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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Turkey for Dummies: Thanksgiving Dinner in 24 Easy Steps

Turkey on Plate

Tom Grill/ Iconica

Steps 1-12: Roasting the Turkey

Figure five-and-a-half-to-six-and-a-half-hours roasting at 325 degrees F for a twenty- to twenty-two-pound unstuffed moderately chilled turkey.

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Lightly cook one cup each chopped carrots and onions for five to eight minutes; chop and set aside two cups each raw carrots and onions.

3. Dry the turkey inside and out with paper towels.

4. Sprinkle the cavity with two teaspoons salt and add cooked vegetables, along with a handful each of parsley and celery tops.

5. With a large needle and strong string, sew down the neck and cent flaps, and truss the legs and wings (nothing looks so indecent as a turkey with legs akimbo and cavity gapping; it deserves a more dignified fate).

6. Rub the turkey all over with soft butter, and place it breast up on a rack in a roasting pan.

7. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, but not against bone.

8. Dip a double thickness of cheesecloth (enough to cover the turkey’s breast) in cooking oil and drape it over the turkey.

9. Roast in a preheated 325-degree F oven five-and-a-half-to-six-and-a half-hours (see below, step 12).

10. Baste every thirty minutes, at first with cooking oil, then with pan drippings.

11. About one-and-a-half hours before the end of the estimated cooking time, add raw carrots and onions to the pan.

12. The turkey is done when the mean thermometer reads 180 to 185 degrees F. (Some signs that it’s getting there: juices run from turkey into pan…drumstick moves fairly easily in socket…lower part of thigh, when penetrated deeply with fork, exudes clear yellow juice…people crowd around the stove saying "I think it’s done" and "looks right to me.") Remember: the turkey should rest, partially covered by foil, for about forty-five minutes after it comes out of the oven before you start carving it.

Steps 13-24: Making the Gravy

I once celebrated Thanksgiving at the home of a friend who threw out the giblets and made no gravy because she couldn't bear the thought of toughing gizzards and livers and hearts. She might as well have thrown out the turkey.

13. Chop the neck into two-inch pieces, quarter the gizzard, and halve the heart.

14. Brown the giblets in four tablespoons of cooking oil, drain, and remove from the pan.

15. Cook one cup each chopped carrots and onions in same oil five to eight minutes until tender.

16. Return the giblets to the pan, add one cup dry white wine, two cups chicken broth, and enough water to cover by an inch or so.

17. Add one teaspoon salt, one bay leaf, and one-half teaspoon sage.

18. Simmer partially covered for two and a half to three minutes.

19. Strain, degrease the pan, and return the stock into it.

20. Blend three tablespoons cornstarch with one-fourth cup chicken broth, beat the mixture into the stock, and simmer three to five minutes.

21. Remove from the heat but keep warm on the back of the stove until the turkey is done.

22. When you’re removed the turkey to the platter, spoon fat out of the roasting pan, add the turkey stock, and stir over moderately high heat for five minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

23. Strain into a saucepan, degrease, correct the seasoning, reheat, and pour into a gravy boat.

24. Prepare for a standing ovation.

Adapted from "The Modern American Thanksgiving" by Glen Waggoner, from Esquire's November 1984 issue.