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Turkey Trini Style

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Here at home, an influx of turkeys (and hams) at our local groceries and supermarkets signals the start of the Christmas season. In North America however, coming down to the end of November, Americans start talking autumn, wool scarves and of course, Thanksgiving, which was celebrated on November 22nd, and features that very huge bird, the turkey.
Of course, we Trinidadians love eating turkeys too, but unlike our American counterparts, we take our turkey at Christmas time. Now that the Christmas season has begun, the quest for a nice, moist and tender turkey takes precedent. Given our predilection for meat on the whole, we also eat turkey year round and some groceries sell what we call “Turkey Stew” pieces of turkey legs, thighs, breasts and wings cut up and packaged in clear plastic and Styrofoam, destined for the stewing pot. Stewing is our thing, really. Baking an entire turkey however, takes some considerable skill, but it is not that difficult (as you will soon see, just check our tips below.)
This week, I’m sharing a simple turkey and stuffing/dressing recipe. Personally, I don’t stuff my birds, because of the risk of having a perfectly baked turkey and an undercooked stuffing. I make it and bake it in another dish on the side, perfect for people like me who love the crispy bits! Enjoy!
Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey
• 1/2 cup butter, melted
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 turkey (14 to 16 pounds)
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 teaspoons pepper
• 1 medium lemon, halved
• 1 medium onion, quartered
• 14 garlic cloves, peeled
• 24 fresh thyme sprigs
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 1 turkey-size oven roasting bag
• In a small bowl, combine the butter, lemon juice, lemon peel and minced thyme.  
• Pat turkey dry.
• Sprinkle salt and pepper over the skin of the turkey and inside the cavity and brush with butter mixture. 
• Place the lemon, onion, garlic and thyme sprigs in the cavity. 
• Skewer the turkey openings and tie the drumsticks together.
• Place flour in the oven bag and shake to coat. Place the bag in the roasting pan and add turkey, breast side up. 
• Cut six inch slits in top of bag; close bag with the tie string provided.
• Bake at 350° F for 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours, or until a meat thermometer reads at 180 degrees.
• Remove turkey to a serving platter and keep warm.
• Let stand for 15 minutes before carving. If desired, thicken the pan drippings for gravy.
Easy Stuffing/Dressing
• 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
• ľ cup chopped local celery
• 1/3 cup butter
• 2 or 3 stalks chive, sliced thinly
• 1 small bunch fresh thyme
• 4 to 5 cups bread cubes
• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 to 3 chopped pimento peppers
• 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
• Turkey or chicken broth
Stuffing Method:
• Saute onion and celery in the butter until softened. Add in the chive and remove the leaves from the thyme and add to the pot. Combine onion mixture with bread, pepper, eggs, salt, pimento peppers and poultry seasoning in a large mixing bowl. Stir in broth until well moistened. Stuff your turkey.
Dressing Method: 
• Do all steps, then bake in a greased covered shallow casserole dish at 325oF for about 35 to 45 minutes. Take the cover off the last 5 minutes to brown. Serve on the side of your turkey.
Turkey Tips
Refrigerator Thawing: Thaw breast side up, in unopened wrapper, on a tray in the refrigerator. Allow for at least 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey.
Cold-Water Thawing: Thaw breast side down, in unopened wrapper, in enough cold water to cover it completely. Change the water frequently to keep the turkey chilled. Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per pound for a whole turkey.
Never put a turkey out in the kitchen to thaw ‘just so’. You run the risk of encouraging harmful bacteria.
The average Trini will season their turkey in some way before baking, and the most popular methods are to brine or flavour inject it.
Brining: Mix 1 cup salt, 1 cup brown sugar and 2 quarts of water or apple juice in a large pot. For flavour, add a few smashed cloves of garlic, some fresh thyme, a 2 inch piece of ginger (sliced), some peppercorns, fresh orange peel and a bay leaf. Everything gets warmed on the stove for 15 minutes, then cooled down. Put the thawed turkey in a deep plastic container like a souse bucket or peanut butter bucket, and then pour the cold brine over it. If it doesn’t cover the bird completely, add another one or 2 quarts of water. Place it in the fridge overnight.  The next day, remove it from the liquid, rinse it off and pat it dry with paper towels. Place in a roasting pan and rub a little butter on the skin. Roast at 350 degrees and time it according to its weight on the chart. 
Flavour injecting: We Trinis can get very creative with this, but the key to a good injection liquid is to avoid the solids that could clog up your needle. So no chunks of garlic or pepper flakes, etc. Good things to look for are seasoned oils, juices, vinegars or finely crushed spices, wines or beers. Even chicken broth and soy sauce will work well here too. 
Baking times for your turkey will vary according to if you’re stuffing it or not. In general you bake a turkey at 325°F to 350°F. Never increase the heat; it’s not going to help it cook quicker. You will get a dry, stringy bird for your trouble.
Cooking times (Unstuffed Turkey)
4 to 8 pounds: 1 ½ to 3 ¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds: 2 ¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3 ¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds: 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4 ½ to 5 hours
Cooking times (Stuffed Turkey)
8 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3 ½ hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 ½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 4 to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours
In absence of a Meat Thermometer
Pierce the turkey with a fork in several places; juices should be clear and without a trace of pink colour.
Using a Meat Thermometer
Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. It should be at 165 degrees.
Removing the Turkey from the oven
Once you remove the turkey from the oven, tent it with aluminium foil and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes so the meat can firm up and hold the juices, making it easier to carve.



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