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Turkey Coma


Yes, yes, I’m still alive. I realize it’s been more than a few days since my last post, but I’m only now emerging from a turkey coma. Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone and more than enough turkey was consumed. I don’t want to see it again for another year. Not for Christmas, not for Easter. I’m not really that fond of turkey in the first place and much prefer stuffing. So much so that I consider turkey the cooking vessel for stuffing and want to pitch the bird when done.

Turkey was served up at dinners on both Saturday and Sunday. I took care of roasting the bird for the latter. I do a slight variation on the Cooks Illustrated technique in which the legs/thighs are roasted separate from the breast. It makes sense – how is it possible to roast a turkey whole in which the breast shouldn’t go past 150F and thigh must hit 175F at the same time? My variation is that I still stuff the carcass with the breasts attached.

Here’s the set-up:

Mirepoix, some white wine and chicken stock are placed in a roasting pan with a rack set on top. Place the stuffed carcass (legs/thighs already removed) breast-side down. In a separate pan also fitted with a rack and some liquid in the bottom, place the legs and thighs. Roast at 275F (yes, 275F!) for one hour, after which the carcass is flipped breast-side up. Continue roasting until the internal temperature of the breast hits 150F and thigh 175F. Remove the respective pans when one or the other is done. For an 18lb bird, it only took 2 hours and 15 minutes. This is significantly less time than when roasting whole because the legs are not insulating the bird, even though the oven temperature is only 275F (many people roast turkey at 325-350F). I prefer to rest the carcass breast side down so the juices drip back into the white meat.

Unfortunately this roasting method results in skin that isn’t very crisp. It’s an easy fix. Let the breast meat rest until it reaches a temperature of 130F. Crank the oven to 500F and return the bird, breast side up this time, to the oven to allow the skin to crisp up and colour. Rest for another 15 minutes before carving.

I’ve used this technique the past couple times roasting turkey and the unanimous comments have been that it’s the best bird they’ve ever eaten. Moist, juicy, tender, and full of flavour.

My stuffing is very simple. I actually shouldn’t say “my” stuffing. It’s more like the family’s stuffing recipe. No fruit or nuts allowed. Ground pork, sweet Italian sausage removed from its casing, garlic, shallots, cubed toasted bread, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, and Italian seasoning. It’s a very, very savory stuffing and something that I always look forward to.

No boxed gravy allowed either. I strained the contents of the roasting pan, pressing whatever juices I could from the now spent mirepoix, then defatted the liquid. Enough chicken stock was added to give about 3-4 cups of liquid. I made a simple roux and cooked it to a dark blonde before whisking in the stock and dripping mixture. A couple bay leaves were added and the gravy allowed to simmer until a good consistency was developed. I corrected the seasoning and everything was set for a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner. The results?

Turkey with all the trimmings

Turkey with all the trimmings

Turkey - white and dark meat in harmony

Turkey - white and dark meat in harmony

Yeah, not too shabby. Nothing really special was opened for the weekend, but most enjoyable was a bottle of 2006 Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Ribera del Duero Tinto Pesquera Crianza. With a few hours in a decanter, the dried fruit and earth notes were fantastic with the turkey. Also (consistently) good were bottles of 2007 Domaine Galevan Cotes-du-Rhone Paroles de Femme, 2007 Chateau Mourgues du Gres Costieres-de-Nimes Les Galets Rouges, and 2007 Altesino Rosso di Altesino that I have mentioned before.

Hope everyone enjoyed their turkey weekends!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. erika permalink
    2009/10/14 11:07 PM

    I agree that turkey is primarily a repository for stuffing. Having said that, I roast it whole at fairly high heat and baste like mad.
    My stuffing has no meat (naturellement 😉 but has chestnuts, which are a pain to peel but very much worth it.
    And I make my gravy a la francaise, that is to say just a jus that is reduced with some wine; c’est tout (I’m really not fond of thick gravy).
    The resulting coma is probably fairly similar 🙂


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