So it’s almost time for Thanksgiving here in the US. (Canadians are clever enough to do this earlier in the autumn so they can have turkey again at Christmas without it being tryptophan overload.)
Anyway, I’m tremendously thankful for all of YOU! Readers, bloggers, booksellers, librarians, bookstagrammers, podcasters, reviewers–all of you in the reading community have done so much to share the word about my books and I’m sending a big fat juicy kiss of thanks to each and every one!
This Thanksgiving, we’ll be belatedly celebrating my daughter’s birthday in the morning–mimosas, chocolate croissants, and the parade–and gathering for a special turkey dinner that evening. I’m always in charge of the turkey and dressing, and after years of brining, last year I had a brainwave. I’ve been roasting my chickens according to Thomas Keller’s method, and it finally occurred to me that turkey is basically just a big dry chicken. So I adapted his method to my turkey and it was the best one I’ve ever made. Here’s the ultimate Lazy Thanksgiving Turkey:
Lazy Thanksgiving Turkey
If using a frozen turkey, thaw it out a few days in advance. I tend to take mine out the Sunday before, toss it in the fridge, and forget about it until Thursday. I NEVER let it thaw at room temperature because I think that’s just begging for food poisoning. I don’t rinse it for the same reason. (TURKEY JUICE EVERYWHERE. GROSS.) Instead, I rip out the tiny bag of turkey goodies and toss them. A better person would use them to make gravy or a craft project, but I’m not a better person and they go into the trash. (I should note here that this method of cooking will make it impossible to use the drippings for gravy. I’m not joking; don’t even try. It will be BEYOND inedibly salty. My mother makes the gravy and I’m not sure what kind of mystical alchemy she invokes, so you’re on your own here.)
Take the turkey out of the fridge and leave it in its wrappings an hour before you’re ready to start roasting–but no more than an hour before because again, nobody wants food poisoning. (Disclaimer: I’m not a food safety expert. Check all of these recommendations with someone who is.) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove turkey from wrappings and pat dry with paper towels that you will treat like hazmat waste because it totally is. Put the turkey into a roasting pan. (I use the disposable foil ones because it’s once a year and nobody wants to be scrubbing that thing out when you’re done. If you have a lovely, fancy roaster, by all means, use it.)
Truss turkey. By this, I mean, tie its legs together, tightly, using kitchen twine. Tuck the wings under the back to keep the tips from burning. This will leave you with a nice, tidy turkey instead of a sprawling mess that cooks unevenly. (I should also mention that I would NEVER stuff a turkey. I think it’s nasty; the dressing never forms a nice golden brown top, and it jacks with your cooking times. And you can’t stuff this turkey because–again–the stuffing will be inedibly salty, so you will end up weeping into your hostess towels in the bathroom.)
Get a lot of salt. A LOT OF SALT. TOO MUCH SALT. You want the kosher stuff and you want handfuls of it. Pour it into your palm and start packing it around the turkey. You’re not burying the bird; you’re making a salt crust. Some will fall off. Just pack more on. Now, scrub your hands and shove the turkey into the oven uncovered. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees and roast for 15 minutes per pound.
DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Do not baste. Do not peek. That’s what the window is for. Just leave it be. And let me say again, this works with a turkey that is not fridge cold and not stuffed. If you fiddle with those things, this won’t work.
After roasting for 15 minutes per pound–yes, you have to math but that’s the hardest part of the whole experience–pull it out of the oven and let it rest for 15-30 minutes. I’m not fussed about serving a hot turkey because if the gravy is really hot, it doesn’t matter if the turkey isn’t. Also, you need the time to let the juices settle into the meat before you stick a knife into it. If you get a geyser of cooked turkey juice when you carve, you probably started too soon and you’ll know better for next year. And if you’re a skin eater, well, that stuff is bad for you, so stop it. You’ll only be able to nibble a small portion of this anyway because the salt will dry you out like the Mojave, but the little bit you eat will be DELICIOUS.
One further caveat: I roast 12-15 pound turkeys. No bigger because they tend to dry out before they roast through. If you need a LOT of meat, consider two smaller turkeys in two separate ovens. Plus, extra drumsticks and wishbones!
That’s it. It’s two minutes of prep. No mixing a vat of brine; no building aroasting pyre of vegetables–all of which I’ve done. No fancy rubs, no herbal compound butters. Just a simple salt crust which makes the meat deeply flavorful. And with all the extra time you spent not working on the turkey, you can put your feet up with a nice cup of tea or glass of red zin and contemplate everything you’re thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!