Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Gameplan, Day 2

The results can be found here.

Part I, with the bulk of the cooking lineup is here... so this will be a short post just about getting the turkey, dressing, and gravy all onto the table on Thanksgiving Day, with a pumpkin pie for desert. If you followed Part I, cooking up a storm the day/night before, there isn't a whole lot to do on the actual day... unless of course you have responsibility for other sides like mashed potatoes and whatnot... luckily for me, Anna does all that stuff, though I will most likely be lending a hand.

Thursday November 27th, 2008
Dinner, T-minus 2-2 1/2 hours: High Roasting the Turkey
At 450 degrees, the turkey takes about 80-100 minutes to reach 165 degrees at the thickest part of the breast. Obviously, that time is plus or minus, though much more likely "plus"... but I've found myself in that range both of the other times I've made it. You also need to let the turkey rest at least 20 minutes before carving, so that's where the 2-2 1/2 hour time frame comes from.

Also, you really need an instant read thermometer for this... which you should own for any poultry you cook... those pop up things are rubbish. If you don't mind spending a little more money, I like the ones that have remote probes and sit outside the oven... though I've learned you have to be kind of careful with the probes, as I've had one die on me (though it got pretty heavy use and lasted 2 years) so I'd recommend buying it at a local cooking shop that you know sells replacement probes as well. The main reason I prefer it to the hand held models is that you don't have to open the oven, lowering the temperature, and increasing the cooking time... just stick the probe in the thickest part of the breast and forget about it until it's done... or if you're an OCD cook like me, you can check the readout every 15 minutes instead of peeking in the oven. You'll still need to check a couple of different spots when you take it out, to really be sure it's done, but I find using the remote probe and then poking it a couple of times makes me a more relaxed cook. When you take it out to check for final done-ness, this is what Cook's Illustrated suggests:
The tendency when inserting a thermometer straight down into the meat (which is not even 2 inches thick) is to push it down too far or not far enough. For this reason, we prefer to insert the thermometer horizontally from the top (neck) end down the length of the breast. The idea is to insert the thermometer well into the meat, then slowly withdraw it, looking for the lowest temperature that registers.

If you're taking the temperature of the breast on a whole chicken, aim for the meat just above the bone by inserting the thermometer low into the thickness of the breast. Because the cavity slows the cooking, the coolest spot sits just above the bone (which is a poor conductor of heat).
So that's the plan for me. To start, I'll insert the remote probe from the neck end and keep it near the bone and put it fairly deep in. I'll set the temp alarm for 165. When I take the turkey out, I'll check the temp as I slowly pull the thermometer out... to make sure it's done all along the breast bone. I may check the other breast as well, since I don't particularly want salmonella. I'll check the thighs too, of course, but I'm pretty confident that the butterflying will save me there (though you obviously always want to be sure). The uncertainties with cooking poultry are one of the big reasons to brine, as it gives you a bigger temperature window of moist meat... so I can err on the side of caution and not end up with dried out meat (hopefully).

Anyway, on to the turkey cooking...

You'll need one ingredient for this step (besides the prepped turkey):
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position, and set the oven at 450 degrees. Remove the broiler top with the turkey, and discard the foil covering the roasting pan. Replace the broiler top and turkey.
  2. Brush the turkey with the melted butter, and place the entire assembly in the oven.
  3. Rotate the roasting pan 180 degrees (back to front) 40 minutes in.
  4. The turkey will be done, after anywhere from 80-100 minutes of roasting (total), when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees and 175 when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
  5. Remove the broiler top to a cutting board so the turkey can rest for 20 minutes. Move an oven rack to the upper middle position and return the roasting pan with the stuffing to the oven, and bake until golden brown - 10 minutes. Cool the dressing 5 minutes and serve.

Dinner, T-minus 15-30 minutes: Finish the gravy
Technically, it's not really gravy at this point... despite all the work from the previous night, it's just "stock"... so you'll need the stock with it's congealed turkey fat on top out of the refrigerator plus:
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  1. If you have a fat separator, and were smart enough to refrigerate your stock in it the night before, pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a medium saucepan... leaving the congealed fat behind. Otherwise, spoon off the fat with a large soup spoon and reserve it (you'll need it for the roux) before likewise pouring the stock through a fine mesh strainer into the saucepan.
  2. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium high heat.
  3. In a second saucepan heat 4 tablespoons of the reserved turkey fat over medium high heat until bubbling. Whisk in the flour, whisking constantly, until it is combined and turns honey colored. About 2 minutes. Continuing to whisk constantly, gradually pour in the hot stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened... about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the turkey.
I'll warn you that if you've never done a roux before, this is probably the trickiest part of the whole meal... you might want a backup jar of gravy, just in case you end up with a clumpy mess... but I've managed to make decent gravy(though admittedly, now that I have more experience it's become much better), so I think that probably means anyone can.


So there you have it. I'll take some pictures and make some notes, if I can, and report back how it went (especially the pie) on Monday.