Friday, 20 December 2013

How to Roast a Turkey (Tips for a Successful Holiday Meal)

With Christmas & New Years around the corner, you are no doubt planning a big meal for your family, and perhaps for your friends. A farmers' market is the perfect place to pick up most of the ingredients you need for a spectacular holiday feast.

There, you can preorder turkey from vendors like Sunworks Organic Farm (I'll be picking ours up bright & early tomorrow morning down at the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market). And while you're there, you can pick up winter squashes and potatoes that round out a traditional turkey dinner so well, you can get wonderfully rustic breads that make THE best turkey stuffing, pick up a perfect homemade pie, spectacular breads & buns, and you can get the ingredients for delicious side dishes too... red and golden beats, sweet carrots, hothouse beans, garlic, etc. Yup. A farmers' market is Feast Central... and its goods are locally shipped to market, costing less (environmentally speaking), and the money that you spend there stays in the local economy which will make our city & surrounding area a more prosperous & economically healthy place in which to live.

There's no doubt about it. Planning a big meal like this takes work, but the results are so worth it... the smell of a roasting bird filling up the house, family gathered around a beautifully set table, soft candlelight to set the mood... maybe even carols on in the background, playing softly to fill out the atmosphere of the occasion. Good company. Great food (and leftovers). A wonderful time spent together. Memories carved out, like that turkey, weighted heavily by that wonderful family binder... tradition. Yup... so worth it. But a lot of work.

Thankfully, the airwaves and the internet are full of simple how-to tips take the chaos and the intensity out of holiday meal prep. I was listening to CBC the other day, and they were interviewing some domestic engineers (yup, that's what I call 'em... you know the type... they are incredibly proficient in the kitchen, can knock recipes and tantalizing creations off the tips of their fingers without recipes, know how to display food beautifully and creatively... and most impossibly, can time meals perfectly. Domestic Engineers.). These women were from Atco's Blue Flame Kitchen spouting off some very simple, very timely advice as part of CBC's Turkey Drive.

I thought I'd share some of what I heard here with you to try to take some of the guess work out of the holiday meal prep.
  • Generally, allow one pound per person when deciding on the weight of the turkey that you will be purchasing. The larger the turkey, the better the deal because your ratio of meat to bone is higher.
  • For a frozen bird, thaw 5 hours/pound in the fridge. This is the safest way to thaw a turkey & ensure that your family & guests do not end up tossing their cookies!)
  • Over and over again I hear that you should prepare the stuffing outside of the bird... either wrapped in a tinfoil pouch or made in the slow cooker. This is the safest way to prepare it, and it allows the turkey to cook more evenly, cook more quickly, and stay juicier. I'm planning to try it this way this year. Here are some links to stuffing recipes from the Blue Flame Kitchen...
  • Be sure to remove the packages of giblets & the neck from the cavity of the bird! Store these in the fridge to make soup or stock from the carcas the next day, if you'd like. Wash the turkey with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. 
  • Atco's Blue Flame Kitchen shares this roasting timetable for an unstuffed, thawed bird.
  • 10 lb (4.5 kg): 2 3/4 - 3 hours
  • 15 lb (7.0 kg): 3 - 3 1/2 hours
  • 20 lb (9.0 kg): 4 - 4 1/2 hours
  • 26 lb (12.0 kg): 4 1/2 - 5 hours 
  • Cook at 425F for the first half hour, then 325F for the rest of the time in a roasting pan, gently tented with foil. Remove the foil for the last 30-40 minutes.
When I was preparing this blog post, I looked back through the photos of Christmasses past and realized that I had never stopped to take a photo of our table or of the meal that we were about to eat... year after year after year! I reached out to a few people to see if they had photos I could use for this post. My sister in law came through... but not in the way that I expected, thanks to her irreverent sense of humour! Let me leave you with one last image...

Have a wonderful Christmas, a spectacular holiday and a terrific New Year from all of us at SWEFM!

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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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