Mo the Turkey’s Grand Adventure (i.e. Easter Turkey Dinner)

Turkey with Shallot Stuffing

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 Turkey, 13-15 lbs
  • 1/2 cup Coarse or kosher salt
  • Water
  • 1/2-1 Bottle white wine
  • 2 cup Butter
  • 1 Baguette
  • 3 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Bonus ingredients for side dishes
  • 1 kg yellow-fleshed potatoes
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsps butter, cold
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • All ingredients for Haricots Verts (link below)

Directions

Wash the turkey, rub with salt, and place in a large pot. Fill with water until the turkey is submerged. Let sit overnight. Melt 1 cup of butter in a large pan, add shallots and cook until softened. Tear the baguette into small-ish pieces, and mix in the butter and shallots, then the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Take the turkey out of the brine, rinse, and place in roasting pan. Fill with stuffing, close up, place breastside-down in the pan. Melt remaining cup of butter, and brush the entire turkey. Save excess butter to brush during cooking. Pour 1 cup of wine overtop, then place in oven heated to 325ºF/ 165ºC. Every 30 minutes, remove turkey from the oven, apply more butter, and top up wine in the pan, maintaining liquid in the bottom of the pan. At around 2/3 of the cooking time, flip the turkey breast side-up (approximately 2-2 1/2 hours), and continue with the 30 minute butter-basting and wine top-up until the turkey registers 165ºF/74ºC in the breast. Remove from the oven, set the turkey aside to rest, and pour the juices into a pot and heat on medium-high heat until bubbling. Mix flour with about 1/2 cup water until there are no lumps. Add slowly to the juices, mixing constantly, until desired thickness of gravy is reached. Add salt, pepper or wine as desired. Carve turkey, removing stuffing, and serve with gravy. Directions for remaining side dishes below.

And now for the details…

This Easter was a pretty special one. This turkey was made remotely, in another city. The reason for this is that I was going to pick up a good friend of mine who had just done a very selfless thing. Connie had just gotten out of hospital as a living liver donor for a coworker of ours who was in need of a new liver. A bit of a long story, but the long and short of it: cancer is an asshole.

While in the city, we were also able to visit with another of our friends and her mom, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Say it with me this time: CANCER IS AN ASSHOLE.

And you may be wondering… wait Emily, you said this Easter was special. And it was. I got to spend time with an extremely giving, selfless, and loving friend (Connie) who seems to be well on the mend, visit with our other friend and her mom, who is one of the most lovely, joyful, and kind people I have ever met (she passed these same attributes on to her daughter!), and have a tasty meal with all these amazing women, as well as with some additional family. Not to mention, we spent the day, while the turkey was cooking, hanging out and watching Star Wars. #starwarsnerd

I started naming my turkey when preparing turkey dinners years ago, and I guess it’s become a bit of a tradition for me. This year, the naming responsibility went to our donor, Connie. In honour of our brave and strong donee, and a story that her and her husband had told, we ended up naming the turkey “Mo”. His full name is Morton Turkington, but he prefers to go by by Mo.

Let’s start cooking. Well… preparing. Big side note before we start preparing Mo! Was Mo frozen? Yes. Standard thaw time is about 5 hours/lb in the fridge. For Mo’s case, who was 14 lbs, this means he needed 70 hours, or almost 3 days of thaw time before we would be ready. And in our case, since we are brining the night before, tack on a bit of time. It’s okay if Mo is still a bit chilly. As long as you can “clean” him properly and get him in the pot for brining, he should be okay.

Once thawed, we are going to get Mo prepared the night before his big day. The night before, find nice big stockpot that will be able to handle Mo. All of him. Before we place Mo in the stockpot, give him a clean once he is out of his package. And by clean, I mean that if he has them, remove the giblets and his neck out of where they have stuffed them (up his behind), and give him a rinse, inside and out. (Side note: save them both. You can use the giblets, if you want, for the stuffing, and the neck is great to add to the pot when making stock.) Next, we put him in the pot, and take out the coarse or kosher salt. We will be giving Mo a salt scrub, rubbing the salt into and all over his body, as well as in his cavity. Any extra salt that falls off of Mo can stay in the bottom of the pot. After his vigorous exfoliation, let’s give Mo a nice refreshing bath. Fill his pot with cold water until he is completely submerged. If the pot is a bit too small to do this (mine was), cover whatever pieces of Mo that are poking up above the surface with some aluminum foil, making sure the foil ends are in the water (this will keep all of Mo humidified, and make sure portions of him do not dry out).

Mo has had his body treatment and is ready for an overnight soak

Before moving forward, let’s check the time required for cooking. Like I said, Mo was about 14 pounds, and I was planning on stuffing him. Recommended cooking time was 3.75-4.25 hours (thanks Food Network!). Factor this in to when you plan on eating to make sure Mo is ready for dinner. We were aiming to eat at 6pm, so I got Mo in the oven by 1pm, to allow for resting, carving, and gravy preparation time.

This all means that Mo got pulled out of his bath at about noon and got a quick rinse. We’ll transfer him to the roaster, and he can rest here until we have the stuffing ready.

Start by melting the 1 cup of butter, then add the chopped shallots (and giblets, cut into smaller pieces, if you so desire), all over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As we are waiting for the shallots to soften in the butter, tear the bread into small chunks into a large bowl or container. Once the shallots have softened, pour the butter and shallots over the bread, mixing well. Then sprinkle with your chopped herbs, salt and pepper, and the cognac. Taste testing is clearly required… Y’know… for quality.

