Roast Turkey and Sage Dressing!
In the United States Roast Turkey and Sage Dressing is traditionally served at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and to a lesser degree at Easter. Roast Turkey and Sage Dressing is always good! To begin, thaw your turkey in the bottom of your refrigerator. A medium sized bird will take at least a couple days. When the bird has thawed, remove the giblets, (the giblets are the heart, liver ect.), and the neck from the cavity, and trim anything that needs trimming. Take off the first joint of the wings. Wash and drain everything well. Take especial care not to tear any parts of the skin, since the skin will hold in the stuffing.
The Stock for Roast Turkey and Sage Dressing
To make your stock for the dressing, put the neck, giblets, and other pieces in a pot. Add:
Simmer up real gently. If you want to use the liver in the dressing or gravy, take it out after about 15 minutes and save. Then, simmer the rest until the neck meat easily comes off the bone. This will take a couple hours. Strain off the stock, cool it and remove the fat. Save the stock, and, if you use it, save the fat separately. Pick the good meat off the neckbone and wing ends, and throw away the bones. Chop up the giblets. Save all for the gravy or the dressing.
This is enough dressing for a relatively small turkey, 10-15 lbs., which will feed 6-8 people and still have a bit left over. The dressing recipe is easily doubled or tripled, and to feed a lot of people, you can make a lot of it, cook what you don't use in the turkey in a large casserole, and dribble a bit of turkey juice over it just before serving.
To start your dressing, leave a good loaf of bread out for a couple hours where it can dry out a bit. Cut it into 1/4 inch cubes. Reserve.
Take a very large frying pan, a large wok, or any large, fairly shallow heavy pan that is big enough to hold the amount of stuffing you plan to make. Melt:
When butter sizzles a bit, add:
Toss around a bit till onion is transparent, even a bit frizzled. Add:
Mix, add the bread cubes and toss around a bit to cover the bread cubes with the onion and herb mixture. If you are going to add the heart, liver ect. to the dressing, add them now.
Now, dribble the turkey broth into the bread cubes as you gently toss them around. You are now trying to wet down all the bread cubes evenly without breaking them up. Wet the dressing down real well, but be gentle and don't let it get mushy and all stuck together. This is a hard part, you want the dressing to be quite moist all though, but not glued up. Again, treat it gently at all times.
When the dressing is done to your liking, first pack it gently into the main body cavity of the bird. Don't pack it in too tightly, but also don't leave any air spaces. Again, here takes a bit of feel. When the main body cavity is filled, sew up the skin in back to hold the stuffing in.
Next, fill the front cavity with dressing. An interesting professional trick is to also put a layer of dressing over the turkey's breast, to protect it from the extremes of oven heat. To do this, come in from the front and slide your hand gently between the front part of the skin and the breast meat, delicately detaching the skin from the breast as you go. When you have made two large pouches extending over most of the breast, place an inch and a half layer of dressing between the skin and the breast. Then fill the rest of the front cavity with dressing, and sew the skin shut. Be sure to add the weight of the extra layer of dressing to the calculations regarding time of cooking.
Some time before the turkey is done, heat up a good black iron frying pan. Add a half cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut, or if you are a traditionalist, a half cup of the clear fat that has cooked off the turkey. When it is a bit hot, add a half cup flour. Stir around into a nice thin paste and let cook a bit. Stir it often. Don't let it cook too fast. When it has colored up a bit, put the pan off to the back of the stove until the turkey is out of the oven and it is gravy making time.
After the bird is out of the oven and the fat has been separated from the pan juices, put the pan back on the fire. Add a half cup of cold milk and stir up. Add the pan juices and stir up. The gravy will come to a simmer and start to thicken. If it becomes too thick, add a bit more milk or water. Add the chopped up liver, heart ect. if you have saved them for the gravy. Let the gravy simmer for a few minutes until it loses the "raw" taste.
Cooking the Turkey
By the time you finish stuffing the turkey the oven should be at 350 degrees. For roasting the turkey you will need a large baking pan. Put a rack in the bottom of the pan. Rub the outside of the turkey all over with a bit of butter or vegetable oil. Grind on a bit of black pepper. Put your meat thermometer deep in the breast if you use one. Now you have several choices. You can put the bird on the rack, put a cup or two of water in the bottom of the pan, cover the turkey with a tent of aluminum foil. The commercial plastic baking bags also work well, follow the directions on the package. Another way I have had great luck with is to use a common large brown paper grocery bag. Rub the bag all over with vegetable oil, put in the turkey, add a cup of water or white wine, fold shut the end of the bag and fasten with a skewer or a couple paper clips. However you do it, now put the turkey in the oven and roast it about 15 minutes per pound. For a 15 pound turkey that would be 15 X 15= 225 minutes or about 3 1/2 hours.
When the turkey is done, if you use a thermometer it should read around 185 degrees. If the breast is pierced deeply with a skewer the juices that come out should run clear, and when the leg is wiggled it should have a sort of "looseness" to it that feels "done". Towards the last of the cooking you can remove the aluminum foil tent or open the bag if the breast skin has not properly browned.
When the turkey is done, take it out of the oven and transfer it to the board it will be carved on. Drape a bit of aluminum foil over it and let it set for a few minutes. Drain the juices out of the pan, add a little water and stir around over the heat till all the browned parts are disolved and add this to the pan juices. Add any juice that has come out of the turkey. Separate the fat from the juices, and finish your gravy with the juices.
For the best presentation, you will want to carve the bird at the table. Serve the turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, a simple vegetable, biscuits or rolls with butter and a nice green salad. A dry white or light dry red wine also goes well here. Pumpkin pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or topped with whipped cream is nice for dessert, and quite traditional. Above all, Enjoy!
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