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Woodworking: Turkey tips from yours truly, with big smiles

Several years ago, I wrote a column in this space about how to roast a turkey.

I recommended brining the bird and then roasting it "upside down" with the breast pointing down for the first hour or so to force juices into the breast, then turning it right-side up.

As you might expect, I had no idea of whether it would please readers or whether I knew what I was writing about.

On the Monday morning after Thanksgiving, I was shopping at Dick's when I ran into Dee Larson. She gave me an intense look and said, "On Thursday, I cooked our bird as you suggested and..."

Oh-oh, thought I.

"...and it turned out just fine."


Ever since that episode, I've been careful to try out recipes before sharing them with readers. And since then I've tweaked the turkey recipe several times, fancying up the brine, etc., etc.

And even more recently, I've subscribed to "Cook's Illustrated," a wonderful magazine with a reputation for testing recipes that you might have seen on public television.

I have become a Cook's Illustrated addict and rarely miss the show or the magazine.

In a recent issue one of the testers, Rebecca Hayes (she smiles a lot with her boss Christopher Kimball) shared her carefully tested turkey recipe. I share it with you a week before turkey day.

Get a 12-14 pound non self-basted turkey. Set neck, wing tips and giblets aside. Rinse it thoroughly. Place it in a simple brine of water and table salt.

One cup of salt per one gallon of water if you plan to brine it for 4 hours. If you plan to brine it overnight, use ½ cup of salt per gallon of water.

If you use Kosher salt increase the salt contribution to 2 cups per gallon of Diamond Crystal Kosher and 1 ½ cup of Morton's Kosher. Again, don't use a self-basted turkey because it's already salted.

On turkey day eve, remove bird from brine, rinse and pat dry and place on wire rack on a cookie sheet in the fridge, uncovered. Air dry for eight to 24 hours.

Truss bird by sticking it's forelegs in the slit of skin at bird's rear end. Set oven at recommended settings on the bird's wrapping and preheat.

Smear with half a stick of soft butter and place breast side down on a v-rack placed on a rimmed cake pan. Lacking a v-rack, take two grates from your stove top and make a "vee" in the cake pan. Line with foil that has been poked to allow drippings to run through.

Roast for 45 minutes to an hour. Using hand towels, reposition bird, breast side up and return to oven.

Roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of the thigh registers 170-175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (which you should test in boiling water the day before).

Transfer turkey to carving board and let it rest for thirty minutes, lest the juice runs all over your kitchen floor.

Then there's the matter of stuffing, which will now get me into trouble with half of our readers.

I would never stuff a bird with bread or corn bread stuffing not because it's dangerous but because I like stuffing baked separately so it's crisp on the top and mushy in the middle, rather than mushy all the way through.

If you like to stuff, know that the roasting will take longer and that Cook's suggests you preheat the dressing in a very hot microwave for six to eight minutes, which should speed up the project.

I prefer to place two onion halves, a carrot, and a squeezed lemon in the bird's cavity and discard after bird is cooked.

And then there's the matter of gravy.

Brown the turkey neck, wingtips, heart and gizzard in butter and minced onion. When brown, pour in a quart of unsalted chicken broth, two bay leaves a splash of white wine or dry sherry and simmer until neck is tender. Strain, discard meat and thicken broth with arrowroot. Correct seasoning. Serve.

And what about the liver?

Chop one medium onion and the liver. Sauté in two tbsps. butter.

Add dash of allspice, one minced garlic clove, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a jigger of brandy, salt and pepper. When liver is still a bit pinkish, toss everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

Eat on crackers while you linger in the kitchen. Do not share with guests.

And if you don't like the turkey, don't blame me. Blame the girl on TV who smiles a lot.