Turkey is a must for a holiday spread. However, it is a tricky bird to prepare and oftentimes yields mixed results. To quote my grandmother, a major problem is that “turkey is so dry!” That was a complaint that we often got as a Chinese family trying to figure out our own traditions for an American holiday. My family tried roasting our own turkey for several years, but eventually gave up because it was tedious and time-consuming, with minimal reward. After years of turkey fails, I have pieced together the pitfalls of preparing a Thanksgiving bird. My remedy for turkey troubles is threefold:
- deconstructing prior to roasting
- delicious herb butter under the skin.
I prepared this turkey not for my family this year, but for the Veterans that I have the honor of working with every day. The holidays can be a challenging time for many Veterans. With the specific hardships and challenges that Veterans face, some spend their Thanksgiving without turkey, without pie, and some without friends and family. So this year I wanted to do something to give back. I made a tray of roasted turkey with stuffing and gravy for members of my group therapy class and the look on their faces made it all worth the effort. It was a reminder of why I cook. What makes a meal special is not the rarity or lavishness of ingredients that comprise a dish. Nor is it the gourmet skill or complex techniques that went into preparation. For me, what makes cooking special is the fact that I get to share the end result with others. I love the fact that bringing a turkey and stuffing to my patients can help them create a sense of community and belonging.
I hope that you enjoy this recipe with those that you love!
Follow your favorite youtube video to guide you in breaking down the turkey by its parts.
Allow the brine to completely cool before you place your turkey in it. Boiled turkey is not what we’re going for.
For best results, use fresh herbs for the herb butter. And, in general, try to use fresh herbs rather than dry. Fresh herbs have a brightness of flavor that is often lost when they are dried.
My uncle taught me to taste brines and marinades prior to placing the meat inside of them. This will help you to adjust the salt to taste
4 quarts of water
½ cup of salt
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp garlic salt
Turkey Broth Ingredients
Turkey backbone, neck, ribs
2 quarts water
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
1 10-lb turkey, defrosted and divided into different parts
1 stick unsalted room temperature butter
1 head garlic, crushed
4 tbsp fresh rosemary
4 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp salt to taste
2 tbsp pepper
1 stalk celery
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 loaves day-old French bread, cut into 2-inch pieces
roasted celery and onion (from roasted turkey recipe)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh sage
1 ½ c chicken broth
1/2 cup turkey pan juices
1 cup home-made turkey broth
3 cups home-made turkey broth
1 cup canned chicken broth
1/2 cup turkey pan juices
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp pepper
2 days before serving turkey: prepare brine and turkey broth
Bring brine ingredients to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
Once the brine is completely cooled, submerge turkey pieces into the brine. Refrigerate and allow to sit in the brine for at least 24 hours.
Turkey Broth Recipe
Season rib, neck, and backbone pieces. Roast in oven at 425 degrees until golden brown.
Place roasted bones into hot boiling water with fresh herbs and simmer for 2 hours.
Day of serving turkey:
Preheat oven at 425 degrees.
Remove turkey from brine and pat the skin dry with a clean paper towel.
Prepare herb butter by mixing minced garlic, and chopped herbs with room temperature butter. Once it is well mixed, gently peel underneath the skin of the turkey pieces and evenly distribute herb butter into every piece.
Roughly slice onions and chop celery and place on baking sheet. This will serve as the bed for the turkey during roasting. Place pieces of turkey onto bed of onions and celery.
Brush surface of the turkey pieces with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on the part, with legs and thighs (45 minutes, done at 165 degrees F) requiring longer cooking time than breast (35-40 minutes, done when thermometer reads 165 degrees F).
Once turkey is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Slice turkey and pour remaining pan juices after making gravy and stuffing.
In a large saucepan, melt 4 tbsp of butter. Add in flour and mix well. Allow roux to turn light brown to cook out the raw flour flavor.
Add in fresh chopped herbs and sauté for 1 minute.
Add in fresh turkey broth (recipe above), canned chicken broth, and turkey roasting juices.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Mix eggs, turkey broth, chicken broth, and turkey pan juices together.
Pour egg mixture over bread and distribute evenly.
Combine with roasted celery and onion, and chopped herbs.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.