Chef Steve Topple from Shore Lodge in McCall has 10 things you can do to help your Thanksgiving turkey cook, look, and taste better.
Topple's Turkey Tips
1. Planning and picking a turkey, choosing a turkey, I normally base 1 pound per person raw weight, by the time it cooks it will reduce, also free range turkeys are happier turkeys, so they tend to taste better and are more tender, plan ahead if you’re cooking a frozen turkey. Buy early to avoid disappointment the safest way to thaw a bird is in the fridge; count on about five hours per pound for it to fully defrost (so a 20-pounder will take four days).
2. For crispy skin, unwrap the turkey the day before Thanksgiving, and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight (my favorite is crispy skin).
3. Both low-heat and high-heat cooking have their merits. This is based on oven roasting a turkey, the classic method is 20 minutes per pound at 325° F; if you're willing to split your turkey so that it lies flat, you can do it in eight minutes per pound at 450°. Remove the shelves so that the turkey can fit in the oven.
4. Turkeys cook more evenly if they're not packed full of stuffing. (I cook my stuffing separate) A loose handful of aromatics (carrots, celery, thyme, onions and garlic) or fresh herbs adds flavor without leading to a dry bird. Cook the stuffing in a dish on the side, moistened generously with stock.
5. Trussing your turkey makes it look professional and pretty, but for even cooking, leave it untrussed. And hey, it's one less thing for you to do.
6. Scatter roughly chopped chunks of onions, carrots, celery and garlic on the bottom of your roasting pan before arranging the turkey on top. They'll add tons of flavor to your drippings (and thus to your gravy).
7. Once the turkey goes in the oven, don't open the door too often. Every time you do, the heat drops precipitously, so it'll raise both the cook time as well as the odds of a dry bird.
8. Remove the turkey from the oven when the thickest spot between the leg and the breast reads 165° F on an instant-read thermometer. If you stuffed your bird, the stuffing should also read 165°.
9. Once your bird is done, tent it loosely with foil and let it rest about half an hour before carving. If you need more time to prep gravy and sides, you can let it rest for up to an hour without losing too much heat.
10. Carve your turkey with as sharp a knife as possible. Take the legs and wings off first (go straight through the joint) and you’ll have more room to maneuver when you get to the breast.
Turkey Roulade with Apricot-Sausage Stuffing
1lb of spicy Italian sausage ground (or coarsely chopped if links)
1/4 cup water
¼ cup of cognac
1 cup dried apricots (about 10 medium), coarsely chopped
2 medium shallots, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
1/2 boneless, skinless turkey breast, sliced into 8oz long slices should get 4-6 pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Sauté the sausage until golden brown in a sauté pan, place aside to cool. Warm the water and cognac in a small saucepan, add apricots, and set aside until plump, about 10 minutes.
In a small food processor, pulse the apricots and any unabsorbed liquid with the shallot, butter, 2 teaspoons salt and pepper, to taste, until the apricot are coarsely chopped. Add the parsley and pulse once or twice more, remove and add the cooled sausage at this time. Place the turkey breast on a cutting board. Divide and spread the apricot mixture evenly over them, leaving about a 1-inch border. Starting with the long end, roll like a jelly roll and tie firmly with butchers twine. Season generously, with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil, and heat until shimmering. Sear the turkey roulades, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Place the roulades on a rack in a roasting pan and pour 2 cups of the wine over them. Roast, uncovered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 165° F, about 25 minutes.
Transfer the breasts to a carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest while you make the sauce.
Put the roasting pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the remaining 1 cup of wine and stir with a wooden spoon to release the brown bits that cling to the pan. Add the chicken broth and cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Season, with salt and pepper. Carve the turkey into 1-inch thick slices and serve with the pan sauce and your desired side dishes.