From Charlie Palmer
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's a chance to get together with family and friends and enjoy the best of the fall harvest—an inviting day made even better by adding plenty of football.
If you're celebrating at home, I'm happy to pass on a few secrets for perfectly roasted turkey (including how best to reheat it) and some favorite "day after" sandwiches.
If you're enjoying your familiar feast in one of our restaurants, you'll find carefully crafted progressive American Thanksgiving menus and comfortable, refined service at our restaurants coast to coast. Whether you're at Dry Creek Kitchen amidst the amber and rust-colored vines of Sonoma County or seated in Métrazur overlooking Manhattan's bustling Grand Central Terminal, we'll make you feel at home.
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We look forward to toasting the holidays with sensational food, wine, and friends.
Turkey Roasting – A primer
First of all, the serious cook should not practice buying anything in plastic, especially a Thanksgiving turkey. Instead, buy a fresh bird with some type of pedigree, such as hormone free, heritage, or free range. It really is worth the extra money. Fresh turkeys typically require preordering because unlike frozen birds, they cannot be "stockpiled" and most butchers only order what is presold.
You can also order heritage breed turkeys online from:http://www.heritagefoodsusa.com/farmers/turkey.html
Once you get your turkey, remove and reserve the giblets for gravy (the liver is too strongly flavored and should be reserved for anther use or discarded). Clip the first joint from each wing (much more useful in the stock for making gravy) and reserve with the giblets. Then rinse the bird (inside and out) under cool running water and pat dry with heavy gauge paper towels, being sure to get around the joints and in the cavity. Continue to dry out the bird by storing it (uncovered) over night in your refrigerator.
Prior to cooking: remove the bird from the refrigerator and place in a roasting pan. Give it an hour or so to lose the refrigerator chill. Rub the bird's skin with spice, such as dry oregano or any kind of chili powder, all according to your preference. Next, roll a lemon around on the counter (to distribute juices), cut in half and rub the entire bird with both halves of the lemon. Place the lemons in the cavity along with a peeled garlic clove (if you like garlic) and add several stalks of fresh herbs—rosemary is nice, also thyme, but whatever you like—leaving room for airflow.
Next step, rub the entire bird with very good extra virgin olive oil—you can always add butter later.
Now it's time to season with salt and pepper. Keep in mind that turkey needs to be over seasoned because basting washes away some of the salt. Make sure that you season the inner cavity to the same extent as the outside.
I like to prop open the cavity with a wooden dowel or metal skewer to allow hot air flow inside. This will reduce cooking time and make for more even cooking. I also drive a metal skewer into the wide section of the thigh to conduct heat directly into the thickest part (which takes the longest time to cook). This will assure the breast meat is not over-cooked.
Always roast on a well-oiled rack, allowing airflow underneath the bird. Place bird in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 350 to finish. My rule of thumb with turkey is 12-13 minutes per pound. An instant read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg (away from the bone) as well as the thickest part of the breast should read at least 165F.
Transfer to a cutting board and don't carve until ready to serve.
Basting: With all the gadgets out there for basting birds, the best is still a stick of sweet butter: wrapper peeled down from one end to keep your fingers from getting sticky, especially when you are trying to flip back and forth between multiple football games on your direct TV remote. The other tool is a large serving spoon so when you tilt the pan, you can scoop up the pan drippings and drizzle them all over the bird. This will create "stains" on the otherwise perfectly golden brown skin, but from a taste standpoint you can't beat it.
THE DAY AFTER
They're plenty of ways your Thanksgiving turkey can contribute to post-holiday meals if you know what to do with the leftovers: as little as possible. Long recipes for elaborate concoctions are not necessary or even very good. Oven reheating causes turkey to dry out and toughen, and casseroles designed to disguise leftovers are often not worth the effort.
Liberating turkey from traditional accompaniments and pairing it with fresh flavors keeps these simple dishes tasting less like leftovers and more like meals you make on purpose. Just save the best slices for the hot open-faced turkey sandwich, and the smaller slices for the California club.
To reheat turkey: Bring turkey to room temperature. Place single layers of the slices (or pieces) in a mesh colander over hot not boiling water for about 60 seconds. Flip and steam the other side for about the same time or less. Do not over steam. It will make the turkey tough.
Hot turkey sandwich for one
a private late night treat
Thickly sliced crusty peasant bread (about 1 and three quarters inch), toasted on both sides (the broiler works great for this) and rubbed with a cut garlic clove while still warm
About one quarter cup cooked spinach, preferably sautéed in some butter and olive oil
About one quarter cup warm stuffing
Slices leftover turkey at room temperature
About one quarter cup warm gravy
Salt and black pepper
Layer cooked spinach, followed by warm stuffing and then sliced turkey on the toasted bread. Top with gravy and salt and pepper to taste.
California Club sandwiches for four
Serve with sweet potato chips and a great old holiday movie.
8 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted under preheated boiler on one side only
About 1 cup guacamole
Sliced left over turkey at room temperature
12 strips thick cut bacon, cooked until slightly crisp and drained
Ripe tomato, thinly sliced
Romaine lettuce leaves
While bread is still warm, spread guacamole on one side of all eight slices. Divide turkey and bacon evenly over guacamole on four slices of bread, topping with tomato and romaine leaves. Close with remaining slices, guacamole side down, pressing down lightly on the sandwich to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut in half on diagonal.