Tonight was Thanksgiving in my house. Well, truly, it’s always time for thanks in my house, but tonight we had a small, but traditional feast. Turkey, gravy, rough mashed red bliss potatoes and brussels sprouts with bacon. This coming November, my daughter and daughter-in-law are bringing us fresh farm-raised turkey to celebrate the day, and since I was trying a new cooking technique, I wanted to try it out first.
Tonight I made a spatchcocked turkey – no, it’s nothing obscene. It’s a fabulous, easy way to cook a turkey. It will also work with chicken. The pros and cons are worth talking about. The pros – I just cooked a 16 pound turkey in just 90 minutes. The skin was crispy and evenly cooked, carving took just a few minutes, and the meat was delicious, moist and tender–even the wings. The cons, because it is spatchocked, it does not make a beautiful presentation at the table, and, you need a pan large enough to lay the turkey flat when it’s being cooked or it can make a major mess in the oven, and you can’t stuff it. I would recommend 15# turkeys or less for this technique.
So, what is a spatchcocked turkey? It’s simple. I will give a brief description, but you can find videos on youtube to watch it done. You rinse your turkey, remove the neck and giblets, and pat it dry with paper towels. Using a washable cutting board, turn the turkey breast side down. Then using a combination of meat cleaver, boning knife and/or kitchen shears, and some strength, you cut up along either side of the back bone, cutting it out completely including the part that goes over the fence last. Do not throw this out. We will be using it to make our gravy.
Now take the cleaver and cut a perforation on the inside of the turkey, scoring the sternum from end to end. Turn the turkey over, breast side up, spread the body as far as you can. Then using the palms of your hands, press down on the back bone. You will hear it crack. The turkey will now lay flat.
We did this last night, because, as those of you who have been following, I’ve become a big fan of buttermilk marinade. Last night I took a clean trash bag and put it into my large pot. I poured in 2 quarts of buttermilk (I probably should have had 3 quarts, but we made do by turning the turkey over to finish marinating. To the buttermilk, I added just 1 tbsp. of kosher salt. Normally I would add about 1/2 C of salt, but this was a kosher turkey, and koshering involves salting the bird to remove traces of blood, so they tend to be saltier than a regular turkey. I also added 3 heaping tbsp. of brown sugar, 3 bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and 1 tsp. of fresh peppercorns. We put the turkey in and tied the bag tightly. Had we had more buttermilk, we would have just left it alone, but since the turkey wasn’t fully covered, we turned it over this morning. All in all, it marinated for about 18 hours.
Now comes the best part. I took the turkey out of the marinade, rinsed it off, and patted it dry with paper towels. I seasoned it with about 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, thyme, rosemary and sage – sorry Simon and Garfunkel, no parsley, though there’s no reason at all you couldn’t use it. I added no salt at all to the turkey. I put the turkey, as you can see, on my broiler pan, though, you can also but it on a bed of chopped vegetables, such as onion, carrot, celery, fennel – all of which will add flavor to your gravy.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Yes — we want it that hot. Put your turkey in the middle of the oven and set the time for 80 minutes, just 1 hour and 10 minutes.
This is a picture of the turkey after just 45 minutes. At 80 minutes, use an instant read thermometer. You want to put the thermometer in both the thigh and the breast to check temps, without touching the bone. It should read 155 to 160 degrees. When you take it out of the oven to rest before carving, it will continue to cook and rise to 165. Perfect for turkey.
And this is the finished product. Gorgeous, tender, juicy, moist and crispy, crispy skin.
Now, back to that neck, backbone and giblets – put them on the stove top in a pot with 5 Cups of low sodium chicken broth. I also added 2 small stalks of celery and 1 large carrot, cleaned and cut up. I let it all simmer on the stove for about 45 minutes. I removed everything from the broth with a strainer. I then mixed about 1/4C cornstarch with cold water and stirred. Using a ladle, I added hot broth to the cornstarch mixture and stirred, I created the thickening agent for the gravy. Using the hot corn starch mixture, I slowly whisked it into the broth and let it cook about 5 minutes, until it was as thick as I wanted it. I did not use all the cornstarch mixture. Again, because this was a kosher turkey, I added no salt at all to the pot, though with a regular turkey you might need to add a little bit of salt, 1/8-1/4 tsp. at a time. I actually made the gravy last night and refrigerated it. It made exactly 1 quart of gravy. Today, after the turkey was cooked, I took the pan drippings, used a gravy separator to get rid of any additional fat (there was very little), and added the drippings to the gravy as I reheated it for us to eat with dinner. That’s it — it was easy, delicious and did not tie up my oven all day, just 90 minutes cooking time, start to finish.