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Monday, November 21, 2011

Chef Kathy Gunst Talks Turkey

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming we turn to Here and Now resident chef Kathy Gunst for tips on cooking the bird. Kathy answers questions such as to brine or not to brine? What seasonings should one use on the bird? What’s the best roasting temperature? Kathy and her husband John Rudolph also demonstrate turkey carving. Recipes below.

Kathy Gunst’s Roast Turkey and Gravy

(Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

The Turkey:
One 18 to 20 pound fresh turkey (preferably organic)*, at room temperature**
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons butter
10 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Sweet Hungarian paprika
About 8 cups your favorite stuffing
1 slice bread
Kitchen string or butcher’s twine

The Stock and Gravy:
1 turkey neck, heart and gizzard
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons flour

*If the turkey is frozen be sure to defrost it in the refrigerator. Depending on the size it can take up to 2 to 4 days to defrost thoroughly.

**Room temperature simply means that the bird shouldn’t come straight out of the refrigerator. You don’t want to let the bird sit around for hours; remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting while you make the stuffing.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the oven rack so the bird will fit on the middle shelf without touching the top shelf.

Clean the bird and remove the neck, giblets, liver, and heart, and set aside for the stock/gravy. Pat the bird dry with paper towels. (The liver can be reserved; it is delicious lightly coated in flour and then sautéed in a hot skillet greased with 1 teaspoon of butter for about 5 to 6 minutes per side.)

Use the vegetable oil to lightly grease the bottom of a large roasting pan. Season the turkey with salt and pepper, inside the cavity and outside the skin. Loosely stuff both the body and neck cavities of the turkey with the stuffing, pressing down but being careful not to overstuff the bird. Use the whole slice of bread as a “door” to keep the stuffing inside the large body cavity; simply press the bread into the cavity as a way of keeping the stuffing inside so it won’t fall out while roasting. Carefully place the bird into the roasting pan, breast side up. If you want to use a roasting rack simply place the bird on the rack and set inside the pan.

In a medium skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and let cook 5 minutes until the butter has completely melted, and the garlic is just beginning to turn a light golden brown. Remove from the heat. Using a spoon or a barbecue or pastry brush, brush the skin of the turkey with some of the garlic butter and scatter at least half the garlic cloves around and on top of the bird. Keep the remaining garlic and butter for later basting. Sprinkle the top of the bird with the paprika, salt and pepper. Using a piece of kitchen string, tie the legs together to keep them from touching the sides of the roasting pan; tying the legs also makes for a “neater” looking roasted turkey.

Place the bird on the middle shelf and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and loosely cover the bird with foil. Roast the turkey another 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, about 15 to 20 minutes per pound, depending on the freshness of the bird. (Fresh turkey tends to cook much faster than those that have been frozen.) Baste the bird every hour or so with the remaining garlic and butter and baste with the liquids that have accumulated on the bottom of the roasting pan. Remove the foil for the last hour of roasting time to give the bird a golden brown glaze.

To test for doneness: the bird should be a gorgeous golden brown; when you wiggle a drumstick, it should feel slightly loose; and when you pierce the skin directly above the wing, the juice should run clear yellow, and not pink. Gently remove the bird from the roasting pan and place on a serving platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let sit at least 10 minutes before carving to allow the juices time to settle.

While the bird is roasting, begin the gravy: place the reserved neck, giblets, and heart in a medium saucepan. Add the parsley, onions, celery, carrots, peppercorns, bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot and cover with about 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and let simmer on very low heat for about 1 to 2 hours. This will produce a light turkey stock that will be the basis of your gravy. Taste for seasoning and remove from the heat.

