Sunday, November 15, 2009

It’s All About The Turkey - What I Learned From Fantastic Anne, The Reeled-In Neelys, Glorious Paula (When She’s Not Cooking Nekked) Plus...

Peacemaker Sunny And My Gem Of A Contessa

Thanksgiving is all over the Food Network. It started with their newsletter, which includes Bobby’s great way to roast a turkey.

Then, all over the place on Saturday, were Thanksgiving recipes. I skipped Rach’s turkey cutlets and watched Anne brine a turkey; the Neelys deep fry a turkey, and Paula roast one.

Then I wondered what Giada was going to show us. This is weird – a pork roast is what she came up with. Yup, she did a pork roast. Go figgah! And lastly it was home with the Contessa, as she gave us lots of Thanksgiving ideas.

I’m concentrating on the turkeys for each of these shows, but I’ll include the links for all the other dishes, because if you went searching for them on the AWFUL Food Network website, it would take you well into next year to find them.

Let’s get started with Anne’s brined turkey.

Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell

The Secret to Brined Turkey

Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy

Sausage, Apple, and Walnut Stuffing

Anne makes a really flavorful brine – lots of herbs, vegetables and apple cider – and brines her turkey for 3 days. She takes out the turkey, dries it really well and rubs a flavored butter on it anywhere that it will go - under AND over the skin. Then Anne ties it up really well and places it back in the roasting pan.

Before cooking, she leaves it uncovered overnight in the fridge to dry out any moisture on the skin. This helps to get the skin crispy in the oven and it also makes her prep on Thanksgiving a breeze.

Anne warns us not to have ANYTHING in the vicinity of the uncovered turkey while it’s in the fridge, because it’s POULTRY. Yeah, be careful.

Anne roasts her turkey at 450°F for 40 minutes until brown and crusty, and then 350°F for the rest of the cooking time.

I love how she says she and her sister used to cut bread into squares for the stuffing, while they were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That was their job. See? THAT’S what Thanksgiving is about.

My kids have great memories like that too. My daughter’s: GET that table set now! My son’s: If you bring one more leaf into the house, you’re eating in the basement! You know, stuff like that…

Anne takes out her turkey and exclaims, “Norman Rockwell!” It IS possibly the most beautiful roast turkey I’ve ever seen. And in her hands, you KNOW it’s going to taste good too, no…great.

It’s only a 14 pounder, which is kind of not a huge trick, and she doesn’t stuff it, which aids even more in the cooking, but I’m still in awe of it. Anne’s cooking IS impeccable, which is perhaps a funny word to use for someone so loosey goosey, but really she is fantastic.

I may add apple cider to my stuffing this year instead of orange juice.

Anne says the crispy skin is from the brine, the lube job and the sitting in the fridge. She tests it. She wants the breast to say 160°F. She let's it rest. She’s not using my trick of turning the turkey upside down.

But here’s the important thing, she IS using the drippings to make gravy, in spite of the fact that she brined her turkey. This is my huge bugaboo to brining a turkey. I’m just not willing to take the chance that the drippings will be unusable.

She skims the fat off the top to use in her roux. Anne makes her gravy the way my mother did, in the actual roasting pan. I use a huge sauce pan or stock pot, because I always make about ½ gallon of gravy.

Gorgeous job. Please tell me about using the brined drippings if you try this recipe…or ANY brining recipe.

On to the Neelys. They’re pretending it’s just four of them for Thanksgiving, which you know with their huge family is highly unlikely, but whatever.

Down home with the Neelys with Pat and Gina Neely

Gobble, Gobble

Neely's Deep-Fried Turkey

Cranberry Chutney

Broccoli with Pecan Brown Butter

Gina's Pumpkin Cheesecake

They’re also starting with a 14 pound turkey. That’s like cooking a big chicken. The Neelys are deep frying it this year.

I would do that if I were cooking 2 turkeys and I was willing to possibly sacrifice one AND if I had someone interested in keeping a close watch on it.

Pat has dried the turkey really well. He seasons it up under the skin AND in the cavity, as well as ON the skin. That’s an excellent idea if you want a non-fat way to add flavor. He says to do that the night before to let the seasoning set in.

