HOW TO ROAST A TURKEY
When European settlers first came across the large birds native to the forests of North America that now form the center of the traditional American Thanksgiving feast, they incorrectly identified them as a type of guineafowl, which they also called Turkey fowl because the birds were imported to Central Europe through Turkey. The name stuck, in abbreviated form, even after turkeys were determined to in fact be related to the grouse family. In Turkey, however, the birds are called hindi, which means “from India,” and in India, a turkey is called a peru. The Arabic word for turkey means Greek chicken, the Greek word means French chicken, and the French word means Indian chicken. New world critters seem to have created a fair amount of confusion on other parts of the planet.
While roasting a turkey is a fairly straight forward affair, it is time consuming because the birds are big, usually around 20 pounds, and take several hours to cook. You are well advised to do as much advance preparation as possible:
o STEP ONE: MAKE THE TURKEY STOCK. You will need turkey stock, often made from spare parts while the turkey is roasting, for the gravy. But if you buy extra turkey wings, legs or thighs, stock can be made up to a week in advance and chilled in an airtight container. It can be frozen for 3 months. Or, you can use commercial chicken stock and eliminate this step (but your gravy won’t taste as good.)
o STEP TWO: MAKE THE TURKEY BRINE MIX: You can purchase a commercial brine mix. Williams Sonoma makes several. But should you find yourself without access to a commercial source, it’s easy enough to make the mix yourself. This keeps pretty much indefinitely.
o STEP THREE: MAKE THE BRINE AND BRINE THE TURKEY: The major culinary complaint about roasted turkey is that the meat often is dry. Brining the bird will moisten it, and the bird can be brined up to 36 hours ahead.
o STEP FOUR: MAKE THE STUFFING. Stuffing, the best part of the bird for many people, can be made 24 hours in advance and refrigerated. Allow it to return to room temperature before using it.
o STEP FIVE: STUFF THE TURKEY, ROAST IT AND MAKE THE GIBLET GRAVY