Perfectly Roasted Turkey (How to)

Roasting a turkey for the holidays seems to be a point of confusion for many people. How do you keep it from drying out? How long do you cook it? What temperature? What about stuffing? For some reason, cooking a turkey for the holidays tends to be more stressful than anything else when it can literally be the easiest part of the big dinner. Hopefully this post will help to shed light on making the best possible turkey to really steal the show.

Step 1; Buy a good quality turkey.

Purchase a good quality turkey that ideally hasn’t been previously frozen, not because fresh is necessarily better quality, but it gets rid of the hassle of having to thaw it. Supporting your local farmer would be best, but if unable and you have to go to the market, take some time to see what’s available and don’t just buy the cheapest one you find. In looking at the packaging, try to find one that does not contain the standard 3% extra retained water/ fluid from injected flavoring or broth. I personally don’t feel that they come out as well.

Step 2; Brine. –Essential!

Thaw over the course of a day or two (if frozen), and then submerge in a flavorful brine for 8-12 hours and refrigerate. Click here for a great brine recipe!

Step 3; Temper and dry.

After 8-12 hours in the brine, remove, pat dry, and let sit out on the counter at room temperature for about 90 minutes so that the turkey approaches room temperature.

Step 4; Cook.

Set the oven to 500 degrees. Tie the ends of the legs together with butchers string, and fold the tips of the wings back behind the turkey. Using a shallow roasting pan, set the turkey preferably on a roasting rack inside the pan to allow the heat to circulate under the bird.  Once the oven has reached 500 degrees, put the turkey in. If not using a convection oven, be sure to turn the turkey around every half hour or so.  After 30 minutes, drop the oven temperature down to 450 degrees. Depending on the size of the bird, cooking should only take 90 minutes to two hours. Using a meat thermometer, insert probe between the breast and the thigh aiming for the thickest point of the thigh, close to the bone. Remove from oven when the internal temperature reads 155 degrees. Once out of the oven, let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. During this time, the internal temperature will carryover to at least 165 degrees.

I know what you’re thinking; “What about the stuffing?!”

I prefer to make a dressing rather than a stuffing mostly because the stuffing will increase the cooking time, and create a lot of extra moisture in the oven in a case where we prefer dry heat. Dressing is the same thing as stuffing, just that it’s not cooked inside of the bird.

“But, that’s where all the flavor comes from!”

Sure, you may lose a little bit of turkey flavor in your stuffing but you should be including the turkey giblets, trimmings and such in your dressing anyway. Remember, the dressing is to compliment the turkey, so do an awesome job on the turkey!

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Whole Roasted Scup (Porgy)

Scup, or porgy is a small, saltwater “panfish”. It’s not necessarily sought after like the famous striped bass here in the northeast, and most people I know don’t particularly go fishing for scup as their primary focus. Having spent so much time dedicating my life to cooking years ago, restaurant menus often contain the recognizable fish such as swordfish, tuna, halibut, etc. Yet, you’d be hard pressed to find scup on a menu unless you go to a restaurant worth going to, in my humble opinion. I tend to gravitate toward more of a rustic style of cooking, as I am more interested in the history of cultural cuisine and it doesn’t get much more rustic than whole roasted fish! Preparation is generally easy and relatively quick.

A good friend of mine called me up a few weekends ago and asked if I wanted four scup that were caught that day…absolutely! Preparation consisted of drawing and removing the guts and gills, scaling, and clipping the fins. After a quick rinse and dry, I seasoned the cavity and outside of the fish with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few thin slices of fresh garlic. I picked some fresh herbs from the garden; oregano, basil, thyme, parsley and cilantro. I have to say I’m not normally a big fan of cilantro, but two of which I put only cilantro and parsley in, were my favorite. Not that the others weren’t delicious (which were stuffed with fresh oregano, basil and thyme) but the ones with cilantro were particularly good!

Once seasoned, I laid them flat on a sheet pan and roasted them at 425 degrees. When the skin starts to turn golden-brown and a fork won’t meet resistance when inserted into the filet, the fish is done. This will take roughly 20 minutes.

 

Pork Loin Braised in Milk

This is a classic Italian recipe that results in a very flavorful, tender and juicy roast. Typically, a braise takes hours and no real attention is paid to the meat until it is “fork tender” or, almost falling apart. This is a bit different. Here, we want the internal temp of the pork roast to reach 145 degrees. Longer than that, the meat will end up dry and chewy.

Ingredients:

Boneless Pork loin Roast with a layer of fat about 1/4 in. thick, 5 lbs
3 small Onions, rough chop
6 stalks of celery, rough chop
8 cloves of garlic, skinned, halved
8 oz. Pancetta or bacon, rough chop
2 Cups White wine
4 sprigs of Rosemary with needles removed and chopped
6 Sage leaves, rough chop
4 Bay Leaves
4 Cups Whole Milk
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh Parsley and/or chive, chopped fine, to taste

Method of Prep:

  1. Set oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Using a Dutch oven, or heavy bottomed pot on high heat, season and sear pork loin on all sides with olive oil. Once nicely browned, remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add bacon to render. Once rendered, pour off excess fat and then immediately add onions, garlic and celery to the pan, season vegetables with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium- high and stir frequently until the onions just start to caramelize.
  4. Add white wine and simmer until it reduces by half. Then add the milk, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Place the pork loin back in the pot and add the rosemary, sage and bay leaf. Cover, and finish cooking in the oven until the internal temperature comes to 145F. (roughly 90 minutes to two hours)
  6. When the pork has come to temperature, remove from pot and place on a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes. During this resting period the roast will carry over to about 155F, as you reduce the sauce at a simmer, by half. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  7. Slice and serve with sauce spooned over top and fresh herbs.

**Note; this classic recipe is not the most elegant looking meal! It’s rather bland in color. However, it does turn out pretty amazing in it’s depth of flavor.

Garlic & Truffle Aioli Roasted Turkey Breast

The idea for this recipe comes from one of the worlds best chefs; Thomas Keller. Famous for The French Laundry, Per Se, and other restaurants as well as his cookbooks, he is someone every cook and chef would aspire to be. It is amazing in it’s simplicity and turns out some of the tastiest, juiciest, holiday turkey I’ve ever had!

Start by breaking down your thawed turkey. I cut off the ends of the wings, legs, and took out the pelvis and back bone to roast for the gravy with the neck. I also boned out the legs.

Using the poultry brine recipe from this site; Poultry Brine. Completely submerge your turkey in the brine and refrigerate for no more than 12 hours and no less than 8 hours. After it has been brined, remove and pat dry with a paper towel. As shown in the picture, stand up on a lined sheet pan. Let sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before putting in the oven.

Use a spatula to coat the entire turkey breast with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick layer of a good quality store-bought mayonnaise, or make your own; Garlic and Truffle Aioli. Slide into an oven set at 350F, and cook to an internal temperature of 155F. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.