I have been away for some time now. Events at work have created the need for increased attention. But now with Christmas 2011 looming large, I thought I would revisit the preparation of a great holiday bird. Your family and friends crowd for this feast may be large enough to need a 20 pound Tom turkey or small enough for a fryer chicken; either way, you can hit a home run with this great recipe.
It is so simple, you may be tempted to pass on it for something more complicated that promises to keep moisture in the breast, like injecting the bird breast with a spiced butters or the like. Believe me, the breast meat has plenty of moisture in it naturally, if you can prepare it in a way that won’t dry it out. That statement coincidentally is in part responsible for the fried-turkey craze we have seen in the last 20 years or so. Just like fried chicken, hot grease sears the outer skin locking in the moisture. This recipe does the same thing.
To begin with, use a baking pan with a grill insert that will keep the turkey from sitting in it’s own juices. You will need nothing more for preparation than oil (vegetable, canola, olive etc.) and salt.
Make certain the bird is completely thawed. One week in the fridge should be sufficient for most birds. I would bring the thawed bird into room temperature for an hour prior to the oven. Your oven will need to be set at 550 degrees.
Cover the bird with oil and then salt it heavily (almost like snow). You don’t want the salt to have a measurable depth, but it does need to be well covered. Place the bird in the oven uncovered and watch it until it turns golden brown. At that point, back the temperature down to 325 degrees and place an aluminum sheet lightly formed around the bird.
Use the formula on the packaging label, bake the bird for a length of time relative to it’s weight (or typically 15 minutes per pound).
When the baking time is within 30 minutes of completion, take the internal temperature by placing the thermometer into the inside of either thigh (the Part of the thigh nearest the breast. If the thermometer reads 155 degrees, remove the foil and continue baking until the thermometer reads 170 degrees at which time the bird is done and should be removed from the oven. If the temperature reads less than 155, leave the foil on until it does. The last 10 degrees will be use to crisp any rubbery skin by removing the foil and giving the heat direct access to the skin.
After the bird cools for 20-30 minutes (during which time the internal temperature will rise another 10 degrees to 180) you may want to begin the carving. Unless you prefer to place the baked bird on the table un-carved for a nice presentation, I recommend carving in the kitchen so that everyone at the table has easy access to the white or dark meat without waiting for one person to slice each piece (and normally making a mess in the process or worse, cutting himself/herself and bleeding all over the meat).
Carving the bird in the kitchen can yield a very nice presentation as well. Use a serving dish sized such that it will look full for the size bird you baked. Then begin by removing the hind quarters, the legs and thighs. Pull the hindquarter away from the back and breast by placing your thumb at the leg/thigh joint and your index and middle finger at the base of the thigh. As you pull the hindquarter away from the body with your thumb, press upward with your fingers at the base of the thigh and the thigh knuckle should pop out of its socket. Use a knife to separate the thigh from the body where the knuckle popped out. Separate the leg from the thigh with a knife at the joint where they join.
On a cutting board, use tongs and a fork to pull the meat off the legs. The legs have more cartilage in them than any other part. Take care to remove the cartilage from the serving dish. Set that meat to one side and do the same with the thighs. If the meat has cooled enough, you may be able to pull the meat apart with your fingers if not, use tongs or slice with a knife. Place the thigh meat with the leg meat in the middle of the serving dish.
Next use a knife to remove the wings at the joint where they attach to the breast and place them to the side. Stand the bird upright on the top of the breast where the neck would be and remove the meat from the back (by some opinions, the meat from the