They do their other bits and pieces and finally Pat gets to the turkey. He’s using an electric deep fryer outside. He says to allow 3 minutes per pound. That’s just plain funny…that the whole thing will cook in less than 45 minutes.

Pat's frying looked nothing like this. (I love the kid saying, "This was a BAD idea!"

The Neely’s cheesecake recipe looks fine AND there’s no Cool Whip in sight.

Pat takes out the turkey slowly and lets as much oil as possible drain from it. He puts the turkey still in its frying basket on a baking sheet. That’s a clever way to avoid dripping oil all over on the way into the house.

Gina finishes up everything with her girls. Awww, that’s nice. She whips real cream (thank goodness) with flavorings. Pat takes the turkey out. What are they doing about gravy by the way? They don’t seem to have missed it. They’re eating and exclaiming. The girls are a lot quieter than the parents.

They have a nice share our strength promo at the end.

On to Paula’s turkey.

Paula’s Best Dishes with Paula Deen

Turkey Time

Smashed Potato, Parsnips and Rutabaga

Pumpkin Rum Pie

Apple Cranberry Stuffing

Roasted Turkey with Maple Cranberry Glaze

Paula also has a small turkey – 15 pounds. Paula starts by making a butter “paste”. The butter has lots of seasonings, garlic and parsley (That parsley looks so fresh, it looks fake.) She rubs the butter all over the outside of the turkey and in the neck. Paula leaves “the bulk of it” on the top, so it runs down the breast as it’s roasting.

Paula cooks the turkey for a few hours until the dark meat reaches 160°F. (Most other people, including the USDA, say 165°F. I guess Paula likes to live dangerously.) Like the Neelys and Anne, Paula is roasting the turkey unstuffed.

Paula tells a funny story about her cousin Johnnie, with whom she’s cooking today. Johnnie gave her a “mink” apron. We see a clip of an old show with Paula wearing it. She tells us it’s actually the kind of thing you’re supposed to wear when you're nekked, not actually when you’re cooking. They have a good laugh. Of course, even if Paula were alone in the kitchen, she’d find something to have a good laugh about.

Paula adds a can of celery soup to something or other. Okay, I don’t care about this part. Then she toasts Hawaiian bread for stuffing. Now, I like SWEET, but not bread pudding sweet. That WOULD be a good idea for a bread pudding, use Hawaiian bread.

Let’s get to the turkey. Oh, I didn’t know a rutabaga was a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. I always thought of it as a cross between a turnip and…I never actually thought about it before.

We also learn that Johnnie preferred the standard Georgia sweet potato pie to pumpkin pie when she was growing up, but today she’s making a pumpkin pie. I like that her pumpkin pie recipe uses an entire can of pumpkin, so you don’t have that little bit left over.

Johnnie makes an awesome topping for the pumpkin pie – butter, brown sugar and pecans. That would have a place on any pumpkin pie or ANY pie. I was just going to concentrate on the turkey, but it all looks so good.

Paula is making a glaze for the turkey – butter, apple cider, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. She’s funny. Paula says it takes hours to prepare all the food and “ten minutes to knock it all down”.

I like how Johnnie is just spooning HUGE dollops of cream on top of the pie, no piping, and then tops it with those pecan crunchies. She cuts it up and they taste it before the turkey. (I want to live in Paula's world.)

Paula garnishes her turkey on the platter with herbs and cherry tomatoes and all kinds of stuff. Pretty. She spoons over some maple glaze. I guess that's in lieu of gravy.

Why do they have to taste everything on the cluttered countertop? Can’t they sit for a minute? They love everything. Pretty great show. Not too much new stuff about the turkey, but the other dishes were over the top.

Cooking for Real with Sunny Anderson


Crunchy Sweet Brussels Sprout Salad

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Breast Stuffed with Pear Hash

I appreciate that Sunny starts off by saying there are great debates about stuffing or not stuffing. She totally doesn’t judge those of us who stuff. She wants to make everyone happy, which she does by stuffing a turkey breast. She's going to brine it first. I am so out of it, by not brining. She adds all kinds of goodies to the brine.

Sunny says you can brine the turkey breast for as little as an hour or overnight. She says to remove the tenderloin piece of the turkey and save it for something else.

