Dain “If It Moves It Dies” Sandoval: Jive Turkey Dinner

 

What?! No turkey? Hate Thanksgiving? HAM??!

What kind of pinko commie shit is that, Tanner? Seriously.

We did not come over on the Mayflower, set up wholesome communities, and feast jovially with Native Americans* with mother-effing HAM! [*these claims are unsubstantiated, and may actually be quite errant.] No sir, everyone knows from Kindergarten autumn performances, we made construction paper hats and ate turkey.

When we get all nostalgic and misty-eyed with memories of what Thanksgiving dinner means to us, it is hard to not picture that famous Norman Rockwell illustration of overachieving ‘Merican radness.

I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinners since I moved out of my family home in 1998 and have always been striving for a turkey that tasted like Norman Rockwell.

It would finally come to me in 2009 with an article by Cook’s Illustrated. (Cook’s Illustrated #101 Nov-Dec 2009) There is simply no other reasonable turkey preparation that can compare. I have been using this method without fail since 2009 and each year it is met with rave reviews. The parts of this prep that are so stand-out are the use of salt pork to provide seasoning and basting as well as the technique of starting the bird upside down so juices gather in the breast. Julia Child has a famous recipe that involves breaking down the turkey prior to roasting, but that’s not as fun. I share with you now the crowd-pleasing, rather basic, no B.S. Old-Fashioned Stuffed Turkey as written by Cook’s Illustrated in 2009:

OLD FASHIONED STUFFED TURKEY 

NOTE: Table salt is not recommended for this recipe because it is too fine. To roast a kosher or self-basting turkey (such as a frozen Butterball), do not salt it in step 1. Look for salt pork that is roughly equal parts fat and lean meat. The bread can be toasted up to 1 day in advance.

Turkey 

1 turkey (12 to 18 pounds), giblets and neck

reserved for gravy, if desired.

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

12 ounces salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and rinsed

Stuffing 

1 1/2 pounds (about 15 slices) white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 12 cups)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for baking dish

1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)

2 celery ribs, chopped fine (about 1 cup)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves

tablespoon minced fresh marjoram leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 36-inch square cheesecloth, folded in quarters

2 large eggs

[Also acceptable, Mrs. Cubbison’s boxed stuffings.] 

1. FOR THE TURKEY: Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, separate turkey skin from meat on breast, legs, thighs, and back; avoid breaking skin.

Rub 1 tablespoon salt evenly inside cavity of turkey, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt under skin of each breast, and 1 1/2

teaspoons salt under skin.of each leg. Wrap turkey tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.

2. FOR THE STUFFING: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Spread bread cubes in single layer on baking sheet; bake until edges have dried but centers are slightly moist (cubes should yield to pressure), about 45 minutes,

stirring several times during baking. Transfer to large bowl and increase oven temperature to 325 degrees.

3. While bread dries, heat 4 tablespoons butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat; when foaming subsides, add onion, celery, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally;.until vegetables begin to soften and brown slightly, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in herbs; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vegetables to bowl with dried bread; add 1 cup broth and toss until evenly moistened.

4. TO ROAST THE TURKEY: Combine remaining 2 teaspoons kosher salt and baking powder in small bowl. Remove turkey from refrigerator and unwrap. Thoroughly dry inside and out with paper towels. Using skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on top of breast halves and thighs, 4 to 5 holes in each deposit. Sprinkle surface of turkey with salt-baking powder mixture and rub in mixture with hands, coating skin evenly. Tuck wings underneath turkey. Line turkey cavity with cheesecloth, pack with 4 to 5 cups stuffing, tie ends of cheesecloth together. Cover remaining stuffing with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Using twine, loosely tie turkey legs together. Place turkey breast-side down in V-rack set in roasting pan and drape salt pork slices over back.

5. Roast turkey breast-side down at 325* until thickest part of breast registers 130 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove roasting pan from oven (close oven door) and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Transfer turkey in V-rack to rimmed baking sheet. Remove and discard salt pork. Using clean potholders or kitchen towels, rotate turkey breast-side up. Cut twine binding legs and remove stuffing bag; empty into reserved stuffing in bowl. Pour drippings from roasting pan into fat separator and reserve for gravy, if making.

6. Once oven has come to temperature, return turkey in V-rack to roasting pan and roast until skin is golden brown and crisp, thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees, and thickest part of thigh registers 175 degrees, about 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest, uncovered, 30 minutes.

7. While turkey rests, reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Whisk eggs and remaining 1/2 cup broth together in small bowl. Pour egg mixture over stuffing and toss to combine, breaking up any large chunks; spread in buttered 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Bake until stuffing registers 165 degrees and top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Carve turkey

 

and serve with stuffing.

CRANBERRY SAUCE

You spend the entire day in the kitchen. Hours upon hours of work preparing the absolute best meal, and then you unceremoniously pop open the can of cranberry sauce. It’s almost insulting to the other foods. While the ribbed-for-your-pleasure jellied sauce is amusing, do you have any idea how simple It is to make fresh cranberry sauce?

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 12 oz package fresh or frozen cranberries.

In a saucepan bring water and sugar to a boil; stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, retum to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. Done. Stop. Walk away. I have a relative that likes to bury oranges, nuts, Chex Mix, cat food and God-knows-whatelse in cranberry sauce. There’s simply no need for that. Take it off the heat, and place in freezer to chill out and firm up.

Enjoy your meal and promptly refrigerate all leftovers.

ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS 

Shut up they’re good. Really.

Costco sells bags of very nice sprouts for about $3.75

Heat oven to 400*

Take a pound or two of sprouts and halve lengthwise.

Toss lightly in oil (e.g. olive, coconut)

Season with salt & pepper or spices of your choice.

Arrange on cookie sheet and roast for 17-20 min.

Make festive with optional handfuls of parmesan cheese or crumbled bacon sprinkled over top just before serving.

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Dain Sandoval is a Cisco Certified Network Associate and takes care of the wires and blinking lights at Synthesis. On the Ones and Zeroes, Droppin' packets like it's hot.