I'm not a chef, and I definitely make no claims of knowing even remotely everything there is to know about cooking. I just know that every year, for the last four years, my family gives me the hardest job during the most culinary holiday of the year. And every year, like clockwork, I Google "how to cook a turkey" and fake my way through all the notes I pieced together from the web until I come up with a reasonably-tasting Frankenturkey. (Why are turkey tips modernizing every year).
I've tried making my own brines (which gives the turkey a weird vinegary twang), rubbing the bird down in mayonnaise to "seal in moisture" (who taught me this travesty)—Each year, I've gotten really creative (reckless?) with the process. But this year, instead of trying to fight our 19 pound bird (which we named Barb), I got creative where it counts: with the flavors and patience. And what I delivered, was an excellent turkey that my massive family actually ate and enjoyed!
Some of these flavors are limited edition and seasonal purchases, so if you're roasting hens or turkeys this holiday season, here's my recipe—and just in the nick of time so you can stock up while they're still in stores!
One thing that has never changed throughout my turkey misadventurers the use of citrus fruits, sweet apples and herbs. The herbs help to infuse the meat with tons of flavor without the use of sodium-filled cabinet spices while the citrus and apples balance out the savory nature of the spices and herbs giving it a barely noticeable hint of citrusy freshness.
Some similar recipes I've read this year called for using the zest of the citrus and squeezing the juices right onto the skin. I didn't do that, but I think I'll try it with some hens I'm making for a holiday party this weekend.
7 Salts of the Earth
My favorite grocer Trader Joes released a gift box set featuring seven remarkable craft salts! This box set is seasonal, so head over to your local TJs for this $7.99 salt set, and pick up an extra to last you all year!
Ever since my family had a meatball cook-off about three or four years ago, my go-to salt of choice was standard, table salt. My team's meatball called for kosher salt, and I haven't gone back to table salt since (less sodium, less harsh flavor, easier to control in recipes due to its coarseness).
This year I've really gotten into craft salts, and this year, I used the super woodsy oak-smoked salt to dress up Barb and oh my goodness. The salt alone inspired a very uncharacteristic spice approach to this year's turkey. I used darker spices like ground coriander and cumin to smoke up a rub usually reserved for red meats.
Sounds bit off? It's okay! the nose knows! I tried a few different combinations before settling on a smoky herbed rub that I whipped into some farm fresh amish butter. Nobody eats the turkey? TUH, Barb was the surefire the star of our table!
Apologizing in advance because just like my grandma, I do not measure.
Ground fresh pepper
South African Smoke Seasoning Blend
Herbs + More
Rosemary (minced + whole sprigs)
Sage (minced + whole leaves)
Thyme (florets + whole sprigs)
All natural Amish butter (room temperature)
Fruits + Vegetables
You can season your turkey overnight to marry all the flavors, but I did this the morning of and Barb was still delish!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Wash out the turkey really well and pat dry with paper towels (make sure you remove the neck and giblet baggy..I totally failed on this one two years ago). Put turkey in the roasting pan.
Mince herbs and set to the side. Mix your spices together to make a rub. Take about a finger of amish butter and put in a separate bowl. Put herbs and spices inside butter and mix until completely blended.
Chop all your fruits and vegetables and set aside
Amish butter is thick and creamy. Liberally "lotion" up your turkey with your buttery herb and spice rub, being sure to gently separate the skin from the body (not necessary for the legs and wings) and work your "rub" underneath the skin.
Stuff the turkey's cavity with all fruits vegetables and remaining sprigs + leaves of herbs.
Top your turkey with leftover minced herbs or thyme leaves; add a bit more fresh pepper and oak-smoked salt.
On the bottom of your roasting pan, pour chicken or turkey stock about two inches deep.
Place in oven on lower rack basting for moisture every hour or so. I usually cook for the first hour on 350 then reduce to 275 or300 for the next few hours. What delivers is a super moist turkey loaded with flavor through and through!
For more complex questions like "how do I know if my turkey is done" or "how long should cook a ___ pound stuffed turkey) please Google like I did haha! But I did find this link on cooking times very spot on.