Canadian Thanksgiving 2010: WARNING! Graphic Photos of a Naked Turkey (PG RATING)!
At lunch, a week or two ago with my dear friend, Shirley, we were discussing Thanksgiving plans. Of course, the menu came up and that is when I learned (remembered) that Shirley has never cooked a turkey in her life. (She is my age.) She has had the good fortune of always celebrating the holidays with her parents, and her dad was the “Turkey King”. Sadly, Shirley lost her dad a couple of years ago. Her mom took over and did him proud! Now, anyone who prepares turkey dinners knows that this is the easiest meal of any big meal to prepare. Am I right? So, I was about to tell Shirley how easy it was when she quickly put her fingers in her ears and sang the “la-la” song. I love her!
Shirley, you don’t know what you are missing! This one is for you, dear friend.
Buy a bird. They are better fresh and from the farmer’s market. You need to pre-order and even then, there are long line ups pick up day. Frozen, factory manufactured birds do not compare.
Place your bird in your sink. Unwrap it. Remove whatever it in the inner cavity. Usually the hear, gizzard and neck are there. Set them aside. Wash the bird thoroughly. Do NOT use soap! Pat it dry and then stuff it as follows. (Some people swear by brining their bird. This is turkey 101. Don’t brine. If you master this, then consider trying the brining. I have done it and my birds are just as juicy without brining; thus, I do not brine. If I have to do a side-by-side taste test to tell the difference, why brine? Buy a good bird. Convince me readers!)
Make your stuffing before taking your bird out of the wrapper. Place the bird in the roasting pan on its back and face the open cavity toward you, thusly. Pre-heat your oven to 325Â°F and tak out all of the racks except move one to the very bottom position. Stuff it!
Do not pack it in densely, but pack it in firmly. You may (and probably will) need to use the other end of the turkey for the remainder of your stuffing. Turn the turkey around lift up the skin tucked under it at the back. See the hidden cavity there?
Stuff as much as you can with out packing it in tightly (but do pack it in firmly) in the large cavity. Butchers usually have cut a layer of skin and pulled the legs though it to keep them together. YOu will have to pull the legs out of this to stuff the bird.
This turkey is plenty stuffed at this point (below).
Tuck the legs back into the skin to hold them together (and to keep the dressing snuggly in place. Place the neck under the legs here to include in the roasting. In our family, we fight over the neck.
Turn the pan around and lift up the flap of skin. Stuff in the remainder of the dressing. You can actually even push it up under the skin if you have more than the small cavity will hold. The skin seperates from the bird quite easily.
Replace the flap of skin over the stuffing and tuck it back under the bird.
Look at this beautiful baby! This pan belonged to my fraternal grandmother. She brought it with her from Ireland in the 1920’s when the family moved here to escape starvation there. (Just in time for our own “dirty thirties”!) I love this pan. It makes the BEST turkeys and roasts. However, I can see the lid is not going to fit over this 19.7 pound bird. If your lid fits, place it snuggly over the bird.
Excuse me for a minute. I am still admiring this beautiful bird from Greens Eggs & Ham, and taking a small moment to give thanks for the bounty in my life.
I hope you have heavy gage tinfoil. The light easily rip-able stuff is not very useful for anything, but it is particularly useless for this. Cover your bird tightly. I locked two pieces of the foil together, and then used that larger piece to cover the pan, tucking the edges tightly over the pan to ensure the steam is captured inside of the roaster.
Ensure you have pre-heated your oven to 325Â°F and place the bird on the bottom rack. close the door quickly to not let the heat escape. Set the timer 20 minutes per pound. And no peeking. It will be FINE.
About 30 minutes before you expect it done, take a look. You may have to remove your cover to brown the bird. I never have to. It is always this golden and perfectly done at exactly 20 minutes a pound, but I do always check it. I do not salt and pepper the skin. No one eats it, but if you do, season it before roasting. I prefer to season the gravy after the turkey is cooked. Be careful to not over season the bird as that will affect your drippings, and then, your gravy.
Vanja is delighted (and ravenous)! I actually started the carving before a photo, so replaced the legs and took the pics. You can definitely tell, but this is a really gorgeous bird.
