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Best Turkey and Stuffing Recipe (or How Mom Gets Me to Visit)

December 22, 2013 |  by  |  Featured, Food

Turkey, turkey, turkey! Here it is, my mother’s amazing turkey dinner recipe, straight from the source [with my notes added in brackets].

I know that everybody’s partial to their mother’s cooking, but my mom’s turkey dinner is always outstanding! It’s her secret weapon for getting me over to the Island to visit. I’m a horrible son. (Sorry Mom!)

It’s not as specific as a cook-book recipe, but it doesn’t need to be. Anybody with a cook’s soul should breeze through it (chef-ery not required). Post your questions, and I’ll answer below. (My Mom may even too!)

Stuffing

  • italian bread, extra long sliced loaf [D’Italiano works great, so do more squirrely breads]
  • onion
  • garlic
  • celery
  • italian sausage [Costco hot italian is outstandingly good italian sausage for any recipe!]
  • mushrooms [I use white, but you can use whatever floats your boat]
  • red pepper
  • eggs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sage
  • poultry seasoning
  • butter
  • olive oil

Make sure that you freeze the loaf of bread ahead of time so that it is easy to cut into cubes without it getting squishy.

Put some olive oil and butter in a large saute pan. If your italian sausage is in casing, remove and crumble into pan as many to taste, say 5 or 6 for a full loaf of bread [I use 4 or 5 of the big Costco sausages, about 600-700g]. Add onions and brown along with sausage.

In the meantime finely chop one or two celery stalks, loads of garlic, and as many mushrooms as you like [I use lots, you can’t have too many!].

When the sausage is browned, turn down heat and add the celery, garlic, mushrooms, some more olive oil and too much butter for anyones good. I use lots of butter as it gives a nice flavour [It’s turkey dinner, leave your food-conscience at the door!]. Add quite a lot of sage – again to taste – bearing in mind it will diffuse through the bread so if it seems too strong, it probably wont be. I’d say about 2 tablespoons at least, maybe more. Add about the same, or a little less in poultry seasoning. Grind in some pepper, but don’t use too much salt as the butter is salty. Also at this time add water to the pan, enough to make it all quite moist but not soupy.

Let this concoction simmer while you dice the bread. I use almost the whole loaf for a 20 pound-ish turkey. [I use the whole loaf with all that sausage and mushroom to ensure a side pan of stuffing. It’s the best part!]

Place the diced bread in a large bowl and beat about 4 or 5 eggs. Toss the eggs gently into the bread mix then add the sausage/seasoning and toss gently. You may need to add a little more water to the sausage/seasoning mix before mixing with bread. You want a bread mixture that is moist but not soppy.

At this time toss in the diced red pepper and you could add apple or nuts or whatever at this time as well. [I’m preferential to just the red pepper, no nuts or apples.]

Stuff it all into the turkey cavity. [Very Important: Never stuff the cavity full! It will make your turkey take hours longer to cook. Only ever put an inch or so of stuffing in the cavity, make sure there’s plenty of room for hot air. Go right ahead and stuff the neck-flap full though!] If you have too much [Likely!] you can put the excess in a buttered oven dish and refrigerate for a while. You only want to cook the stuffing in the dish for about an hour at the end. [I also add some turkey drippings into the extra pan of stuffing to give it that same turkey flavour].

Turkey and Gravy

  • butter
  • olive oil
  • chicken or turkey “Better Than Bouillon” [this stuff (and the veggie one) is magical]
  • fresh rosemary
  • turkey!

[I always brine the turkey beforehand. It really doesn’t take long, and results in an amazingly tender bird. The best brine recipe follows an easy to remember mnemonic: “Quarter-Quarter-Quart”. Use a Quarter cup of white sugar and a Quarter cup of table salt for every Quart of warm-to-hot tap water (multiply these amounts for as much brine as you need). This makes a pretty strong brine, way stronger than the overnight varieties. Brine for no more than 45 minutes (three ‘Quarts’ again!). For smaller pieces of chicken/pork-chops I only do 20-25 min. Very important: After brining, rinse the bird thoroughly, inside and out, to remove all the salt!]

Stuff some butter [and sage, rosemary, and other aromatics] under the skin of the turkey breast. Slather outer skin with a little butter and olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Now the secret for the BEST turkey…

Place the turkey in a roaster and add about an inch of water to the pan. I also add about a tablespoon of turkey “better than boullion”, then cover the roaster. If you do not have a covered roasting pan, make a tent of foil making sure to make it as air tight as possible. It’s better to have a covered roaster.

Place the roaster in the oven and turn up heat to about 425 degrees. As soon as you can smell the turkey beginning to cook [might be a couple hours if your bird is cold], turn down the heat to about 350 degrees. Depending on size of bird, cook for about another hour or less, then remove the lid. There will now be about two or more inches of water in the pan as all the water they inject into the birds to make them heavier has now leeched out. The bird will also look a sickly white … don’t panic!

At this time remove the lid and cover loosely with a tent of foil … don’t seal … just cover.
Cook for another half hour or so depending on size of bird, then CAREFULLY pour off all the liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan into a saucepan [Best to remove the turkey from the roaster to do this. If you have turkey lifters, great, but if not, you can stick a chef’s knife edge-down into the cavity, and lift the whole bird on the back edge of the knife]. Return turkey to oven. The liquid you poured off will be clear-ish … don’t panic. [You can pour some of this liquid into the extra pan of stuffing at this point.]

Boil the liquid VIGOROUSLY in the sauce pan until it renders down to a nicely thick brown goo. Pour this over the turkey and return the turkey to the oven with just a loose cover of foil. By now you should have only about a half hour of cooking left, so it should be browned just perfectly. [After the turkey is done, remove it from the pan and cover to let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes. Best to use a meat thermometer to determine this and slightly adjust the times in this recipe accordingly.]

For gravy, add a little white wine to the roasting pan to deglaze. Then add a little more water, some flour, and some turkey “better than boullion”. Depending on how much dripping there is in the roasting pan, you may have to add some packaged turkey mix to the gravy. [I always add a couple or few packages, enough to make 3-4 cups of gravy. It’s got to last all week, and I like lots of gravy! When it combines with the turkey drippings, it’s so good.] Reduce this down until it looks like gravy. I also add a sprig or so of fresh rosemary near the end.

How’d it work for you?

Hope that helps! The first time we tried it, it turned out perfectly, and now we make it whenever we have an excuse now!

I’d love to hear how it works out for you. If you have tips or tricks, share them below. I’ll try them out and incorporate them into the above.    


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