Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Talkin' Turkey

I took many steps this year to become a conscientious eater and cook. Books, websites and joining a CSA inspired me to learn more about where the food I enjoy preparing and savoring comes from and the impact it has on species and our environment. It's been enlightening and delicious so far! I hope you too will take an interest.

Hosting Thanksgiving this year was not as daunting of a task as it sounds. I had a lot of help and time off to prepare in advance. Here's a peek at our menu:

Goat Cheese Crostini with Pear Chutney
White Bean and Cilantro Dip
Sweet and Savory Roasted Nuts
Pear Anise Bubbly

Sage Roasted Red Bourbon Turkey
Herb Gravy
Mom's Famous Stuffing with and without Sausage
Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
Roasted Root Vegetables
Mashed Red Skinned and Yukon Gold Potatoes
Mixed Green and Smoked Gouda Gratin
Cranberry Chutney
Parker House Caraway Rolls
Dad's Delicious Pinot Noir

Dutch Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Homemade Whipped Cream

The turkey came out wonderful! We got a 15 pound Red Bourbon from Griggstown Farm and it was beautiful. Red Bourbons are a heritage breed of domestic turkey named for Bourbon County, Kentucky where it originated in the late 1800's. Here is some more detail from about our bird from http://www.bourbonredturkey.com/:

"The Bourbon Red variety was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1909 and was ambitiously selected and promoted for traits, including a conformation with a heavy breast and richly flavored meat. The Bourbon Red was an important commercial variety through the 1930s and 1940s, however, it declined in popularity as it was unable to compete with the broad breasted varieties. Since 2002, renewed interest in the biological fitness, survivability, and superior flavor of the Bourbon Red has captured consumer interest.
This holiday season, thousands of Americans will forgo their normal Large White commercial turkey to enjoy a different kind of bird. “Heritage” turkeys are enjoying a culinary comeback. Thanks to the joint efforts of breed conservationists, farmers and a movement called Slow Food, demand for heritage turkeys is on the increase, although, it is a unique partnership with consumers that is catapulting heritage turkeys to the attention of food lovers nationwide.
As one of the only domesticated animals to originate in North America, preservation of the rare heritage turkey breeds is like preserving a historical building or rare document. It’s a piece of American history!"
Well said! So, my company's yearly turkey coupon went towards a food pantry donation that included other Thanksgiving fixin's from the grocery store. Isn't that the spirit of giving?
Here is how I prepared my Heritage Bourbon Red:
Sage Butter:
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 T chopped fresh sage
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1 T salt
2 t fresh ground pepper
Mix butter, herbs, salt and pepper together. Roll into a log, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. You can make this several days in advance.

Cavity Aromatics:
2 ribs celery, halved
2 quarters of a red onion
2 lemons, halved
1 bunch fresh herbs such as sage, thyme, parsley
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Remove and save the neck and giblet bag for gravy and stock. Rinse your fresh turkey thoroughly with cold water and dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper the cavity and stuff with your prepared aromatics. Don't over stuff the bird; lay any remaining aromatics on the bottom of your roasting pan.

To use the herb butter, you can soften the log in advance and rub along the outside of the skin before placing in the oven. Alternatively, slice the cold log into 1 1/2-2 inch disks. Gently slide your clean hand (ring-free!) between the skin and muscle of the turkey from front to back and both sides of the breast. This can take some time and may require pulling and pushing, squishing and squashing but it will be hard to tear the skin itself so do the best you can. Don't forget to reach on both sides to loosen the skin around the legs. Take slices of your butter and place evenly under the skin on all sides of your turkey. This method will keep you from having to baste the turkey throughout the roasting process since the butter will keep the meat moist and flavorful. Truss your turkey with kitchen twine and pour some water or stock in the bottom of your roasting pan to keep the underside of the turkey from drying out. Place in the preheated oven until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh reads 160. Let rest for 20 minutes before carving and enjoy!