At this point, I get out two platters: one for the carved meat that is oven proof for warming, and a large sided Pyrex continer for the turkey soup bones. Below, I have carved a good portion of the turnkey and then continue to remove the stuffing. Sometimes I remove all of the stuffing first. It just depends upon how easy the bird is to work with, how much fat it is now floating in, and how well done the meat is.
Once all of the stuffing is removed into the serving bowl, I cover it to keep it warm and continue. Above, there is still a lot of dark meat under the bird to be dealt with . I tend to leave a generous amount of meat on the carcass as we like a meaty soup. Make the gravy with the drippings and you are done!
Table is set. Casual this year as the expected future son-in-laws parents were unable to attend. Casual is sometimes better for a family holiday meal.
Mom brought her famous buns. Her recipe has eggs and sugar and butter in it. They are a traditional family favourite.
Mom and dad are both 80 and going strong. They will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next month. I know I am so lucky to have them both. That is a huge reason to be thankful during this wonderful harvest season.
So, Shirley, take your fingers out of your ears and sing the La-La song while you roast your first turkey this Christmas. I double dare ya! OX
Angie's Recipes says
Something is missing here…..oh yep..Beavie. :-))
You make me feel so HUNGRY! I have never prepared a turkey myself…can you believe it?
Cathy Walsh says
Oh dear. Now I have no more excuses. I declared to my family at Thanksgiving that I would roast a turkey between now and Christmas as a “test case”. I’m another one that has dodged turkey responsibility for the past 44 years.
Valerie, any idea where I can get fresh turkey now, or who I call to order one from the Farmer’s Market?
Call me if you need help with making it – you will laugh yourself silly it is so easy to make a feast with a turkey. Probably right now – Planet Organic would be your best bet, but I would try Sundworks Farms at OSFM, first. I will find out for you if GE &H have any coming up.
Awesome post Valerie. I just did my first turkey this Thanksgiving, but I was too scared of the whole stuffing and roasting thing so I went for what looked like the easiest method; roasting an un-stuffed 20 lb turkey at 425 for 2 hrs 40 minutes. I was shocked at how well it turned out! Was glad to have splurged on a fresh one from Four Whistle and break my family’s long tradition of Butterballs.
Emily!! Well done! Post it on your site! I would love to see a pic! Wonderful treat. I have never done one like this… after a life time tradition with no reason to change… there is, well, no reason to change.
Valerie, that turkey looks amazing!
I was so overwhelmed by the various turkey cooking methods, but Emily, we did the exact same thing and it worked so well. Valerie, you’re right – a fresh turkey makes such a huge difference (so moist and flavourful compared to frozen) and I don’t think there is any need to brine it either.
Congrats to your Mom and Dad!
Marianne… How did you do your stuffing? (Maybe you already answered that in my stuffing post, but I think I would recall, if you did.)
Heavenly Housewife says
Okay, I know this is kind of stupid but is THanksgiving a national holiday in Canada? I thought it was just in the 50 states?
Anyways, great turkey guide. I love thanksgiving, and always miss America when I think of eating a lovely turkey and all the fixings!
HH: No such thing as a stupid question. Those who do not ask remain stupid forever! We have Thanksgiving in October for a similar, but different reason. The American Holiday was first with the Pilgrims and the Indians as a celebration of …. In Canada, our holiday started as a religious one offering thanks to God for the bounty of the Harvest. It has been a holiday since the beginning of time in Canada. It is no longer so religiously focused… unless, you are religious, of course. But, there is a definite moment all around the country when the families gather at the table that each gives thanks for so much.
I thought Britain had a kind of Thanksgiving, too, no? Do Brits only get turkey two times a year, and not three?? 🙂 🙂 🙂
Oooh, your turkey looks awesome. But what I love most are your little pumpkins on the table. How adorable!
O Valerie… that sentence about not using soap while washing the bird… haha… lol.. would anyone seriously use soap for that? (I shouldn’t be asking I am sure there are.!)
I have a confession to make too; I have never made a turkey before. Turkeys are not a big thing here in Holland, but your turkey loooks soooooo good!
