Since we are a few hours away from Turkey Day, I decided to test out a new combination of flavours for roasted birds. This was prepared with a whole chicken, but you could easily bump up the quantities for a larger turkey.
Mise en place: Roasting pan, cookie sheet, paper towel, foil, room temperature butter, apple, onion, celery, carrot, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, sage leaves and/or dried, salt, pepper, all-purpose flour, measuring cup (Pyrex glass 2 cup measure), whisk and wooden spoon. Crank up the oven to 430ºF.
First, prepare the bird, same goes for a turkey. Wash the bird under cool running water, remove any reminence of feathers. I like to do a lipo job to remove those clusters of solid fat, do this carefully with a small sharp knife while the bird is on a flat surface (cookie sheet). If you’re not up to this part, leave it alone, I want you to keep your fingers intact. Discard the excess fat, and flaps of skin next to the thighs. Pat dry with paper towel, inside and out. One more step before you go wash your hands: loosen the skin away from the breast meat and legs. Now wash up!
To the roasting pan, add the spices. Use about a tablespoon of coriander and cumin seeds along with the cinnamon stick and a couple of sage leaves. Using whole spices is important here because we want to strain them out to make a gravy later. If you have a strainer that can separate tiny grains of ground spices, let me know where I can buy one. Roughly chop the onion, celery (include the leafy tops!), apple, and carrots. The bigger the pieces are, the longer it will take for them to cook, and they will act as the rack for the bird. Add them in one layer and a cup or two of water (or white wine if you have it, take it up a notch!). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, season each layer my friends!
Using half of an apple, I used green, dice it into about 1 inch pieces then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff the apple and a couple more sage leaves into the cavity of the bird.
Next is the compound butter. Simply mix about 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter with a palmful of dried sage, salt and pepper. If your butter becomes too warm just pop it into the freezer for a few minutes so that you can work with it. Remember those pockets of fat you removed from the bird? We are replacing those with this flavoured butter. Shove 1/4 of the butter into the space between the skin and the meat, repeat on the other side with another 1/4 of the butter. The remaining half of the compound butter goes on the skin, all over the entire bird.
Move the bird to the roasting pan using the neck hole and breast plate as handles, otherwise you might lose the butter encased bird to the floor. Tuck the wing tips under. I did not truss this bird and sometimes you don’t really need to. The bonus is all that skin between the legs and breast gets crispy because it’s not squished together and shielded from the heat of the oven.
Place the pan in the oven, legs pointing to the back of the oven. Don’t open the door, this is important: keep the heat and steam inside the oven. The more you open the door to check on the bird, the more vapour escapes, therefore causing dry-bird-syndrome. Leave it alone for a while, set a timer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, check for browning of the skin, look through the glass of the oven door. Try not to open it. If you see some nice golden brown, turn down the oven to 350ºF. Let it roast another 20 minutes.
Carefully open the door with your body away from the oven. The steam will give you an unwanted facial if you’re not careful. Take birdy’s temperature in a thick part of the breast without touching any bones, I use the area near the wings, equivalent to pectorals I guess. Don’t puncture the top of the bird in the middle of the breast, all the juices will run out (DBS!). The pectoral should read 160ºF, thighs 180ºF. Shy by ten degrees? Roast for about 20 more minutes.
If you have reached the correct temperature, remove the pan from the oven. Place birdy on a cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Let birdy rest before carving, let the juices redistribute!
I have a wee one in the house and if you are a thrifty mama like me, you’ll want to save those carrots and apples from the pan to blend up for your sweet baby. I even left some celery in the mix, although the strings did a number on my blender! Fair warning for you.
Gravy! Life would not be complete without gravy. Strain the cooking liquid from the pan and separate the grease. Take note of how many tablespoons of grease you have collected, measure an equal amount of flour. Add the grease and flour to the pan (you can use another pot) and stir quickly to cook the flour. Add the rest of the liquid and whisk. Bring the gravy to a slow boil, cook until the flour is no longer tasted and the gravy coats the back of a spoon. Now is the time to season with salt and pepper to taste.
Carve and enjoy with your favorite sides. I made Unstuffing, acorn squash, crescent rolls, and peas to accompany birdy. Now I’m ready for the big bird!