Chef Kathy Gunst Talks Turkey

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Kathy Gunst's Roast Turkey and Gravy

(Jesse Costa/Here & Now)
(Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

Kathy's Note: Use your favorite stuffing in this turkey. If you follow the direction for the gravy and the roasting you will have a moist, easy-to-make holiday bird!

The Turkey:
One 18 to 20 pound fresh turkey (preferably organic)*, at room temperature**
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons butter
10 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Sweet Hungarian paprika
About 8 cups your favorite stuffing
1 slice bread
Kitchen string or butcher’s twine

The Stock and Gravy:
1 turkey neck, heart and gizzard
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons flour

*If the turkey is frozen be sure to defrost it in the refrigerator. Depending on the size it can take up to 2 to 4 days to defrost thoroughly.

**Room temperature simply means that the bird shouldn’t come straight out of the refrigerator. You don’t want to let the bird sit around for hours; remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting while you make the stuffing.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the oven rack so the bird will fit on the middle shelf without touching the top shelf.

Clean the bird and remove the neck, giblets, liver, and heart, and set aside for the stock/gravy. Pat the bird dry with paper towels. (The liver can be reserved; it is delicious lightly coated in flour and then sautéed in a hot skillet greased with 1 teaspoon of butter for about 5 to 6 minutes per side.)

Use the vegetable oil to lightly grease the bottom of a large roasting pan. Season the turkey with salt and pepper, inside the cavity and outside the skin. Loosely stuff both the body and neck cavities of the turkey with the stuffing, pressing down but being careful not to overstuff the bird. Use the whole slice of bread as a “door” to keep the stuffing inside the large body cavity; simply press the bread into the cavity as a way of keeping the stuffing inside so it won’t fall out while roasting. Carefully place the bird into the roasting pan, breast side up. If you want to use a roasting rack simply place the bird on the rack and set inside the pan.

In a medium skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and let cook 5 minutes until the butter has completely melted, and the garlic is just beginning to turn a light golden brown. Remove from the heat. Using a spoon or a barbecue or pastry brush, brush the skin of the turkey with some of the garlic butter and scatter at least half the garlic cloves around and on top of the bird. Keep the remaining garlic and butter for later basting. Sprinkle the top of the bird with the paprika, salt and pepper. Using a piece of kitchen string, tie the legs together to keep them from touching the sides of the roasting pan; tying the legs also makes for a “neater” looking roasted turkey.

Place the bird on the middle shelf and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and loosely cover the bird with foil. Roast the turkey another 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, about 15 to 20 minutes per pound, depending on the freshness of the bird. (Fresh turkey tends to cook much faster than those that have been frozen.) Baste the bird every hour or so with the remaining garlic and butter and baste with the liquids that have accumulated on the bottom of the roasting pan. Remove the foil for the last hour of roasting time to give the bird a golden brown glaze.

To test for doneness: the bird should be a gorgeous golden brown; when you wiggle a drumstick, it should feel slightly loose; and when you pierce the skin directly above the wing, the juice should run clear yellow, and not pink. Gently remove the bird from the roasting pan and place on a serving platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let sit at least 10 minutes before carving to allow the juices time to settle.

While the bird is roasting, begin the gravy: place the reserved neck, giblets, and heart in a medium saucepan. Add the parsley, onions, celery, carrots, peppercorns, bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot and cover with about 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and let simmer on very low heat for about 1 to 2 hours. This will produce a light turkey stock that will be the basis of your gravy. Taste for seasoning and remove from the heat.

