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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Roast Turkey

It seems like the rising price of food is on the forefront of every one's minds which is one reason I try to share some budget stretching ideas as well as comparing cost of homemade to store bought. In most cases homemade is less expensive and often tastes better. One of the most frugal meats you can cook is turkey. Not only can you make a lovely meal with all the fixings there are so many things you can do with the left-overs. I roast 6 to 9 turkeys per year usually when I know the kids will be home but also for entertaining.

The kids, parents to oldest grandbaby and now expecting our third grandbaby were home for the weekend. We were hosting a larger event (mostly guys) Saturday night so they were here for dinner and stayed through the event. The current craving is turkey. Well you don't have to twist my arm to roast a turkey! I decided to work in the turkey as part of the food for the event as well.

Roast Turkey

On first look my turkeys will not win a beauty award but I will guarantee you they are always moist, tender and tasty. Well actually I have had a few that were picture perfect but this isn't one of them. I cook turkeys exactly the same way every time despite reading so many tips on how to get better results. The turkey is in the oven before 11 am depending on the size and slow cooks for the afternoon, followed by browning and resting with dinner served around 5:30 - 6:00 pm. I cook the stuffing in the turkey, stuffing tightly the abdominal and neck cavities. For clarification, stuffing in cooked in the turkey whereas dressing is cooked in another vessel than the turkey.

My stuffing is simple and unpretentious but gets rave reviews. It consists of bread chunks, chopped onion, fresh ground pepper, sea salt, celery salt, poultry seasoning and butter. That's it! Once the bird is stuffed I place it on a rack in the roaster and pour about ¼ c of water on the bottom. This simply stops any sticking until the juices from the turkey start to collect. I then put several pats of butter on the turkey being sure to get into the leg and wing joints. After a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh ground pepper, the turkey is covered and put in the oven at 275ºF (135ºC) for two hours. The temperature is then turned up to 325ºF (163ºC) for an hour then the lid is removed and the temperature raised to 350º (180ºC) for final roasting and browning. I baste at each temperature change and a couple of times while browning. While the pop-up indicator in some turkeys is a good indicator of being well done, use a meat thermometer to confirm. Internal temperature should read 165ºF (75ºC) using a thermometer. I remove the turkey from the roaster and let rest on a platter while I make the gravy and get the rest of the food on the table.

Gravy: Mix about 3 tbsp of cornstarch with water to make a thick slurry. Stir in a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Bring the drippings to a boil. Stir in the slurry and stir until thickened. If desired stir in a few drops of browning (optional).


Turkey dinners need not be fancy or time consuming. We knew that people would be arriving around 7 pm so that really didn't give us a lot of time to eat and clean-up. I kept dinner on the simple side with corn niblets (home frozen), steamed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and home canned cranberry sauce. Instead of salad I made a smaller version of the vegetable tray I planned on serving for the later get together. Oldest grandbaby loves finger food so everything was geared towards that as well as keeping things a bit simpler.

The turkey did not disappoint! It was moist, tender and juicy. My husband deboned the turkey while I cleaned up just in time as for early arrivals. By the time he was finished I had two large containers of turkey pieces as well as all the bones.

Turkey Sandwiches

We host this type of event monthly from September through June. Guys will begin arriving around 7 pm then more will trickle in throughout the night. Quite often the activities will last until breakfast the following morning when I'll cook breakfast for those still here.

I'm telling you these guys sure can eat and I try to keep things interesting. Aside of the typical snacks like chips and peanuts, I usually make at least two hot snacks and something along the lines of dessert. This time I made two platters of pigs-in-a-blanket cut into about 1½ inches pieces (not shown) and two platters of hot turkey buns, 20 total. I thought the pigs-in-a-blanket went fast but the buns went like wildfire!

Method: [You will need 20 dinner rolls, iceberg lettuce, Miracle Whip® or mayonnaise, honey mustard and warm turkey pieces.] Warm the turkey in a covered baking dish at 275ºF (135ºC) until warmed through. Cut buns in half. Spread each half with Miracle Whip® or mayonnaise. Place lettuce on the bottom half. Top with turkey pieces. Squeeze on honey mustard. Place the top bun on the sandwich. Serve while still warm.

Putting Up

Any time I cook turkey that means there will be left-overs going in the freezer and the bones will be used for stock then or froze to make stock later. The turkey was just over 14 pounds, quite a bit smaller than what I normally prefer to cook. If you are going to cook turkey, bigger is better! We bought the turkey in the US where it wasn't on sale so cost $18.40 but considering the same size of turkey would have cost $46.06 here, I can't complain. Still just before the US Thanksgiving the price will be around $7 for the same size so take a guess when I prefer stocking up on turkeys?

A 14 lb turkey is rather small but it fed 4 adults and a toddler comfortably for the main meal. About 3 cups of turkey pieces was used for the turkey buns (above) that served 14. Not shown is the 9 c (2100 ml) Ziploc® container of turkey pieces with a little stuffing that the kids took home. This was enough for at least two meals for the three of them or turkey sandwiches for most of the week. I froze the remaining turkey pieces with the gravy for open faced turkey sandwiches later. I made stock with the bones that gave a yield of 13 pints (6.5 quarts). Stock is one of those things you can never have enough of in your pantry. Over all that 14 lb turkey was a rather frugal purchase.

8 food lovers commented:

LizzyT said...

It all looks delicious and I am amazed with what you did with the leftovers!

Lynn said...

Yummy! I've always been craving for roasted turkey. Haven't had once since. I searched for a roasted turkey recipe before but they look complicated for me. Yours seemed simple and easy to prepare. Thanks for sharing.

Kristalina said...

I like your blog. It's so clean and professional looking. You totaly have a new reader.

Rachel said...

Wow what great ideas!

Garden Gnome said...

Thanks Lizzyt!

Garden Gnome said...

You are quite welcome Lynn. Roasting a turkey is really easy :)

Garden Gnome said...

Thank-you for the lovely compliment Kristalina. I'm so glad you are enjoying my blog. I hope you find a lot of interesting reading both in the archives and as I add more posts.

Take care,

Garden Gnome said...

Thanks Rachel! I hope you find them useful.