Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Turkey Tip #2 - Prep the Bird!

Here is my next turkey tip. How to prep the bird properly. DO THIS THE DAY BEFORE!! This is extremely important and can make the difference between a juicy bird and a dry bird. So here goes.

First, be sure to fully defrost your bird in the fridge. It takes about a day for every 5 pounds or 2 kilograms. I put our 22 pound turkey in the fridge on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening when I took it out to brine it (to be explained shortly), it was still frozen on the inside. Luckily it wasn't frozen solid so I was able to wiggle the neck, tail (also known around here as the pope's nose... my family is from Newfoundland, I can't explain it) and giblet packet out. It is imperative that you check the inside of the bird for these things. You don't want to cook the bird with these inside!!! My mom did this once. Yes we all have our turkey cooking horror stories.

You have some options as to what to do with the neck, tail and giblets. The liver should be separated from the group. It makes gravy or broth bitter. It looks just like a human liver, except much smaller, so it is easy to identify. Either cook the liver separately or toss it. The rest of the inside treasures can either be made into a broth that you will later use in the gravy or just tossed in the pan with the turkey to flavor the drippings. I support either choice! First let me explain brining and then I'll tell you about the broth. Both of these things should be done the night before.

There are 2 types of brining, wet and dry. I use the dry method simply because I do not have a container big enough to soak a big turkey in salt water overnight. And I find dry brining really simple so that is what I am going to focus on here. You can find lots of info about wet brining on the net, try the food network or Martha.

Dry brining is simple. After you empty out the giblets, give the bird a wash with cold water and pat dry, inside and out. Now take either some kosher salt (my preference) or regular table salt and coat the outside and sprinkle a lot on the inside in both the body cavity and the neck cavity. You want this bird well coated!

This is the bird the next day after a night of partying it up in its salt suit. Attractive, isn't it?!

Okay, on to the other step you should do the night before if you feel so inclined. The broth. The last 2 years I have made a broth out of the inside treasure collection, as opposed to just putting them in the pan with the turkey to add to the drippings flavour. It really is up to you. I'll share my whole turkey gravy recipe with you later. It is awesome, if I do say so myself!

In a pot, add some chopped onions, carrots and celery. This is the classic French flavour base known as mirepoix that is in all soup broths and stocks. Don't worry about the size or bother peeling the carrots, you are going to toss all this out after the broth is made. Add the inside treasure collection, except the LIVER to the pot. I also add a can of low sodium chicken broth. Add some herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage to the pot. Simmer gently until the pot reduces by about 1/3. Drain out everything but the liquid and ta da! You have broth! If you don't have time or energy, don't sweat it, just skip this step and use some can or box of broth tomorrow when you make gravy. It's the holidays! Relax, have a cocktail, chat with your guests. Don't stress yourself!

And about the sodium content. While I advocate strongly to reduce the salt in your diet, keep in mind that a turkey has no sodium to start with. The amount added by the salt brine in not huge and will result in less salting at the table by your dinner companions. And you will note, I didn't add any to the broth. I can add it later to taste when I make the gravy. After coming back from a week of eating out and a big turkey dinner, Tim's blood pressure is still fine. It's the big picture here, not one meal. But you'll see, I don't over do the salt during the rest of the turkey prep because it simple doesn't need it.

As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

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