Bill is the master chef in our family and has taught each of us how to prepare a perfect juicy tender turkey for those special holiday dinners. He makes it look so easy and fun!
- 1 grade A plump turkey (For sources in Paris, click on the following article: Satisfy Your Thanksgiving Turkey Cravings in Paris)
. or try a chapon (a castrated bird which French prefer for Réveillon (New Year’s Eve) dinners)
- Mixture of salt, black pepper, garlic salt, little ground sage, Herbes de Provence in a bowl
- Light olive oil and Soya sauce, 3 parts oil, one part Soya to make about a third of a cup to baste bird
- Chicken stock (for gravy)
Note: For 12 adult guests with good appetites, buy a 18 – 20 lb. turkey or 9-10 kilos. This will allow for one pound (500 grams) of cooked turkey per person and leave some leftovers for another meal. If you don’t want leftovers (takes up space in fridge) allow for 1 lb. of bird per guest.
If you are buying a chapon bird, you may have to buy two to feed a large family.
If you have a good butcher shop in your neighborhood, order there in advance. Make sure it is kept cold. And when you pick it up don’t leave it in the car for hours. Try to keep the bird cold in transport and refrigerate immediately.
To prepare bird for cooking: Remove giblet and neck from cavity and save for pan gravy.
Rinse bird inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Tip: sanitize one of your sinks and do this in the basin.
Make a rub consisting of light olive oil and Soya sauce, 3 parts oil, one part Soya to make about a third of a cup. Rub the entire turkey with a thin, even layer. Remember to rub the breasts for a few extra minutes …don’t let anyone make fun of you.
Season the bird with mixture of salt, black pepper, garlic salt, little ground sage, Herbes de Provence inside and out. Stuff the dressing inside the cavity of the bird and in neck.
Place onto a rack into a 2-3 inch deep roasting pan breast side up. Add two cups warm water to bottom of pan and place into the oven. Kiss for good luck…no tongue. Can season neck and giblet and place on side of pan to roast. They will cook first so remove when nice and brown…one hour?
You will need 10-12 minutes per lb. at 325° F (170°C) on the bottom shelf of a pre-heated oven. After the bird has been in the oven for two and a half hours insert a meat thermometer into the bird between the breast and the thigh. Stick it in right to the thigh joint but keep it off of the bone. When it reads 175-180°F (75-80°C) turkey should be cooked all the way through. This depends on how accurate your thermometer is.
You can double check the doneness by plunging a small knife into the bottom side of the thigh towards the thigh joint and watch the juice flow out. Should look clear and watery. You don’t want to see red blood come out. If there is no juice or very little you have over-cooked the bird! Do the knife test in couple other spots in the thigh area on both sides.
Warning! Excessive plunging of meat will drain bird of internal juices…don’t stab it to death! If bird is cooked remove from the oven and cover with tinfoil loosely. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes to rest and re-absorb the cooking juices. Try to keep it warm and away from any cool drafts. It should take approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours to cook a stuffed bird. Make sure your oven temp is accurate using an oven thermometer.
* Tip: I actually go through the trouble of flipping the bird two thirds of the way through cooking to make sure the bird is cooked evenly. This is not always an easy task especially with a big bird, but the results are always a better more evenly cooked product…. like sun tanning. I re-flip the bird in the last half hour to even out the breast side for presentation.
* Yes I baste regularly after two hours every 20 minutes. Use the pan juices for basting as this enhances flavor to the skin.
MAKING PAN GRAVY (SAUCE):
Good pan gravy starts with a good stock. If you can make a chicken stock ahead of time using the neck and giblet do so. Make 3 cups of stock.
Taste the stock. If it tastes of chicken this is good. Don’t be afraid of using chicken base- Knorr Swiss is good. When turkey is cooked remove free liquid / pan juices from the pan into a measuring cup to allow oil to separate from the juice. Takes a few minutes.
Add one cup of liquid to the pan and clean the pan free of cooking stains, this stuff is full of flavor! Add this to your stock. Separate as much of the oil from the pan juices and put this into a saucepan to start the gravy. You can top it up with butter to make 6-7 oz of combined oil.
Add 1/4 cup of diced onions, carrots and celery and cook over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes till lightly brown.
Add some ground sage or chopped fresh savory and cook to release flavor- one minute. Turn heat down.
Add flour to make a roux. Roux should look grainy and not oily or wet…more to the dry side. Stir and cook roux till it is consistent in color. DO NOT BURN OR YOUR SAUCE WILL TASTE BURNT!
Using a whisk add half of the STRAINED CHICKEN STOCK to roux and stir vigorously to dissolve any lumps. Increase heat to high, add more stock to the right consistency and bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and chicken soup base if available. Adjust consistency again. Taste for flavor. Strain and keep hot.
ALSO READ: 9 Recipes for the Perfect, Festive, Dinner Menu, to get ideas for the stuffing, side dishes and cranberry sauce to serve with your turkey!