Always mount a scratch turkey

(If the subject line disturbs you, perhaps you’ve never heard the proverb “Always mount a scratch monkey“.)

Jodi’s family will be having Thanksgiving with us this year.
Thanksgiving is a meal at which a roast turkey is served.
A roast turkey to feed them all and have leftovers weighs about twelve pounds.
Cooking twelve pounds of meat in an oven can be a little tricky.
I am the cook in this household.
I am a vegetarian.
Stop me when you see where this is going.

So to gain some experience before inflicting my beast-roasting skills on very nice in-laws who really don’t deserve food poisoning or even dry turkey, I’m practicing.

I will be using Alton Brown’s recipe for brined roast turkey, starting with making a brine tonight, putting the turkey into the brine tomorrow night, and finally roasting the turkey Saturday.

I have no idea how to carve this thing.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Always mount a scratch turkey

  1. gardenwaltz

    i’m not sure if i’m amused or disturbed. for the carving, i would recommend a sharp knife and a volunteer.

  2. osh1013

    1) you’re following the example of AB, so you’re already off to a good start.

    2) you’re doing at least one practice run before the Main Event, so you’re even more ahead of the game.

    2.5) do you have an oven thermometer? Do you know what your oven’s temp -really- is? Do you have a probe thermometer? As in the kind that has a line running to the readout unit which you set on the counter outside the stove, and an alarm that’ll go off when the food reaches your set target temp? Those suckers are only like fifteen bucks, and are worth their weight in gold – especially when long-roasting pesky birds.

    3) don’t be afraid to heap on the herbs. Mmmm, rosemary and garlic… mmm. Under the skin, of course.

    4) Carving: with a knife. after letting the bird rest and coast up to temp.
    Best bet: cheat. Pass the knife to Jodi’s dad and make a show of ‘giving him the honors.’ Compliments him and takes the onus offa you, all in One Fowl Swoop. ;)
    If that fails, just cut the darned thing up into slices – larger than a saltine and smaller than the original bird. If anyone complains that “you’re not doing it right” then hand them the knife – they obviously need the therapy to Get Over Themselves. Optional touch: while handing the knife to them, mutter something about “down, not across.”

    4.5) Alternative Scratch, in case everything goes to shit, is what I call ‘Personal Pan Turkeys’, aka Cornish Game Hens. Do everything just as you would for a normal turkey, except cooking time is shorter cause the birds are much much smaller. Then everybody gets their own bird all to themselves – no fighting over breast, leg, light-meat, dark meat – and carving is a distributed task. Cook a few more birds than there are consumers.

  3. sylvar

    2.5) yes, I have a probe thermometer, and following his advice I will tell it to beep at me when the inside of the breast reaches 161°F. (The oven’s temperature is ±30°F from the dial, generally.)

    4) How far does it need to coast? I’m going with AB’s “15 minutes”, probably.

    4.5) Ah, but frozen turkey is 99¢/lb. Hard to beat that. I don’t know how much edible meat that is by weight, but even at a 50% loss rate, that’s still cheap. Cornish game hens, on the other hand…

  4. sylvar

    Oh, and… thank you for the advice!

  5. vixi

    I trust AB, but we disagree on stuffing. I have made some wonderfully moist bird.. STUFFED!!!

    You are in good hands though, especially for a turkey novice. No “when it seems done” for you :P

    Good luck!

    Are you subscribed to the AB livejournal feed??!@

  6. sylvar

    Are you subscribed to the AB livejournal feed??!@

    I am now. I think I decided not to subscribe before when I saw only two entries and one of them said he was leaving the planet.

    Now I’ve got a song in my head that doesn’t exist: Hanson’s “Hale-Bopp”.

  7. meander112

    How do I find this feed?

  8. cardinalximinez

    I’m really surprised I’d never heard that scratch monkey story before…. Simultaneously amusing and aggrivating. Though it does remind me of the urban legend about the janitor unplugging the life support equipment to run his floor polisher.

  9. sylvar

    Look at the feeds I’m subscribed to, I suppose. :)

    Oh, okay, fine:

  10. bethlynn

    I suggest “faking it”

    Call around the groceries in your area. Smaller high-end groceries rather than supermarkets if you have a choice. Ask for a pre-cooked turkey kit. Most come with a precooked bird, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. I suggest you stretch the gravy with a can of chicken broth. For a more realistic effect, pour another can of chicken broth over you bird as you put it into the oven. Also pour chicken broth over your stuffing to make it moist. You can never have enough chicken broth.

    I did this for thanksgiving and christmas of 2003. Serves 8 with leftovers.

    And as silly as it may sound, they make electric carvers for a reason.

  11. osh1013

    2.5) Cool. You have, and you’re aware, which is all one could hope for.

    4) “Until it’s finished coasting”, generally. Watch the temp. It’ll keep rising for a little bit, then stop rising and slowly start falling again. That’s about the point you want to devour. “about fifteen minutes” is pretty much spot on, but since you’re doing a test-run anyways use the opportunity to observe.

    This is, btw, the meat equivalent of “taking your scrambled eggs off the stove while they’re still a bit wet, cause they’ll keep cooking on the plate.” Same logic holds for pasta. Holds for pretty much everything, really.

    4.5) Yes, turkey is cheap, but Game Hens are soooo much tastier. Worth the expense, IMHO. ‘Sides, I like giving a guest the option to rip their own legs off. I’m just nice that way. ;)

  12. osh1013

    Yer welcome, of course.

  13. osh1013

    they make electric carvers for a reason

    Yea.. for folx who can’t be bothered to keep their knives sharp. I think there’s a special level of Hell reserved for such folx, but then I’m just an opinionated snob that way. *grin*

  14. meander112

    Of course, I thought of checking your User Info after I asked this question. ;-)

  15. h_postmortemus

    a) I have made and eaten many a turkey without ever brining. It’s probably a good enhancement but hardly necessary for a good bird.

    b) Stuffing doesn’t need to go in the bird, but despite AB’s insistance it really is pretty tastey and doesn’t dry out the bird if you don’t over do it (i.e. don’t use huge amounts of bread crumbs, and make sure the stuffing is plenty moist when you put it in).

    c) Speaking of stuffing, as long as you are impersonating a carnivore, consider using sausage in the stuffing! Jenn introduced me to that concept, and I love it.

    d) Consider a 16 pound bird. Really.

    e) Try and avoid frozen. Get a fresher bird, it’ll taste much better. If price is no object, consider one of these.

    Whatever you do, just don’t try and make any of these…

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