From Fridge to Table: My First Roasted Turkey

You know, people really should warn you about the turkey neck. I knew about the gizzards, that little pouch of squishy organs that are best handled by not thinking too much about what, exactly, you’re removing from the body cavity. Everyone talks about them, so you know that when you buy a full turkey, you’re going to have to deal with them at some point. But no one ever talks about the neck. Why is that? I was fine with the gizzards. I pulled them out like a champ. But last Friday, home alone, just me, my puppy, and a fourteen pound bird, I was in for a rude awakening when the instructions on the turkey package instructed me to, ahem, “remove the neck from the body cavity.” Perplexed, I wondered many things – how will I know it’s the neck? Is it still attached? Should I get my kitchen shears? What if I remove the wrong thing? With no one or thing to consult, I figured the best solution was simply to reach in and see what I found. And so I did, and I caught hold of something and decided to pull. And out came what was probably just shy of a foot of actual, honest to goodness turkey neck. (I mean really, I don’t know what else I was expecting, but I was unpleasantly surprised nonetheless.) Well let me tell you, I just about fell smack on the floor and converted to vegetarianism right then and there.

Luckily, I persevered. I took a few deep breaths, choked back my silly tears, and neatly placed that awful, awful esophageal catastrophe to the side. I refocused on the task at hand, and six hours – yes, six! I’m apparently horrifically inefficient at carving a turkey – I had an aluminum foil container of turkey slices ready to go for the Thanksgiving Social my fellow Student Dietetic Association officers were throwing for our members. Phew

I have to say, I don’t really like turkey. I’ve actually decided to not really eat it – in its roasted, whole-bird form, anyway. In my constant wishy-washy dilemma between omnivorism and vegetarianism, I decided to cut out all superfluous sources of meat – the stuff I eat because it’s there and not because I particularly enjoy it. In this way, I can become more of a plant-based eater without denying my body the gustatory and nutritional benefits of the occasional portion of meat. Roasted turkey falls into the category of foods I can live without. In fact, most traditional Thanksgiving dishes don’t do a whole lot to excite me: I love sweet potatoes, just not sweet potato casserole; I like green beans, but not combined with canned soup and French’s crispy onions; I like real, homemade, tart-not-overly-sweet cranberry sauce but certainly not that jiggly stuff from a can; and, ok, I like pumpkin pie without just about any way you slice (and bake) it. There is always an exception to the rule.

Secretly, I want to have a Thanksgiving with stuffed acorn squash, roasted Brussels sprouts, ginger-and-orange infused cranberry sauce, and a good fall soup. I want to have so many pumpkin dishes I almost –almost! – get sick of the ingredient by the end of it – cornbread, cheesecake, ice cream, whoopee pies, rolls. Turkey? Eh. I found out that my family is going to a restaurant for Thanksgiving (that’s a whole other story – and yes, I’m still a bit grumpy about it), and if nothing else, I was satisfied to go over the menu and realize that I could have a pretty complete autumn dinner without a single bite of the bird.

But I know that isn’t the case for most people. I know there are people who look forward to next year’s Thanksgiving feast before their leftovers from that year are gone. And for those people, I have a very nice turkey recipe for you. It’s easy to make, very classic in its herbs and seasonings but not at all boring, and will pair well with pretty much any other side you choose to have. So, if you have your bird but are still searching for a good recipe, consider this one! Even I had to admit that it was pretty good.

 One Year Ago: Chicken Chutney One Pot

Sage Roasted Turkey, adapted from Healthy Green Kitchen
Yield: 1, 14-pound turkey (a whole lot of servings)

The Ingredients
1, 14-pound turkey
½ stick butter
1 tablespoon dried, ground sage
1 small apple, halved
2 onions
4 fresh thyme sprigs (or approximately 2 teaspoons dried)
3 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups stock, plus more as needed
¾ cup apple cider

The Method
Clean and prepare your turkey and preheat the oven to 375°, positioned with one rack in the lowest position possible. Dry the turkey well.

Quarter 1 onion and place it, along with the apple halves and thyme, into the turkey cavity. Truss the turkey simply by tying its legs together and tucking the wing tips under. Scatter the remaining vegetables around the turkey in the roasting pan and add 2 cups of stock. Optionally, rub some additional dried sage (aside from the 1 tablespoon called for) under the turkey’s skin as best you can.

Meanwhile, melt the butter along with the sage in a small saucepan over low heat. Rub the butter-sage mixture all over the turkey’s skin. Place the roasting pan in the oven for 1 hour, basting with pan drippings and adding more stock or water 1-2 cups at a time, as needed.

Reduce the temperature after 1 hour to 350° and continue to cook for 45 minutes. Pour the apple cider over the turkey and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh registers just around 165°, approximately 1 ¼ hours longer.1 Baste and turn the pan as needed to ensure even cooking.

Transfer the cooked turkey to a serving platter and tent loosely with foil for approximately 30 minutes before carving.

1I found that my turkey was done just a few minutes after adding the apple cider, so definitely be vigilant about checking (just don’t open your oven door too much)!


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