Sunny sautés finely chopped vegetables for the stuffing. She makes the excellent point that the vegetables should be chopped finely, so the turkey breast will roll up without any lumpy pieces in it. She also has good advice about the pears. Buy firm Bosc ones, because they’re going to cook twice – once in the sauté pan, once in the oven - stuffed into the turkey.

She finishes up the stuffing with bought bread crumbs and stock.

Sunny says to use Kosher salt for the brine. Table salt will make it too salty. She gets loads of paper towels ready and take the turkey breast out of the brine and dries it really well. She cuts open the turkey like a book.

She places the turkey breast on a 2 big sheets of plastic wrap. She places the stuffing in the center and rolls it up really tightly. Then she wraps thick cut bacon strips around the breast and sprinkles paprika over. She wraps the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap to help it keep its shape. She does a second turkey breast the same way and puts them in the fridge for at least an hour.

Before she browns the stuffed breasts, Sunny ties twine around (on the bacon pieces) so they'll stay together. She sears them in hot oil in a cast iron pan and puts them in a 375°F oven for about an hour until they test 160°F. The meat DOES continue cooking, of course, out of the oven, so you probably won't be in too much trouble with that temperature.

She does a nice Brussels sprout salad. I never saw anyone slice Brussels spouts like that. If the stem is the South Pole, she slices them parallel to the equator. Interesting.

Her turkey breasts do look fabulous. She slices them easily into pretty slices. I would do that if I had some of my vat of Thanksgiving gravy left. THAT would actually be a lovely Christmas dinner. Mmm. Check back on the 26th to see if I made that.

Okay, on to Giada. Oh I forgot, She's doing pork. WHY? I guess when you’re having Thanksgiving outside in the beautiful sunshine it’s easy to forget about roasting a huge turkey in a blazing hot oven.

Good for me, I can skip right to Ina. (Today, the FN DID show a Giada Thanksgiving episode from 2008 with a turkey breast recipe.)

Ina is going to give us some recipes and answer some viewers’ questions. She’s stuffing mushroom with sausage stuffing. What a great idea, stuffing and side dish in one! This show definitely deserves its own post. I’ll get to that soon.

So what I have learned from all these shows?

  • I’m definitely going to unwrap my turkey the night before and dry it off well and leave it in the roasting pan in the fridge uncovered.
  • I’m going to shove something or other under the skin. I often use orange slices, but I like the idea of a spice blend too. Who would have thought the Neelys would give us a calorie-free tip?
  • And I’m going to rely on a thermometer to not poison my guests. That’s probably the best plan of all.


meleyna said...

The first (and only) turkey I ever did I did the whole upside-down trick. (I believe I got it from Nigella.) This year I'm hosting, so I'll be doing the turkey, and as soon as I saw Anne pull out her turkey, I immediately thought "That's the turkey I'm making."

Now my only other problem is figuring out how to politely tell everyone else to leave their food at home. You asked ME to host, didn't you? No marshmallowed sweet potatoes, please! :)

Sue said...

Hi Meleyna,
You COOK it upside down or you let it rest upside down? I guessing the latter. I didn't know Nigella did that too, but I'm willing to bet she doesn't do it with a boiling, hot STUFFED turkey, like I do...actually, like I make my poor husband do, with me breathing all over him to make sure it doesn't go on the floor.

If people are desperate to bring something, let them bring hors d'oeuvres, so you don't have to bother. OR let them bring wine OR let them bring their crappy food and just make the kids eat it.

Dhanggit said...

I always just bring a bottle of a good wine, simpler and easier for my part :-)

Tom said...

Hi Sue,

I have used the drippings from the brined turkey for the gravy -- you just have to make sure that there's no salt in the rest of the ingredients. So I make salt-free turkey stock and it all turns out fine.

But three days of brining is enough to make me run for the hills!

I also have found that unless you're putting some fat under the skin, separating the skin on the breast from the meat actually makes the meat less juicy in the end, so I wouldn't do it just to put sage leaves in (a la Martha) or a spice rub either.


Sue said...

Come over anytime!

Interesting about the brined drippings. One of these years, I really have to take the plunge.

