting pan. In the bottom of the pan I placed carrots, quartered onions, some celery, and about a half inch of apple cider (maybe a quart depending on size of the pan). Inside the bird, I placed a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage, as well as some more carrots, onions, and celery. I removed the neck from the cavity and reserved it for stock. I poured melted butter over the skin and liberally seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper.
I then cooked all 4 turkeys (all 22 lb birds) differently and achieved similar results.
Turkey 1: I could watch this one more closely. I started it high at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until the skin started to brown. I backed the temperature down to 300 and roasted for another 4 hours until an internal temperature of 155 was achieved in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. I removed from the oven, covered in foil, and allowed to rest for 30 minutes.
Turkey 2: I started high at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. I couldn't watch this one as closely so I then covered it in foil and baked for about 3 hours at 350. Same temperature readings desired.
Turkey 3 and 4: I couldn't watch these at all, so I started them with the roasting pan and turkey completely covered tightly in aluminum foil. I placed the birds in a 395 degree oven and cooked for 3.5 hours. I removed and let them rest for an hour before opening again. I then threw them back in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes, uncovered, to add color to the skin and take them all the way up to 160 degrees. I removed them and let them rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Thanksgiving Recipe Guide
We have compiled over the last few years a lengthy document about Thanksgiving with dozens of recipes. This year's updated version is at the link below. Notable additions include:
- Alternative Turkey Cooking Techniques: pg 11, including stuffed turkey leg and thigh, smoked and confit turkey leg and wing, and turkey porchetta
- Squash: pg 26. Butternut squash and bacon soup
- Veggies: pg 18. Roast Brussel Sprouts and Brandy Glazed Carrots
- Pie Crusts: pg 29. Parker developed a new buttery whole wheat pie crust that is fantastic.
Thanksgiving Recipe Guide Click Here
There are two ways to get extras this week. The best way to guarantee availability is to order ahead of time at http://csalogin.freshforkmarket.com.
Also, we do sell at the back of the truck and accept cash, check, and credit card.
Our Staff Picks for Thanksgiving:
Whole Wheat Bread: The girls at Wholesome Valley Farm really put a lot of love into this bread. They grind the wheat berries fresh as they make the dough. This locks in flavor and nutrients. The yeast is then fed with local honey and the breads are baked. Each loaf is about 24 oz and is $5 per loaf. This is Parker's preferred bread for stuffing/dressing.
Any Pie: OK, let's be honest. Lauren, Kyle, and I keep an emergency pie eating kit in our delivery truck. Diane at Humble Pie makes some awesome pies and this year we should have a few extra at the back of the truck. No guarantee yet on what will be available. It depends on how many she can crank out tonight. We should also have some extra pies from Chefs Parker and Adam. They are baking today with 6 Amish girls at Wholesome Valley Farm to make our sweet potato pie.
Apple Cider: I find it a very universal cooking ingredient, particularly for a splash of moisture for braising greens, to add moisture and flavor to dressing, and for a little steam while cooking your turkey (which also adds a nice note to the resulting gravy). $4
Extra Carrots. You can never have too many cooked with your turkey, braising in the pan drippings, or steamed and served on the side with a little salt and butter. $2 per 1# bag.
Pork Sausages and Bacon. OK, Thanksgiving is once per year. Why not kick up your dressing with a little italian sausage or bring a smokey note to a nice roast butternut squash puree or soup with some bacon? We'll try to have a good selection at the back of the truck but please preorder if possible.
Turnips: OK, it's just Parker, Adam, and I that love these. Turnips are a great root vegetable for a roast vegetable hash (with some brussel sprouts, carrots, and even pumpkin/squash) or to mash with your potatoes or to make a gratin. See recipes below. 3# bag of turnips from right here in Cleveland (E55th and St Clair ave, an urban farm) for $5.
Eggs: $3.50 per dozen or 2 for $6. From pasture raised (beyond free range) hens fed non-gmo grain diet to supplement pasture.
Grass Grazed Butter: $8 for 2# roll, salted and unsalted
Grass Grazed Milk: $3.50 per half gal Gurnsey whole milk, $4.25 or 2 for $8 Snowville (skim, 2%, and whole)
Flours and Oats: Organic, whole wheat flour, golden white flours (some bran removed) for baking, and rolled oats. $3 per 2# bag.
Pope's Kitchen Cranberry Sauce. A hand crafted cranberry sauce sold in a 16 oz container. Only 50 available. $6.50 per container.
Sweet Potato Pie with Buttered Crumb Topping and Homemade Caramel and Candied Black Walnuts. Not sure if we'll have extra available yet or not. It depends how much filling the potatoes yield. But if we do, it is a hyper-local pie, including golden white pastry flour in the crust and oats in the crumb topping, grown only 10 miles away from the farm. Butter, eggs, and milk directly from the farm (Wholesome Valley Farm). Black walnuts from Homerville and a homemade dolce (caramel drizzle) made from goats milk from only a few miles away. The sweet potatoes are also from Homerville. 9 inch pie for $18.
Orders can be placed online by MONDAY at midnight at http://csalogin.freshforkmarket.com
Pie Pumpkin Substitution
This year the pie pumpkins didn't store as well as past years. We couldn't find a good supply of quality pie pumpkins. As a result, we decided to substitute to provide you the best possible option.
About half of the packages have a blue hubbard squsah in it and half have a butternut squash in it. See below for recipes for both. The best part is that these squash are more versatile and better keepers than the pie pumpkin. They are great for vegetable hash, risotto, soup, and pies. Yes, the flesh of either squash can be substituted for pumpkin puree in any pumpkin pie recipe.
The hubbard cuts more like a pumpkin. It has an skin that isn't as smooth as a butternut and a shape not as fleshy. The seed cavity runs throughout.
I would cut this one in half across the middle, not from stem to stem as that would be more difficult.
Scoop out the seeds and cook one of two ways:
1) Roast open side down on a sheet tray until tender. Scoop out the flesh once it cools.
2) Cut the hubbard into smaller pieces (but still large enough that it makes peeling the skin easier later). Place them in a pressure cooker with a couple cups of water and cook for 15 minutes (once it hits pressure). Let the pot cool and remove the lid. Peel the skin off easily and strain the flesh. Squeeze the flesh through a screen or cheesecloth to remove excess moisture.
This squash is sometimes difficult to cut because of the shape. Here are some suggestions as demonstrated in the photos.
First, cut the squash between the neck and the bulb. Next, trim the stem end and butt end to create flat surfaces. This makes them safer to cut through.
With the squash placed on the flat end, cut down through the middle of the bulb to expose the seed cavity. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. For the neck, stand on end and cut carefully down through the middle, rocking the knife to keep it moving.
You now have two portions of neck and two portions of bulb, which will cook at different speeds due to the thickness. Roast skin up on a sheet tray at 350 degrees or covered on a sheet tray with a little water to create steam. Another option is to wrap in foil like a baked potato. Cook until very soft. Allow the squash to cool and scoop out the flesh.
Alternatively, you can peel the squash with a vegetable peeler and then cube the flesh to be roasted in a vegetable hash or used in risotto.