To finish the gravy, once you’ve removed the bird, place the roasting pan over two burners over moderate heat. (If there seems to be an excessive amount of turkey fat in the bottom of the pan, remove it by tilting the juices to the side and remove with a spoon or baster, being careful not to remove any of the natural juices.) Use a spatula to loosen any bits clinging to the bottom of the roasting pan. Sprinkle on the flour and, using a whisk, mix the flour with the juices in the bottom of the pan. Let cook 1 minute, stirring, until the paste has come together and is beginning to turn a pale golden color. Pour a little more than half the turkey stock through a sieve into the pan and whisk to create smooth gravy. Let simmer about 5 to 10 minutes, until slightly thickened and flavorful. Thin the gravy by adding additional stock as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep the gravy warm over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.

Remove the stuffing from the bird and place in a serving bowl. Carve the bird and serve with the stuffing and hot gravy on the side. Serves 10 to 12 with leftovers.
Recipes from "Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations: Special Recipes for Family and Friends," by Kathy Gunst, Jim Stott and Jonathan King.

Grilled Turkey

Here’s the deal, says Kathy:

  • Take a turkey—10 to 12 pounds is ideal, and I wouldn’t go bigger than 14 pounds—and clean it well inside and out. Season it, inside the cavity and out on the skin, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can also add fresh chopped thyme, rosemary, sage and/or basil, and a few cloves of finely chopped garlic.
  • Next, make the fire. You will be grilling the turkey whole using a method called “Indirect Grilling.” If working with a charcoal grill, heat a good amount of charcoal until hot. Spread the coals on either side of the grill, leaving the middle part of the grill without any charcoal under it. If working with a gas grill, preheat the grill to 450 degrees and turn off the burner directly in the center, or on one side, of the grill. When you place your hand over the grill grate it should feel very hot. No matter what method you’re using, place a disposable aluminum drip pan directly under the center of the grill – it will be used to catch the juices and fat that drip off the bird as it cooks and not create a mess of your grill.
  • Place the bird in the middle of the grill, in the area where it doesn’t have direct heat underneath. Cover and cook about two hours or until the juices in the cavity are no longer pink and when the drumstick is gently jiggled it feels loose. You don’t need to baste the birds or do a thing. (I told you this was simple!) The turkey will cook faster than it will when roasted normally in an oven so keep an eye on it, particularly during the last thirty minutes of the grilling time. Look for a deeply-colored, crispy brown skin. A 10 to 12 pound bird will feed about ten to fourteen people, but leftovers are crucial so figure a pound per person.

Cranberry Sauce with Orange, Ginger, Pineapple, and Pecans

Kathy's Note: Every years I tweak my holiday cranberry sauce just a bit, but this combination (tart berries with sweet oranges, ginger, pineapple chunks and meaty pecans) is a real favorite. Serve with holiday birds, on sandwiches, with a cheese platter, or serve it as a dessert sauce for butter cookies, pound cake or pies.

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 pound fresh cranberries
1/4 cups fresh orange juice
1/4 cup julienned orange rind
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoons coarsely chopped candied (or crystallized) ginger
1 cup pecans, or your favorite nut, coarsely chopped
[TIP]You’ll need about 2 to 3 large oranges. First, use one orange to remove the zest (the outer peel without the bitter white pith) by slicing it off with a small, sharp knife or a wide vegetable peeler. Use another orange to grate the rind and then use squeeze both oranges for their juice.

Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sugar syrup beings to thicken slightly and turn a pale amber color. Add the maple syrup and the cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. Add the orange juice, orange rind, and orange zest and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce beings to thicken slightly. Add the fresh and crystallized ginger and cook 2 minutes. The sauce should be full of flavor and slightly thickened. (If the sauce still seems thin—remember it will thicken as it chills--remove the cranberries and flavorings with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Boil the liquid in the pot over a moderate-high heat until it is thickened slightly, about 10 additional minutes, if needed. Place the cranberries back in the slightly thickened sauce.)

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the nuts, stirring well. Let cool completely. Place in a clean glass jar and cover; refrigerate for up ten days, or freeze for six months.

Makes about 6 cups.

From Notes from a Maine Kitchen (Down East Books, 2011) by Kathy Gunst

This segment aired on November 21, 2011.


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