When the Spanish conquerors invaded Mexico in the early 1600s, they encountered the turkey for the first time. Believing that they had reached the Indies, they named it Indian chicken. They began transporting flocks of the bird to Europe, and, in only a few years, the bird came to replace various traditional dishes across Europe. In England for example, the turkey replaced Christmas dishes like the goose. In America, roasted turkey with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and cranberry sauce comprises the typical Thanksgiving Day menu. Its tremendous size makes it extremely popular for family meals, making it the main dish of the Christmas table in many places across the globe.
A turkey’s weight ranges between 4 – 14 kilos. It is best to buy a turkey of medium weight, around 6 kilos, to allow for half a kilo per person. If it is frozen, let the meet defrost for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. After it has defrosted completely, marinate it in water with salt and sugar for about a day. Create this marinade beforehand using four liters of water, with one cup of coarse salt, and 1/3 cup sugar. The salt cleans the poultry of the blood, while the sugar balances the saltiness and helps the meet to caramelize better. The water must be cold, preferably ice cold, and you must preserve the turkey in a cool place for 8-12 hours. Before roasting, rinse it well and then stuff it.
The ingredients that are suitable for the stuffing are bread (white, corn bread, with leaven or whole wheat), rice, apples, chestnuts, nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts), dried fruit (prunes, figs, apricots), vegetables like celery, onion, leeks, mushrooms, chives and finally fresh flavorings like parsley, thyme, estragon, sage, rosemary. Suitable spices are pepper, all spice, cloves and nutmeg.
Preparation of the stuffing
- Use stale bread or put the bread in the oven at 130º C for approximately 20 minutes in order to remove the moisture so that the stuffing is more fluffy
- Sauté slightly the vegetables, leave them crunchy so that they do not melt during roasting
- Mix the stuffing’s ingredients and moisten them with one of the following: milk, broth, wine, melted butter, eggs
- It is best to remove the liver before cooking the bird because it makes the sauce bitter. Just before you put the bird in the oven, baste its skin with an aromatic butter (4-8 tablespoons depending on its size, butter with finely chopped fresh aromatic herbs of your liking). For more flavor, remove the skin from the meat carefully, starting from the neck, and baste with your hand in between the meet and skin with that same butter. This way the skin becomes crunchier and the meat more juicy and aromatic. If you stuff it, take care that the stuffing is at room temperature and not cold.
Roasting time: Calculate approximately 12 minutes for every half kilo of meat.
Hints for correct roasting
- Stuff only 3/4 of the cavity so that the stuffing doesn’t overflow during roasting
- Do not turn over the turkey too many times in the pan; it is best to turn it around with the pan 1-2 times during roasting
- Baste the turkey with its own juice about every 20 minutes; let it roast on its own during the last half hour so that it becomes crunchy on the outside
- Leave it to rest for 20 minutes before you carve it. When you carve it, remove the wings first, then the legs and finally with the knife separate the breast from the bone and slice it.
- Caramelized onions
- Prunes and chestnuts
- Mashed potatoes (with or without pumpkin)
- Celery root
- Rice and, of course, the stuffing
Once it has roasted, let it rest for half an hour before you carve it. Strain the juice from the pan and prepare the sauce that will accompany the bird. A simple and fast way is to pass the original juices through a strainer and thicken it with a little bit of butter and flour, or with corn flour and water. Then, heat it up again, stirring into it a few fresh, finely chopped flavorings.