Hmmm, I guess that does make sense that you would need fat under the skin to help keep the breast moist. Do you think because Pat was deep frying the turkey, it was okay to add the spices without any fat? Orange slices have always worked well for me, I suppose, because they add moisture.

Nutmeg Nanny said...

I'm totally not going to lie....I love when FN does their holiday specials. I always find them fun:)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Yes, I swear my cider brine truly doesn't make a bad gravy. Really. However, this year to save myself some time (since I have to transport the turkey to another house), I'm going to buy some turkey wings and make the gravy ahead of time.

I did pay way too much for my turkey, but I figure I'm doing a farmer and the food system a favor. I'm not making dinner, just bread, turkey and a chocolate pie. I got my turkey from WF last year and it really doesn't make sense for me. There is a WF in White Plains, which is in a mall where I have to pay to park. Then there is the one I often shop at near my office - which is 40 minutes from home. If I were working on pickup time that would be no problem, but I don't want to drive out of my way to get the turkey this year. I did that two years in a row.

This year I"m going to shove sage butter and oranges under the turkey skin. I've been doing that with my chickens lately, and you're right. It's great that way.

meleyna said...

No, Sue, I cooked it upside down, then flipped it over the last hour to brown.

Any experience with turkey-wing gravy? I saw Tyler do it Saturday morning, and I was intrigued. It'd be a dream to get it done in advance.

Sue said...

Hi NN,
They can be a lot of fun. The best Xmas special of all time was Martha and Julia making croquembouche. Martha's was stunning and perfect. Julia's was lopsided and home spun. It was soooooooo funny.

Ok, Rach,
I am going to take your (and Tom's) word for it. Maybe in a decade or so, I be ready to try it.

And I agree that you shouldn't have to go through a song and dance to get a turkey. Have fun being a guest!

That's so interesting. Is it Nigella's recipe? I just found this neat Upside Down Turkey recipe:

I looked at Tyler's wing gravy recipe. It looks good. Just make sure you really brown the roux, which is the part I'm always lazy about. (Thank goodness for Gravy Master.)

redhotchilly12 said...

Really appreciate some turkey rubs recipe's here. Found more greatful visiting this page. I love to learn different turkey recipe and I'm glad I found it in your site. Thanks!

Sunny Anderson said...

hey girl, i want some of this orange-turkey you are talkin about! and on the brine&gravy thing, i've always made a pan sauce at home with it and i think a couple of times on the show as well. i too, opt for low-sodium stock or just make my own sans salt and freeze it in cubes when i'm feelin fancy. (read once a decade). try brining a chicken breast first to play with the salt content. trust me, it really is good and juicy. hope you've been well, caught a musing post a few weeks back and read it laughin and smilin. so nice to see these through your eyes. anywho, happy holidays ... already!

Emily said...

Mmm marshmallowed sweet potatoes. :)

Anne's turkey sounds fabulous. I'd love to try that one day.

The Neelys make broccoli on every show, I swear. I watched that whole turkey deep fryer video. I thought someone was going to get injured.

Sue said...

Hi Redhotchilly12,

That was bum link you included. Too bad. If you have a good turkey rub, let me know, although a la Tom, I'll be using it with olive oil or butter.

Hey Sunny!
The evidence is really mounting for brining. I think your turkey breast recipe is going to become my new Christmas dinner. I will definitely let you know how it goes.

You too have a great holiday. Cook and eat lots...and enjoy the family and friends that I'm sure are beating down the door to get to your table.

Marshmallows are great. Sweet potatoes are great. Just eat them separately.

At least the Neelys are getting their greens. Pat did great job deep frying the turkey. I'm sure no one else on earth does it with so little drama and so little mess. And I really did think it was smart to carry the whole-dripping-with-grease thing into the house on a big baking tray. (A woman must have given him that idea.)

Anonymous said...

DO use the drippings for the gravy!!! I've brined turkeys for several years now and the first one I did I was astounded at how good the gravy was. Beautiful color--perfect taste. Didn't have to add anything but some black pepper.

General comment--I love brined poultry. Last year I tried Bon Appetit's salt brined bird (dry rub deal) and though the turkey was gorgeous-and moist-I didn't think it was as good as the brined bird. This year I'm going back to what I know works--and tastes- best.