Monday, 1 October 2012

Turkey Stuffing

So here we are back to part two of the turkey dinner extravaganza. The gravy is nailed, but the stuffing will be your legacy for all time. There are hundreds and hundreds of different ways to make stuffing, so you just have to experiment and find the one you like. Mine is pretty basic as far as stuffing goes. Some people put sausage in theirs, or chestnuts or giblets and what have you. I always make my stuffing first thing in the morning on the day I cook the bird. I keep it pretty basic because I have so many other vegetables to prepare and the table to set and it takes much longer now to fix myself up than it did 30 years ago. So the stuffing has to ultimately pay the price for that I guess.
So your turkey is fully thawed at this point. Rinse out the cavity and douse it with a bit of salt. Turkey has to cook on a rack so the juices can flow out. If you have a proper turkey roaster with a rack, that's fine and use that. I prefer to make my own rack because it adds so much flavour to the drippings. I simply lay whole unpeeled carrots, celery stalks and halved onions to the bottom of the roasting pan so the turkey will sit directly on them.
For the stuffing, you can either tear up a loaf of bread into bite size pieces, or sometimes I can buy a big bag of crusts at my grocery store. That's the best if you can get them. But please, I beg you not to use any of those stove top stuffings in the box. This is your day to shine, so no cheating. Plus you'd need several boxes of stuffing to feed all the people and that would be expensive.
Tear up your bread into the largest bowl you have. Add a finely diced onion, 3 stalks of finely diced celery and two peeled and diced granny smith apples. Add a tablespoon of salt, lots of freshly ground pepper, 2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning, 2 teaspoons of dried sage and 2 teaspoons of thyme. Mix everything around and moisten with some lukewarm water, just to make the stuffing moist, but in no way should it be wet. So just add a little water at a time. Smoosh in two tablespoons of room temperature butter.
Now the turkey has two places that hold stuffing. The main cavity of course and there is also a hollow spot in back of the bird that has a flap of skin over it. Really investigate this because often they put the giblets in a plastic bag in this spot, and you don't want to roast the turkey with this bag inside!
Stuff the cavity tightly and then the backside. Fold the skin back over this section and tuck it down under the bird.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay the stuffed turkey on the rack and salt and pepper it liberally all over. Advanced turkey roasting people will add their own touch at this point. You can insert fresh sage leaves under the skin, or lay some bacon strips over the top. Lots of options. But let's just salt and pepper this one and dot it all over with pats of cold butter. Put a couple of bay leaves into the bottom of the pan and if you have any fresh sage or rosemary, you can lay that down in the pan too. I put just a cup of water into the bottom of the pan too so nothing burns. Cover it tightly with tin foil and put it in the oven.
Your roasting time will depend on the size of your bird, so follow the directions on the packaging. But keep it on 350 for only about an hour and then turn it down to 325 degrees and remove the tin foil. As soon as you start to have drippings, baste the turkey at least every half hour.
It usually takes an average of 4 hours to roast a family sized turkey. I can usually tell when it's done because it will smell marvellous. It will be very, very dark golden brown and your drippings should be a dark golden colour too.
Timing is everything when it comes to getting everything on the table at the same time and you get a break here because once the turkey is cooked, it is imperative to let it rest for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Then you can buy another 15 minutes because whoever you appoint to carve the turkey will make a career out of it. Or at least that's the case in my family. It's serious business, and you'd think they were performing surgery. Talking and visiting all the while and stopping to have a sip of wine and so on. I usually have to scold my carver to speed it up!
I've made enough turkey dinners over the years that I can do it blind folded by now, but there are VERY important food safety rules to follow. I cannot stress that enough. Turkey is fowl, so just as preparing a chicken, you MUST wash your hands with soap and water every single time you touch the bird. And do not touch anything else in the kitchen until after you've washed your hands.
You MUST disinfect your cutting board and all surfaces that may have come in contact with the raw bird before you begin to prepare any of your vegetables. You MUST remove all traces of stuffing from the carcass if you intend to keep the leftovers attached to the bird. I don't even take the chance. I put my leftover stuffing covered in a separate bowl in the fridge. And I remove all the meat from the carcass and keep that in the fridge, covered and separate as well. I always make turkey soup with the carcass after the dinner, so best to remove the meat. This dinner is going to be your victory dance, so there is no point in not being meticulous with your hygiene and having all of your guests ending up in the hospital!
Well that's enough to think about for today. Next post, we'll tackle the vegetables! Believe me, you'll thank me for this after Thanksgiving. Cheers!

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