Monday, November 24, 2014

Plans for my Holiday Turkey

This blog is a continuation on the Musing on Thanksgiving theme. I am planning quite a few new ways to do things for this Thanksgiving, but as I have yet to make these dishes, I cannot exactly tell everyone how to do them. I can, however, tell you what I am planning to do!

To Spatchcock a Turkey?

In the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine, they showed an option to "spatchcock" a turkey. This is otherwise known as "butterflying", but I suppose the word spatchcock would garner immediate attention, like, "What the heck is spatchcock?" Since there were photos to accompany the recipe, of course this was easy to see. The magazine said this method was really only viable with a smaller bird, in the 12 to 14-pound range, max. A larger one would be very difficult to handle. I would tend to agree with this. Still, around these parts, in the last 3 years, I had ever yet to see a turkey under approximately 20 pounds. Lots of large, extended families around here, I guess. And I am not averse to making a large turkey, generally, because I just love turkey leftovers. 

Still, just on the off-chance, when I went grocery shopping last week, I stopped at Kessler's, our local grocery, only to find that small turkeys were ALL there were in the frozen bins! I was shocked and surprised, but gratified at this turn of events. The only problem was that for some unknown reason, there were no weights shown on the turkey package, so everyone had to lift these birds up into the hanging scale to find out what they weighed. After about the fourth time lifting one into the scale, my arm was already sore! The first two I weighed were about 11 pounds. Not bad, but geez, there would be NO leftovers that way! I ended up with one right about 13 pounds, so that is what I will be working with, come turkey day.

How to Spatchcock or Butterfly a Turkey

Legs splayed outwards or legs tucked up and inwards
The idea is to turn the turkey breast-side down. Using poultry shears along each side of the backbone to remove it. The backbone can be added to the stock pot to make a nice rich stock for the gravy, later on. Once the backbone has been removed, one is to score (with a sharp knife) to either side of the breast bone (or keel bone), thus making it easier to flatten the turkey. The turkey is now flipped over, skin side up. Using both hands, press on the breast bone with firm force, until there is a crack as the bones give way, making the bird lie flat.

I have butterflied a chicken on a couple of occasions, using this same method, so I do not anticipate any great difficulty, except for the fact that this is much larger than a 3 1/2 pound chicken! When I made the chicken this way, the recipe stated to twist the leg quarters up and inward towards the breast, so they didn't just stick out all over. Bon Appetit's recipe does not say anything about this, and even shows a photo with the legs splayed outwards (as shown on the left, above). It seems this would make it awkward to roast, especially if the roaster is not large enough to accommodate the legs this way. My plan is to attempt to twist the legs up and in a bit (as shown right, above). I have no idea yet how easy or difficult this might be. I will report!

Next Day: The Deed is Done

I brought in the turkey, which was thoroughly thawed. I got out my trusty Poultry Shears and bit the bullet. It does certainly take some hand strength to cut through the bones up and down the backbone, which was now set aside with the other ingredients for the stock. Once that was done, I tried to "score" the breastbone from the inside, in the attempt to make flattening the breast a bit easier. This step was more difficult than I anticipated. Once I turned the turkey skin-side-up and pressed down on the breastbone, it did crack, but terribly lopsided. Oh well. At least it is flat enough. 

Today I also decided to Dry-Brine my Turkey once I had accomplished the butterflying part. Some recipe say to dry brine for only 8 hours, and some up to 4 days. I opted for the 4 day method, mainly because this gives me leave to get the stock made well ahead also. The dry brine is also made with a large portion of salt, though not as much as a wet brine. Here is the recipe I used:


Dry Brine for a 12 - 14 Pound Turkey

3 tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 bay leaf, vein removed
1 1/2 teaspoons dry whole sage, rubbed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries

Spatchcocked turkey, left   |   Rubbed with Dry Brine, right
Set the salt and sugar in a small bowl. In the well of a small grinder used only for spices, crumble the bay leaf and add in the sage, thyme peppercorns and allspice berries. Grind finely and add to the salt and sugar. Mix well. Use to rub all over a smaller turkey, inside and out. Set the turkey on a pan in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to 4 days before roasting.


Since the dry brine has a good bit of salt, I took the salt out of my Herbed Butter recipe. This is what I am going to make for my compound butter this year:
Herbed Butter - for a Dry-Brined Turkey

Herbed Butter for Turkey

enough for one large turkey

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers, minced
2 - 4 cloves garlic, minced

Have the butter at room temperature, soft enough to mix with the herbs. Add in the sage and thyme leaves with the Dijon mustard and minced capers and garlic. Mix well; set aside.

Use this mixture to rub under the skin of the turkey before roasting.
The goal in making the turkey this way is not to bring that gloriously browned whole bird to the table, which I have never done in any case. The goal is getting the bird done in record time, and making it easy to carve. The oven is preheated to 400 degrees to start. A bed of vegetables (celery, carrots, onion quarters, whole garlic heads, cut in half) and the turkey goes in set on top of this bed of vegetables. A half cup of water is poured into the pan and the whole thing goes into the oven for 30 minutes at this high temperature. Then the heat is lowered to 350 degrees for another hour, basting with melted butter or oil every 20 minutes. A meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh should register 165 degrees.  The bird is tented with foil for 30 minutes before carving.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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