How to Prepare a Turkey

An Interview with my Father…

I decided to post this recipe on what would have been Grandma Mimi’s birthday, because this is an original Alison and David recipe for turkey, and Grandma Mimi is my dad’s mom. I literally sat in front of my computer while my dad made a Thanksgiving turkey and typed up what he was doing to the turkey and how he described this turkey guide, and I annotated it with what I was witnessing to make sure other people would definitely be able to follow it and make a turkey in the David method.

The best part is that my sister’s college friend Grace actually followed this guide and made a turkey for Friends-giving one year. I do find it ironic that my vegetarian sister was the one to give her BFF the ultimate turkey advice 😉 So sit back and enjoy this narrative, because whether or not you like turkey, this interview is pretty amusing!

Happy Birthday Grandma Mimi!!!

(My father is D for Daddy and for David. I am A for Alison.)

First: Preheat the oven to 525 degrees. It will be turned down to 350 when you put the turkey in.

D: In my opinion, all-natural turkeys and kosher turkeys, even though they’re way more expensive, taste much better. And fresh turkeys taste better than frozen turkeys.

STEP #1: Make slurry out of olive oil, paprika, and garlic powder.
Dictionary.com says: a suspension of solid particles in a liquid, as in a mixture of cement, clay, coal dust, manure, meat, etc with water.
D: If you don’t like the word “slurry,” call it a thin paste. A slurry is a mixture of solids suspended in a liquid.

A: About how much do you use?
D: It’s not an exact science. How much you use depends on the size of the bird.
A: We’re using an 11 lb bird.
D: 2-3 oz of olive oil and enough paprika and garlic powder to make a slurry.
A: Olive oil fills half of a small bowl. (Note: bowl is about the size of the dish you would get if you ordered a kiddie size ice cream in a dish.)
D: I’ll even measure it for you. This is the first time I’ve ever measured it.
A: It’s 3 oz olive oil and about 1 1/2 tbsp each of garlic powder and paprika. Whisk it with a tiny whisk.
D: This is what my grandmother used to do whenever she roasted a chicken or a turkey. And this happens to be an 11 lb turkey.

STEP #2: Remove organ meat.
D: One of the key steps if you’ve never made a turkey before is when you take the turkey out of the bag, you need to remember to remove the giblets out of the body cavity.
A: Is there anything more than the giblets?
D: It’s usually in a bag. It’s the organ meat, which is kind of gross. You know, there might be gizzards, and lizards, oh my.
A: Then he asked me to get him the poultry shears because he couldn’t open the plastic packaging around the turkey.
D: There’s usually going to be a lot of liquid. Oh, the other thing that’s in the body cavity is the neck. This particular turkey, they had the neck in one cavity and the giblets in the other cavity. That would have been gross. So make sure you check both cavities.

STEP #3: Rinse off the turkey thoroughly.
A: He washes the turkey in the sink.
D: Fresh turkeys are better than frozen turkeys in my esteemed opinion. This is a fresh turkey. And it happens to have one of those thermometer thingies in it.

STEP #4: D: If there’s any blobs of fat hanging around the body cavity, I remove it.

STEP #5: Whisk slurry right before painting turkey.

STEP #6: D: Then I use a large pastry brush to brush the turkey with the garlic-paprika.
A: Brush the entire turkey.
D: I mostly worry about painting the stuff we’re going to eat, the breasts, the drumsticks, and the wings. I don’t worry about the back of the bird as much. Although if you have leftover slurry, you can do that. Make sure you get both sides of the wings.
You can use your fingers too, to work it further into the body cavity along the breast meat. Or you can just use the pastry brush. But you really want to get the slurry under the skin; it adds a lot of flavor. It’s my mother’s trick. On both ends.
A: So you do the skin and under the skin?
D: Yeah, where you can reach in, under the neck and the leg end. You don’t put it inside, like the main body cavity; you kind of peel back the skin and put it under the skin.

STEP #7: If there is one, remove the plastic thing that holds the legs together.
D: I just took it out because I don’t like the idea of cooking things with plastic in them. Of course, the thermometer has plastic in it too, but whatever.

STEP #8: Wash hands because you’re going to touch the oven door.

STEP #9: Put the turkey in the oven.
D: The oven is preheated to 525, and we IMMEDIATELY turn it down to 350.
A: Why do we do that?
D: The reason for preheating it to a high temperature is to help sear the meat and seal in the juices. I think it’s a Julia Child and Joy of Cooking recommendation. Plus the oven immediately cools down as soon as you open the door.

A: Don’t cover or baste the turkey. Here’s why —
D: And I’m lazy; I don’t baste; I don’t cover it. In fact, I like crispy skin. I find that people that cover the turkey with foil or cheesecloth or whatever, I find that the skin ends up soggy and gross. It’s all a matter of personal taste and what you grew up with, what you prefer.

How long to cook turkey:
D: Cooking time depends on the size of the bird. Check your cookbook for a chart. Or roughly for a 10-15 lb bird is in the 15-20 minutes a lb range.

No stuffing inside the turkey:
D: I don’t stuff the bird for safety reasons because a lot of times, they don’t reach a high enough internal temperature to cook the stuffing safely. Plus, stuffing cooked in the bird is often just full of fat, which is not the healthiest thing in the world to eat.

After taking the turkey out of the oven, be sure to let it sit for 30 minutes before carving. To carve, cut off the legs, wings and thighs first (easily done with good qualify poultry sheers or kitchen scissors). Then remove the white meat from each side of the breast bone in one large piece. This is tricky, and requires using a medium length sharp knife and starting at the top of the breast bone. Then carve the white meat across the short side of each breast section. This trick is much easier than carving the long way with the white meat still on the bone.

For gravy, pour the pan drippings into a large Pyrex cup or gravy separator and put in freezer. The fat will rise to the top and solidify and can be scooped out with a spoon.

From our kitchen to yours, BUON APPETITO!

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