Timely turkey tips for the holidays

Published 12:15 am Saturday, November 22, 2008

There is always a debate around Thanksgiving as to what it takes to make the best moist turkey. I have read two different articles on that subject in two different magazines and decided I would try one of these techniques this Thanksgiving. My turkey is always a little dry, so I found these articles timely for me.

The November issue of Saveur Magazine had an article on New Orleans and their Thanksgiving traditions. Now anything about New Orleans makes me happy so I read on.

Of interest was how Leah Chase prepared her roasted turkey. Chase is a New Orleans culinary icon and co-owner, with her husband, Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, of the 67-year old Dooky Chase restaurant in the Tremé neighborhood. Her secret for the tender turkey is to seal the bird in an oversized packet of aluminum foil, which locks in the moisture. Here is her recipe for roasted turkey.

Leah Chase’s Roasted Turkey

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse a 12-lb. turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Season cavity and skin of turkey generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stuff cavity with 1 roughly chopped onion and 3 roughly chopped ribs of celery.

Tie legs together with kitchen twine, tuck wings under body, and place turkey on top of an 18” x 26” sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Top with another sheet of foil of equal size. Crimp and seal edges tightly to form a packet. Transfer sealed turkey to a large roasting pan fitted with a rack and roast for 2 ½ hours. Meanwhile, melt 8 tbsp. unsalted butter in a 1-quart saucepan along with 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. rubbed sage, and 4 crumbled dried bay leaves. Remove top sheet of foil from turkey and raise oven temperature to 500 degrees; cook, basting with herb butter every 5 minutes, until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh (without touching bone) reads 165°-170°, about 30 minutes more. Let rest for a last 20 minutes before carving. Serves 8.

The November issue of Bon Appétit had their version for tender turkey. Their motto for this year is “salt it, don’t brine it.” It is simple really, just salt the turkey, cover it, then stick it in the fridge. Overnight the salt draws the moisture from the interior of the bird to the surface, where it combines with the salt and other seasonings. Eventually, that flavorful salted liquid is reabsorbed by the meat, seasoning it throughout.

Salted Roast Turkey With Herbs and

Shallot-Dijon Gravy

Herbed salt

½ cup plus1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary

1 ½ teaspoons dried rubbed sage

1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

3 small bay leaves, coarse torn

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel


1 14-16 pound turkey (neck, heart, and gizzard reserved)

1 large onion, chopped

1 large stalk celery, chopped

1 whole lemon, chopped with peel

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups (or more) chicken stock


3 ½ cup chicken stock

2/3 cups chopped shallots

½ cup all purpose flour

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

Herbed Salt: Rub first 6 ingredients in small bowl to crush herbs finely. Do ahead: can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; store at room temperature. Stir in peel before using.

Turkey: Rinse turkey inside and out (do not pat dry). Pull any fat pads from main cavity and neck cavity of turkey; wrap, chill and reserve fat for roasting. Place turkey in roasting bag; sprinkle inside and out with herbed salt. Close bag; place on baking sheet; refrigerate for 18-24 hours.

Set rack in lowest position in oven and preheat to 325°F. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat very dry. Stir chopped onion and next five ingredients in small bowl. Divide onion mixture between main and neck cavities. Fold neck skin under and secure with skewer. Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Spread butter all over turkey. Place reserved fat pads, neck, heart, and gizzard in pan; pour in 2 cups chicken stock.

Roast turkey 45 minutes. Baste with pan juices. Continue to roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh resisters 165°-170° F, basting every 4-5 minutes, adding stock or water to pan if dry, and tenting loosely with foil if browning too quickly, 3-3 ½ hours longer. Transfer turkey to platter; tent very loosely with foil and let rest 30-45 minutes. Reserve roasting pan with juices for gravy.

Gravy: Remove turkey neck, heart and gizzard from roasting pan. Pull meat off neck, chop neck meat, heart, and gizzard and reserve for gravy, if desired. Pour pan juices into 8-cup measuring cup. Spoon off fat from surface, reserving ½ cup fat. Add enough stock to degreased pan juices to measure 5 ½ cups total.

Place roasting pan over 2 burners on medium heat. Add ½ cup reserved fat and shallots; sauté 1 minute. Whisk in flour. Cook until roux is light brown, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Whisk in wine, stock mixture, mustard, and fresh rosemary. Bring to boil, whisking to blend. Boil until gravy coats spoon, about 3 minutes. Add neck, heart, and gizzard, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Serve turkey with gravy. Serves 8-12.

Let me know if you tried one of these recipes. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.