The turkey I grew up eating, or how to make the grocery store bird look and taste like a million bucks!

November 26th 2013

I learned early in life that my mother Diana had a way with roasting, I mean I can’t remember one Thanksgiving where her delectable, moist, turkey and pan gravy didn’t steal the show, seriously it’s like watching community theatre and having Marlon Brando come out to do a character role. We never bought the fancy bird, we got the bird that usually was “free” with purchase of all your other groceries at “Smith’s” or “Albertson’s”, the biggest we could find, domestic, un chic, cheap. The magic that would happen was one part seasoning and three parts her own weird method. I don’t know if she wants me to share it really…haha, easier to ask for forgiveness I suppose, but really this is a homage to the master turkey maker…my mommy. We would let “fat Freddy” our frozen bird defrost for a few days in the fridge, then the night before the spell would begin….she would use butter under the skin, massaging it in like an experienced masseuse working on a client, then she would use her blend of dried herbs, all kinds, I didn’t even know fresh herbs existed till I was about 16 and started working in other restaurants! She would add her secret weapon, that being Kikkoman soy sauce, for as thrifty as my mother is, she would never, ever settle for a cheap soy, uttering cuss words if a bottle of another brand was purchased on accident, she swears by the stuff, as do I, she also would douse our bird with a good glug or two of “real lemon” lemon juice concentrate, she still rolls her eyes at me to this day when I opt for fresh lemons. I wanted to blog the bird as close to hers as I could, without losing out on my own style, so here we go, in the words of the Beatles; “Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying
Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void
It is shining, it is shining
Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being
Love is all and love is everyone”
This may not make any logic sense to “Traditional” recipes, and to keep it not only simple, but authentic, I used a cheap, run of the mill, grocery store “bargain” bird, don’t get me wrong, I have cooked some wonderful fresh, brined, beautiful free-range, expensive turkeys, but I want this version to be accessible to all, without pretense, to enjoy on a small budget, the way I did growing up. My memory, my gift, my family. There will be no snobbery only love.
You will need:
A turkey, I bought about a 16 pounder, I have cooked up to 35 pounders with my mom growing up.
A stick of butter, softened.
Several cloves garlic, my mom used granulated garlic, always, to this day….I like fresh better.
Herbs o’ plenty, my mom would use a handful of Italian seasoning, dried, dried parsley, I will be using fresh Thyme, sage, rosemary (mom hates this), and flat leaf parsley.
An onion, a carrot, a few ribs of celery
¼ cup Kikkoman soy
2 lemons, I use fresh, but the green bottle is moms go to, no judgment here, I’ve used it before.
½ cup dry white wine, mom uses plain old water
Salt and pepper, no measurement here really, she would toss it on like she was feeding pigeons on Mary Poppins.
Smoked paprika, about a palmful
Big ass roasting receptacle
Pre heat your oven to 400 degrees, in your roaster, place celery and carrots down to use as a edible rack for roasting, dress your bird, I like to mix the butter with the garlic and herbs (commonly known as compound butter) and rub it under the skin of the turkey, mainly the breast area. I sprinkle the whole bird with salt and pepper, if you have a pre-brined bird you don’t need to do this….we got ghetto fab turkey so we are salting and peppering. I squeeze the lemon over the bird then put the halves in the cavity with some rosemary and thyme, half the onion, pour on the soy and wine and cover with smoked paprika (this makes the color outrageous). Cook at 400 for about 20 minutes, then cover with foil and turn oven down to 300 degrees. Cook 5 hours, a little longer than the conventional recipes say, but trust me….it’s worth it. Never a bad idea to roast off one occasionally if you are fan of deli turkey, turkey noodle soup, and turkey curry, whatever! Roast your own, and you won’t believe how much more tasty, and affordable it can be!

Thanksgiving or not....roasting a turkey is never a bad idea!  Look at what you can do with the "leftovers"! Thanksgiving or not....roasting a turkey is never a bad idea! Look at what you can do with the "leftovers"!