by Sebastiano Bazzichetto
And now, unveiled, the Turkey stands displayed,
Each Silver vase in mystic Order laid.
[A tribute to the B.B. and A.P.]
Juicy, delicious, moist, tender, out of this world!
These and many others are the comments that each and every one of us would love to hear on Thanksgiving Day, as our guests applaud and praise our cooking skills and the well-deserved success at the end of the most distressing culinary battle of the whole year: cooking the T.T. [Thanksgiving Turkey], also known as the B.B. [Big Bird].
Whether you are celebrating a fruitful harvest or commemorating the first English settlers of the Plymouth colony (i.e. the Pilgrim Fathers), the herculean endeavour of cooking the T.T.– B.B. may represent a hassle for those who are approaching the fine art of Turkeying for the first time.
Although I don’t consider myself a guru of this superior discipline, I think I have become a shrewd connoisseur of T.T.s and the like.
Here below are my 7 tricks and tips to make it delicious, delightful and masterfully effortless on its Big Day.
1 – The perfect election
Choose the right specimen of T.T. / B.B. according to your needs and event. Out there choices vary. Organic, fresh, heritage, or (dreadfully) frozen?
I would always recommend an organic and fresh B.B. I would highly discourage anyone from buying the frozen ones: they are much harder to cook, and not as tasty as their fresh kin. An H.T., or Heritage Turkey, is the ideal pick if you want to try an old-fashioned variety of B.B., oftentimes more flavourful, leaner and leggier.
2 – The perfect mass
How many pounds should a B.B. be? Usually, consider 1 to 1 and a half pounds of B.B. per person.
For instance, a party of 10 would easily benefit from a 14 to 16-pound B.B.
Is the B.B. too Big for your condo oven? Upgrade and downscale it to a more Downton Abbey-style partridge, pheasant or guinea-fowl. As tasty and somewhat fancier!
3 – The perfect bedding
Cook your B.B. on a bed of greens. Lay onions, some fine-chopped garlic, celery, carrots and a few sliced potatoes so as to orchestrate a delicious roasting rack for your B.B. You will increase hot air circulation around your B.B. by lifting it off the base of the roasting pan.
4 – The perfect ablution
Place your B.B. in a basin (large washbowl) of water, salt, a few drops of white vinegar, thyme and a variety of spices and aromatics. Leave it to marinate the night before its Big Day. Remember, brining keeps it moist.
5 – The perfect match
What’s a B.B. without its stuffing? Whether you go for a more traditional stuffing or you concoct an elaborated, groundbreaking filling, remember to keep the stuffing on the side.
You should never cook it right in the cavity of your B.B. It is the worst cardinal sin you may commit. As much as we want you to capitalize on your imagination, do cook the stuffing in a separate pan. My favourite stuffing consists of pumpkin, walnuts, mushrooms and ricotta.
6 – The perfect treat
Yes, even your B.B. needs a good treat. Rub it with butter or, preferably, oil and lemon juice.
Before putting it in the oven, dry the skin of your B.B. and rub it all over with butter or Italian olive oil and lemon juice. Carefully place slices of lemon and thyme under the skin.
7 – The perfect temperature
From the first form of life on Planet Earth to the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies, temperature has always been key.
And so, when cooking your B.B., a good meat thermometer comes always in handy.
Check regularly your B.B.’s temperature by inserting a thermometer in its thickest part (usually around the thigh). It’s done when it reaches 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your T.T. / B.B. should be ready at least 20 minutes before serving, so take a break and give it a rest before carving.
Remember that Thanksgiving is a moment to be thankful, to enjoy your leisure time with the people you love and to have fun. Be cheerful and jazz it up: name it!
It may sound a pretty whimsical practice, but my friends and I always name our Turkeys: Theodor, Theofrasto, Tucidide, Termodonte and so forth. The list has grown long, and include the most aristocratic and literary selection of names, so as to bestow the rightful title upon the scion from the Meleagris Gallopavo clan on such a noble occasion.