We’re not hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, so I’m subjected to the whims of relatives for holiday meals. I’m not ungrateful for the trade-off. Washing a few dishes is certainly easier than shopping and cooking for 15 people. But I long to control the destiny of my own turkey dinner, for better or for worse. On my wish list is a bird that’s not overcooked, cut into real slices instead of hacked up little pieces, and choosing my own vegetables to go with it.
This story begins with earning a free turkey breast by spending $400 at ShopRite. I didn’t want him to languish in the freezer for too long, and the few weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas provide the perfect window of opportunity to cook this free bird.
After defrosting and rinsing, we pasted his skin with olive oil and sprinkled rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. To keep the bird and all the vegetables from getting soggy, we used a foil-lined rack inside the roasting pan. We poked holes in the foil with a toothpick to let the juices seep out and also poured 2 cups of chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan. The drippings and the stock were used later to make gravy.
I prepped small red potatoes, onion, and fennel with olive oil and the same seasonings used on the bird and placed them around the sides. While potatoes and onions are sort of old hat, fennel is a novel new addition to our vegetable repertoire. I discovered it a few years ago from a talented chef at my workplace and the anise aroma and flavor compliment a roast turkey beautifully.
Never mind the pop-up thermometer, we used the Maverick Roast Alert Probe to reach 160 degrees. Leave the probe in the bird for the entire cook time. A long wire plugs into an electronic read-out that you can magnetically stick to your refrigerator or just place on a countertop. The last 5 degrees were achieved during the turkey’s rest period under a tin foil tent. A large slice of turkey is plated with stuffing (not cooked in the bird), vegetables, cranberry with chopped walnuts, and topped with gravy.
Final word: It took about 3 hours to prep and cook this meal, but seriously, use a good thermometer rather than a timer to determine when the turkey is done.