Photo by xybermatthew. Feature photo: jblyberg.

Tired of the traditional big bird recipes? Want a meal that’s tasty but less time-consuming? Other parts of the turkey make an excellent and impressive meal without keeping you in the kitchen all day.

Maybe you’re ambitious and want to try your cooking skills MAYBE YOU’RE AMBITIOUS AND WANT TO TRY YOUR COOKING SKILLS for a crowd this Thanksgiving? if so, a couple of whole turkey recipes are included here as well.

Let’s begin with a few tips.

Turkeys are really oversized chickens. So if you can cook chicken, you can cook turkey, too.

Whole turkeys available at supermarkets generally weigh between 10 and 25 pounds. Those weighing less than 20 pounds are usually hens. Other than weight, there is no difference in taste between toms (more than 20 pounds) and hens.

“Organic”, “free-range”, “natural” or “minimally processed” turkeys have been held frozen for several weeks. “Fresh” turkeys are kept in for much less time, so they will taste significantly better than frozen. Photo by Francisco Collazo

Some turkey terminology:

  • Self-Basting Turkeys: These have been injected with broth or vegetable oil or butter plus seasoning to enhance flavor and increase moistness.
  • Wild Turkeys: Are quite different from the common supermarket ones. Hens are about 5 to 7 pounds, and toms are from 9 to 12 pounds. The meat is usually darker, just like a goose.
  • To obtain a tender and juicy roasted turkey, the breast needs to be cooked to an internal temperature NOT greater than 165F, and the legs must be cooked to 175-180F.
  • You can get 10 to 25 one-pound servings out of a turkey.

Now that you’ve got the turkey basics under your belt, here are five recipes I’ve developed inspired by spice combinations from around the world that will liven up your bird.

Photo by Julie Schwietert

ROAST TURKEY- CRIOLLO STYLE

Makes 10 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 13 lb./5.90 kg whole turkey
  • 1Tb. Salt, or to taste
  • 1 Tb. ground black pepper
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 5 fl oz clarified butter
  • 12 to 15 parsley stems
  • 1 tsp. fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 12 oz mirepoix*
  • 40 oz chicken stock, hot
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Flour (3-5 Tb.)

For the Mirepoix:

Mirepoix is an aromatic vegetable combination that provides a subtle and pleasant background flavor.

  • 2 parts onion
  • 1 part celery or leek
  • 1 part carrot
  • (dice all ingredients finely)

Preparation:

  • Defrost turkey. Mix the salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, cumin, and parsley; then season the cavity of the turkey with the mixture. Place onions and bay leaves inside the cavity.
  • Rub the skin with the clarified butter, and truss with twine.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack on a roasting pan.
  • Prepare the mirepoix and scatter around the bottom of the turkey. Pour half of the broth around the bottom of the pan as well.
  • Roast at 350F/177C for 3 hours, basting from time to time.
  • Remove turkey from the roasting pan and allow it to rest.
  • Place the roasting pan on the stove and cook the liquid and the mirepoix until the mirepoix is brown and the fat is clear. Strain all but 1 fl oz. of the fat.
  • Add the flour to the liquid and cook it for 3 to 2 min. Whisk it until smooth.
  • Simmer the gravy for 20-30 min. until it reaches the desired consistency and flavor. Separate the grease and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Carve the turkey in portions and serve it with the pan gravy.
  • Remove turkey from the roasting pan and allow it to rest.

Photo by ninjapoodles

PAN-SMOKED TURKEY BREAST

Makes 10 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 10 turkey breasts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • Wood chips
  • Marinade
  • 12 oz white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 oz white wine
  • 2 oz minced shallots
  • 3 tsp minced garlic


Preparation:

  • Rinse the turkey breasts, pat dry, season with salt and pepper. Place the turkey breasts in a shallow pan.
  • Combine the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the turkey breast, turning to coat evenly. Marinate, cover in the refrigerator for 3 hours or up to overnight.
  • Place the turkey breast on a rack over lightly dampened hardwood chips.
  • Cover tightly and heat in a 450F/232C oven until the smell of the smoke is apparent, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Smoke for 3 minutes from that point. Then transfer the turkey breasts to a baking pan and finish baking (without smoke) in a 350F/177C oven until cooked through (165F/74C), 10 to 12 minutes more.

I recommend that the pan smoked turkey breasts be served with mixed green salad (arugula, spinach, alfalfa).to compensate and balance flavor.

BRAISED TURKEY THIGHS WITH OLIVES


Makes 4-5 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless turkey thighs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (drained if oil-packed)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or dried, crumbled
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup of port, sherry, or madeira
  • 1½ cups sliced pitted Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives
  • 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely chopped

Preparation:

  • Roast the garlic and peel it.
  • Place oil in a Dutch oven. Add the turkey thighs and brown them on all sides.
  • Stir in all the ingredients (except the chicken stock, the olives and the wine) and cook for 3 minutes at medium heat.
  • Add the chicken stock, olives, and wine; cover and simmer over low flame for 2 hours or until tender.
  • Add water if needed.
  • Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chop scallions and garnish.

*I recommend that this dish be served with mashed potatoes & butternut squash.

Photo by Benimoto

ORANGE-GINGER TURKEY

Makes 15 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 20 lb/9 kg whole Turkey
  • 1Tb. salt
  • 1Tb. white pepper
  • 7 oz. clarified butter
  • 2 onions
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tb. fresh ground ginger
  • 3 Tb. lime juice
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsnip
  • 20 oz. chicken stock/turkey stock
  • 30 oz. orange juice
  • 3 Tb. flour
  • 1 Tb. honey
  • 1 Tb. red flake pepper (optional)

Preparation:

  • Defrost turkey. Season the cavity of the turkey with salt, pepper and garlic. Place onions inside the cavity.
  • Rub the skin with the clarified butter, and truss with twine.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack on a roasting pan.

  • Combine all of the remaining ingredients except the celery and parsnip, and pour on the turkey.

  • Roast at 350F/177C for 31/2 hours, basting from time to time.
  • Scatter the celery and parsnip around the turkey and continue to roast for 30-40 min, until the thigh meat registers an internal temperature of 180F/82C.
  • Remove turkey from the roasting pan and allow it to rest.

  • Place the roasting pan on the stove and cook until the celery and parsnip are slightly browned and the fat is clear. Strain all but 1 fl oz. of the fat.

  • Add the flour and cook for 2 to 3 min. Whisk until smooth.
  • Simmer the gravy for 20-30 min. until it reaches the desired consistency and flavor. Separate the grease and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Carve the turkey in portions and serve it with the pan gravy.
  • Garnish each portion with green scallions.

*I recommend serving with stemmed jasmine rice or noodles.

BBQ TURKEY LEGS

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 whole turkey legs
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1tb crushed whole pepper
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ½tb five-spice powder
  • 1tb honey or brown sugar

Preparation:

  • Rinse and towel dry the legs.
  • Mix /blend the ingredients. Pour ¾ of the blend on turkey legs and let it rest for 3 hours in refrigerator.
  • Set oven at 350F/177C and cook for 40-50 minutes. Turning them in between to cook it evenly.
  • Pour the rest of the sauce and cook it for another 20 minutes or until the leg inner temperature reads 175-180F.

*I recommend to be served with stir- fried Chinese vegetables, such as bok choy, mushrooms, cornichons, and snow peas.