Heavenly housewife says
Alas no, there is nothing similar to Thanksgining in the UK. People typically do eat turkey on Christmas, but it’s not normally eaten with the same delicious sides as a thanksgiving celebration. In fact, sweet potatoe, in the UK, are considered quite exotic! And if you want canned pumpkin for cake baking, you have to go to special department stores in the bigger cities. Only big food halls carry the stuff. Imagine that LOL
Hope u are feeling better!!
The Teacher Cooks says
OMG Your Parents they look 60! I am guessing that you got their genes. What a beautiful bird. You did a fantastic job! Now anyone can roast a turkey, even your friend.
Hey Valerie, Definitely didn’t reply to your stuffing post… good eye! We did our ‘stuffing’ on the side, just in a couple pyrex dishes. It was a wild mushroom stuffing from Bon AppÃ©tit. We picked up a bunch of mushrooms from Mona’s on Saturday, cooked it Sunday and warmed it Monday. It seemed to be a hit with everyone so I think it will definitely make a reappearance. We did leave out the spinach though, doubled all the ingredients but the bread, and added extra liquid as reviews noted. Here’s the link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Wild-Mushroom-and-Spinach-Stuffing-350470
Thanks! I am such a snoop! I love to know what others do on traditional holidays… and how traditionally they are being celebrated. That looks like an excellent stuffing! Great for a Sunday Chicken, too!
This is one impressive turkey! Along with that cranberry sauce of yours I would be having a wonderful Thanksgiving meal indeed!
I personally prefer to leave the turkey making to others but I am now thinking, since it is so so easy, why not do it and not just for a holiday!
Valerie, that is one gorgeous bird! look at that perfect browning on the skin, and the stuffing is making me hungry. i might have to have a midnight snack to keep my stomach happy right now ;-). we didn’t have turkey this year for thanksgiving. we spent thanksgiving in Vancouver visiting my in-laws and also with our guests from Vietnam. i’ll post our “thanksgiving” dinner when i have more time. the big smile on Vanja’s face tells how delicious this dinner was. now i’m craving for turkey!!!!
Lovely food for Thanksgiving for sure. The bird looks cooked to perfection. Great that you were able to spend quality time with the family.
To answer your question I never put stuffing in the cavity of the bird. I make it seperate. In the cavity I like to put aromatics, garlic and oranges.
I agree that brining really is not needed. A great idea I learned from Gordon Ramsay is to make a mixture of thinly shaved black truffles, olive oil, butter, salt & pepper. Then gently lift the skin of the bird. And rub under the skin that truffle mixutre. Amazingly moist finished product. And the small from the black truffles just perfumes the entire house. Expensive but worth every penny.
Lazaro! Expensive, yes! Do you use black summer truffles and how much truffle would it take? I want to eat turkey at your house. But, I adore truffle anything, so I will most likely be doing this with the Easter Turkey in the Spring!
Anna Johnston says
What a great tutorial Val, so easy to follow. The no peaking is the trick isn’t it 😉
Dear Val, that is one gorgeous bird! Perfectly browned skin, yummy stuffing and your Mum and Dad look so sweet. Love your Ma’s dinner rolls. WOW!
I can’t wait for our Thanksgiving just to make ‘the’ bird! Vanja looks like he’s in culinary heaven & rightly so 🙂
Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors
Hey Valerie, I missed this post. The P.G rated thing is too funny. I always feel like birds look naked too;)
Oh, and I came back to tell you that I want a pasta machine too! Hmm…
Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food says
I’ve only cooked about 50 stuffed turkey dinners in my time, and I thought I could do it in my sleep, but I learned any number of things here. This is such a great post, fills such an unmet need, and is so funny too. I love the way you write. You make the reader feel as though you’re right there at their elbow, having a personal conversation. And always with that wonderful “yes you can” tone. PS. I’m jealous that you Canadians have already had your Thanksgiving and we Americans have to wait another month!
Kitchen Butterfly says
I love the PG rating on this post. Happy Thanksgiving dearie and what a great looking bird. Glad you had a great celebration
can i have grandma’s bun recipe?