Before moving on, preheat the oven to 325ºF. And now that the stuffing is ready, we’re going to get some of that up in Mo. Stuff in as much as Mo’s cavity can handle, leaving a tiny bit of space so we can stitch Mo up without working around the stuffing. Next is time for some stitching. I… clearly made the right choice by not becoming a surgeon.

And yes, I did use red thread. This is something my mom always did. It makes sure you can find the thread easily after the turkey has cooked, so you remove all thread, instead of chancing that someone else find it in their teeth…

Now that Mo is ready to go, flip him breast-side-down before putting him in the oven. By starting the cooking process with Mo flipped down, it will give the light, typically drier, meat a chance to cook in the juices, so Mo is nice and moist (yes, moist) once he is done.

Next, pour about 1 cup of the wine over Mo, and baste him with a whole lotta butter (you don’t need to use all the butter at this time, we will be basting him more than once), and sprinkle him with a bit of S&P. Then, we place him in the oven and get him to cooking. Every 30 minutes, we will be taking him out, re-basting with more butter, and adding wine to make sure there is always liquid in the base of the pan. Here’s Mo after the first 30 minutes. Did I use a foil pan instead of a roaster? Yes I did. I’m super lazy, and it’s way easier to clean.

About 2/3 of the way through cooking, we are going to flip Mo. In this case, that was at about the 2.5 hour mark. Mo looks a little rough here, his skin ripped a bit, and it looked like he had gotten into a fight… and lost. Honestly, when it comes to most turkeys, I have not found a direct correlation between prettiness and deliciousness, so I was not too fussed.

Now is also a good time to start getting the rest of your side dishes ready to go. The side dishes I chose for this meal were mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, and haricots verts with caramelized shallots and candied walnuts (Ohhh! It’s a throwback for this one). We do not need to start cooking yet, but there some peeling and cutting to be done! Peel the potatoes (1kg worth, yellow flesh) and cut into chunks about 1.5”x1.5”. To keep your potatoes from turning brown, place the peeled and cut pieces in a large pot, half-filled with cold water. We will be cooking the potatoes in this same pot and water, but for now, it can rest on the stove, ready for action. We will trim the beans and cook the shallots and nuts to get ready for fast assembly at go-time. Now… for the mashed potatoes we are going to be making, I am inspired by a potato recipe I learned in Paris. The original is Joelle Robuchon’s recipe, which, let’s admit, I bastardized pretty badly here. The main similarity I kept was the ratio of butter:potato, as well as the method of adding the butter. Because… well, for the high ratio, it just makes sense. We’ll take 1 cup (yes, a full cup) of butter out of the fridge (cold butter cuts much easier, you may even want to stick it in the freezer for a couple minutes) and cut it into small pieces, about 1cmx1cm. Put it back into the fridge, and we will have this ready for when we are ready to mash. We will also peel and cut the carrots (3 large-ish) into little medallions and placing them in a smaller pot in the same manner as the potatoes. I just use frozen peas, you could add them now (about 1 cup) in with the carrots, or just before starting to cook.

Juicy little carrot medallions and peas, just waiting to go

Even as do all this other prep, we still need to pay attention to Mo and continue with the 30 minute basting and wine refill through until the end of the cooking. Recommended temperatures for Mo are his thigh reading 180ºF and/or is breast reading 165ºF for him to be ready to come out. As Mo’s temperature nears final, (about 10ºF below doneness), turn on the potatoes and let them cook until when you pierce with a fork, they fall off on their own back into the pot. This timing will likely be pretty close to when Mo is ready to come out of the oven.

Heresy, I know, I cooked them without the skins…

Once out of the oven, Mo will rest to the side. Here’s where things get busy. Drain the potatoes, and keep them in their warm pot. Put the peas and carrots on the stove at medium high heat. Also, heat up the frying pan for the beans, and add the oil, then the beans and salt. Stir the beans regularly. Once the peas and carrots start to simmer, turn them off and let them cook a little further in the hot water. Stir the beans. Add the juices from the turkey roaster (you may want to strain yours) to a pot, and place on the stove at medium high heat, letting them come to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir the beans. Mix the flour with water and a little bit of the heated juices. Mix this really well, there should be zero lumps. Check the beans, and remove from the heat to a serving dish if they are done. Add the flour mix slowly to the juices, stirring constantly, until the desired thickness of the gravy is reached, then remove from the heat. Drain the peas and carrots, and place in a bowl, top with the butter, allowing it to melt down into the veggies. Take the cut butter out of the fridge, and mash those carefully cut small pieces into the potatoes, adding the grated garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to serving dish (did you notice how easy it was to mash all that butter into the potatoes when it was precut??) Sprinkle the beans with the nuts and shallots. Transfer everything to the table, it’s time to eat!

No food mill, just a masher. Yet again… not at all according to Joel Robuchon’s instruction, but at least it wasn’t an electric mixer!!

I luckily had a helper at the end who carved Mo before he made his grand appearance on the table, but if he was prettier, there is always the option of presenting Mo is his full glory and carve at the table. Maybe even get those white fluffy shoes for his feet. Now is the time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labour! And let someone else clean up the kitchen 😉

Happy Eating.

Mo. He wasn’t pretty. But he was delicious.

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