Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Tips from NYC Cooks

High Roast Turkey
We're almost down to two weeks before Turkey Day, so these kind of tips and features will only become more common (and presumably tiresome - if you're not tired already) over the coming days, but I liked some of the quotes in this Sam Sifton piece:
Lesson No. 1 in preparing food for the holiday, chefs say: Cut up the bird before cooking. Abandon the Norman Rockwell ideal of serving a whole turkey in its golden-roasted splendor. If your bird looks like that, Mr. Flay said: “Something’s wrong. Something’s either overcooked or undercooked.” To achieve the correct balance, he said: “I roast the meat until the breasts are done, and then cut off the legs and thighs. The breasts can rest, and you can cook off the legs in the drippings left in the pan.”

Marc Murphy, the chef and an owner of the Landmarc restaurants in Manhattan, roasts turkey breasts in one oven while braising the legs in another. Mr. Carmellini agreed with this method. “You have to break these birds down,” he said. “It is literally the only way to get both the white meat and the dark meat done perfectly.”
I'm no trained chef or turkey expert... having cooked Thanksgiving turkey all of three times... but every time I have done it, I've followed the above advice and been quite pleased. In my case, I've always spatchcocked/butterflied a whole bird, which achieves similar ends as cooking pieces separately by breaking down the vaulted chest cavity... but I think still gives you a pretty presentation. Otherwise it seems to me that cooking a turkey breast and/or braising turkey legs (for dark meat lovers) would be a really good way to go... and is probably what I'll do this year, since it allows me to make a smaller portion as the solo omnivore. While the linked Torrisi Turkey recipe is interesting, at this point I'm still thinking I'll do the Saveur/Rick Bayless Turkey in Mole Poblano... both are non-traditional and don't involve roasting a whole bird, but I really love the complexity of mole. If you'd rather break down a whole turkey instead of going with just the breast, Saveur also had another recipe that looked pretty good and should get everything cooked perfectly.


  1. I did the turkey on my big green egg (smoker) last year. You can definitely do a whole bird correctly if you're willing to wait hours and hours at low temp.

  2. Yeah, I expect it would work very well... though my experience with smoking is nil. Do you need to glaze it for the skin to come out nice and crisp, or is there something about the type of heat in a smoker that does it for you? Every picture of a smoked bird I've seen has had beautiful color that you wouldn't get if you just roasted it in the oven at the same temp.

  3. If I remember correctly (and I do need to go back and check it out), there was a fairly regular basting. Nothing fancy, just made a bundle of aromatics and used that to sop some melted butter on it periodically.