To finish the gravy, once you’ve removed the bird, place the roasting pan over two burners over moderate heat. (If there seems to be an excessive amount of turkey fat in the bottom of the pan, remove it by tilting the juices to the side and remove with a spoon or baster, being careful not to remove any of the natural juices.) Use a spatula to loosen any bits clinging to the bottom of the roasting pan. Sprinkle on the flour and, using a whisk, mix the flour with the juices in the bottom of the pan. Let cook 1 minute, stirring, until the paste has come together and is beginning to turn a pale golden color. Pour a little more than half the turkey stock through a sieve into the pan and whisk to create smooth gravy. Let simmer about 5 to 10 minutes, until slightly thickened and flavorful. Thin the gravy by adding additional stock as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep the gravy warm over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.

Remove the stuffing from the bird and place in a serving bowl. Carve the bird and serve with the stuffing and hot gravy on the side. Serves 10 to 12 with leftovers.
Recipes from “Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations: Special Recipes for Family and Friends,” by Kathy Gunst, Jim Stott and Jonathan King.

Grilled Turkey

Here’s the deal, says Kathy:

  • Take a turkey—10 to 12 pounds is ideal, and I wouldn’t go bigger than 14 pounds—and clean it well inside and out. Season it, inside the cavity and out on the skin, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can also add fresh chopped thyme, rosemary, sage and/or basil, and a few cloves of finely chopped garlic.
  • Next, make the fire. You will be grilling the turkey whole using a method called “Indirect Grilling.” If working with a charcoal grill, heat a good amount of charcoal until hot. Spread the coals on either side of the grill, leaving the middle part of the grill without any charcoal under it. If working with a gas grill, preheat the grill to 450 degrees and turn off the burner directly in the center, or on one side, of the grill. When you place your hand over the grill grate it should feel very hot. No matter what method you’re using, place a disposable aluminum drip pan directly under the center of the grill – it will be used to catch the juices and fat that drip off the bird as it cooks and not create a mess of your grill.
  • Place the bird in the middle of the grill, in the area where it doesn’t have direct heat underneath. Cover and cook about two hours or until the juices in the cavity are no longer pink and when the drumstick is gently jiggled it feels loose. You don’t need to baste the birds or do a thing. (I told you this was simple!) The turkey will cook faster than it will when roasted normally in an oven so keep an eye on it, particularly during the last thirty minutes of the grilling time. Look for a deeply-colored, crispy brown skin. A 10 to 12 pound bird will feed about ten to fourteen people, but leftovers are crucial so figure a pound per person.

Cranberry Sauce with Orange, Ginger, Pineapple, and Pecans

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 pound fresh cranberries
1/4 cups fresh orange juice
1/4 cup julienned orange rind
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoons coarsely chopped candied (or crystallized) ginger
1 cup pecans, or your favorite nut, coarsely chopped
[TIP]You’ll need about 2 to 3 large oranges. First, use one orange to remove the zest (the outer peel without the bitter white pith) by slicing it off with a small, sharp knife or a wide vegetable peeler. Use another orange to grate the rind and then use squeeze both oranges for their juice.

Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sugar syrup beings to thicken slightly and turn a pale amber color. Add the maple syrup and the cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. Add the orange juice, orange rind, and orange zest and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce beings to thicken slightly. Add the fresh and crystallized ginger and cook 2 minutes. The sauce should be full of flavor and slightly thickened. (If the sauce still seems thin—remember it will thicken as it chills–remove the cranberries and flavorings with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Boil the liquid in the pot over a moderate-high heat until it is thickened slightly, about 10 additional minutes, if needed. Place the cranberries back in the slightly thickened sauce.)

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the nuts, stirring well. Let cool completely. Place in a clean glass jar and cover; refrigerate for up ten days, or freeze for six months.

Makes about 6 cups.

From Notes from a Maine Kitchen (Down East Books, 2011) by Kathy Gunst

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Brian Lies (“lees”), Duxbury

    Hi– We’ve had great success with brining turkeys the last two years.  Last year my gravy, though it tasted great, turned out kind of granular-textured.  That’s never happened before.  Apparently there was a story in the NY Times this week which said you absolutely can’t make good gravy from a brined bird–do you know anything about this?  We’re brining again this year, and will see how the gravy turns out…

  • Richard

    What was the finish temp for light and dark meat?

