My annual Thanksgiving tradition is this: I get up crazy early and go into the kitchen to prep the meal, all while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. By watching I mean that it’s mostly just playing really loud in the background. Taking on the tradition alone is something I love. What I don’t love is people’s help; I suppose it’s the Virgo moon I’m
dragging around blessed with that makes me unwilling to share Thanksgiving responsibilities. I let people bring the booze. Someone always shows up with a store-bought dessert that sends me into a rage spiral (on the inside). I always try to make something from scratch that backfires (2015 candied yams from fresh = crunchy yams) and/or I inevitably forgot to buy something (2015 was also the Year Without Rolls). My family leaves early, my partner’s family stays the night, and so it goes.
I don’t eat turkey since going veg a few years back, but far be it for me to deny my dad or my partner’s 91 year old mother the home cooking they get precisely once a year. The way I prep a turkey is my mother’s technique and has never failed to be a hit.
[If you’re vegetarian or vegan, stop reading now!]
Here is my tried and true turkey prep that I call …
Recipe: Cram This in Your Turkey and Bake It
Disclaimer: As far as turkey size and cooking temperature and time, consult an expert like the Butterball Hotline, since things vary so much. I cook mine at 350 degrees for hours until it’s 165 F in the breast meat, so that’s what my directions rely on. A frozen turkey can take days to defrost, so make that Step 0 before starting.
1 stick butter, room temperature
8+ cups stock, chicken or vegetable
Vegetables, raw (carrots, onions, celery)
Thank the turkey for its sacrifice. Cut and remove the plastic thing holding the legs together, then take all the junk out of the turkey, namely the giblet bag and the creepy sausage organ that I still don’t know what it is. I cut off the skin that’s stuffed inside the neck hole so I can run water through it and give it a quick rinse, which is the part where my 30-years-a-vegetarian partner runs out of the kitchen in a panic. If there are ice crystals inside of the body cavity you can rinse it with lukewarm water. I have had to do that literally every year and it has never been an issue. Pat dry with paper towels.
Put the turkey into your baking pan (I use a disposable foil one) to prep. Lift the skin and gently separate it from the body starting at one end. You might have to start at the butt-end and work your way toward the neck. As you go, place pats of butter in between the skin and flesh of the turkey. It’s pretty tough, but try not to tear it. Make sure the whole turkey is covered in butter, which will use up the whole stick. Place raw celery, onions, and carrots into the body cavity. Don’t cram it packed full, but don’t be stingy, either. These will be discarded after cooking.
Surround the turkey with your stock so that it’s in a nice little puddle. The bottom of the pan should be coated, plus half an inch or so. Make a foil tent over the turkey and pop it in the oven. Baste with liquid every 30 minutes until you achieve the desired core temperature (use a meat thermometer); 45 minutes before the end remove the foil to brown the skin.
Set on the counter to cool. By the time all of your side dishes come out of the oven (or Tofurkey in our case) the turkey will be the right temperature to carve.
Update: 2016’s backfiring dish ended up being old potatoes that my partner said we “still good” that turned into mashed glue-tatoes. Good times.