  • Davissuan683

    Hi:  Robin hinted that she was in favor of turning the bird.  I am too.  I do it at least twice a year and it workds. If you log onto the the America’s Test Kitchen website you can watch the episode “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” for free and it shows how turn the bird safely and easiley (Forgive me but shame on Ms Gunst for striking fear in the hearts of those would have turned the bird, given the correct technique). You can both stuff the bird and cook the dressing outside, since the bird only hold maybe what 2 cups of, and you’ll likely have more eaters than that. Why one or the other? This episode also offers an attractive answer to Brian’s gravy question.

    Again, with apologies, Ms Gunst was sounding real strictm whereas if you read a bit you’ll find method(s) that suits you.

    • Kathygunst

      Me, strict!! HA! I am wide open to all sorts of techniques and “whatever works for you” is definitely the way to go. I have seen many videos and pieces about flipping the bird and it is possible to do. I just find it another one of those unnecessary steps!!

  • Emiko (Here & Now producer)

    Hello Richard!  Here’s the info from Kathy’s Turkey Tips:  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the breast meat should read 165 degrees and dark meat should register at 175 degrees.

    • Richard


  • FishingJeff

    Am I able to download this interview to my phone? I don’t see an app or link to do that.

  • Roundabout Lover

    What’s wrong with using a bag to cook a turkey?

    • Davissuan683

      My mom has done that for 50 years, another method that works.  And I  mean, a plain brown paper grocery bag that she staples shut. You can buy bags made of other materials specific for roasting a bird.  They work.

    • Kathygunst

      Nothing! I simply don’t use that technique. But many people have used it as a way of keeping the bird moist and making sure it doesn’t get too brown. But be careful if you are roasting at high temperatures that the bag doesn’t get too hot or catch fire!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1426394290 Sue Dalgleish Kernan

    I have made gravy from brined turkeys for several years and it comes out fine. Re stuffing, I have read that you should microwave the stuffing to get it as hot as you can before you stuff it in – it is supposed to help get the stuffing past the “danger zone” temperatures were food poisoning is more likely to grow.

    • Kathygunst

      It’s fine to add uncooked stuffing to the bird as long as you add it just before roasting!! No need to microwave.

  • hwrd

    The discussions of brining that I’ve seen call for sugar as well as salt.  The theory is that the sugar binds to the protein molecules in the meat, and prevents them from getting cross-linked during cooking, thereby preventing the meat from becoming tough.  I saw this in a book on the chemistry of cooking;  unfortunately I don’t recall the name.  But it is also a feature of the brine recipes I’ve used, and also of many dry rubs.  Finally, the bird (or other brined meat) should be rinsed and/or soaked in fresh water, removing excess salt while leaving the sugar to do its work.

    • Kathygunst

      Yes sugar is often added to brines but not always! A little bit wouldn’t hurt! and yes, always thoroughly rinse the brine off and dry thoroughly!

  • Kathleen

    Thanks for the carving video.  A great help. 

  • Susan

    Great turkey recipe!  I look forward to the video.  What would the cooking time be per pound for an unstuffed version?  I plan to cook a 12.5 pounder.

    • Anonymous

      Hi @e3e2d754083c20e0a768ff36e6e4b78a:disqus , Thanks for your interest- the video is now on the page above.

    • Kathygunst

      An unstuffed bird–fresh–will roast in about 12-1t minutes per pound!!

  • susan

    When you brine the bird, does it have to be thawed first or can you brine and thaw at the same time?

    • Kathygunst

      It’d best to defrost the bird before brining so the salt and spice soultion can really penetrate the meat to create a moister bird.

  • Jcurtin Phx

    What about using the injection method with a roast turkey (say with cajun or other spicy sauces – typically reserved for deep-frying in peanut oil) ?  I went through the deep-frying phase for a while, and loved the taste, but just didn’t like the mess of three gallons of peanut oil (and at a cost of about $50!).

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