Once I started hosting some of our family’s Thanksgivings and cooking for each Christmas, I was super lucky to get an awesome recipe for the perfect turkey. Moist, tasty, and fast-cooking. It came by way of my sister (thanks!), who got it from her good friend, Shelly, who grew up enjoying her Grandma’s special turkeys.
Although the microwave in my little house also has a convection oven feature, I only know how to hit the “minute plus” button. Great for leftovers and heating water for tea. Pretty useless for cooking a holiday bird.
So I may step out of my comfort zone and eat alligator or some other odd thing this year. Maybe rattlesnake! (But no, don’t worry, not crane.) Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to put Shelly’s Grandma’s Perfect Turkey recipe–also known as “a nuked bird”–on record here for posterity’s sake. A couple of the details I have tweaked over the years, hopefully making it even better.
And what is the perfect turkey without awesome gravy? Less than perfect, that’s what! Thus, my gravy tips follow the bird, as any good gravy should.
Shelly’s Grandma’s Perfect Turkey
Mix a cup or so of your favorite flour (I used whole wheat spelt flour) with water until it is about mudslide consistency. You can simply use a fork to whip it around until there are no lumps and the mixture is smooth and fairly thick (not gloppy, you want it to flow). Set this aside.
Preheat oven to 475. The original recipe calls for you to nuke Mr. Bird at 500 degrees, but I was afraid of burning my house down.
While preheating, rinse our fowl friend and remove all those bird-pieces they stick in the poor thing’s cavity. Rinse them also, so that they can go in the bottom of the pan with the bird. Even if no one in your household likes to suck on the neck bone or fight over the heart and liver, they will add their goodness to the juices you will later use for the gravy.
Place the dear bird’s body into a large roasting pan–breast side up–and bathe it liberally in oil. I used olive oil because that’s all that was ever around, but I’m sure your favorite oil will be really good, too. It’s really nice to have a helper at this point so that you don’t get your raw turkey-laced fingers all over your oil bottle, sink faucets, etc.
Cut a couple of oranges and apples into halves or thirds–no need to peel them, but do remove any seeds you find–and put them into the bird’s cavity. You want them just small enough to fit in there snugly, but not too small because you want to be able to easily remove them once the bird is done.
Sprinkle some salt over the top of the body and legs, put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan–just enough to cover the bottom of the pan about a half an inch deep–and pop Mr. Bird into the oven once it is fully preheated. Do not cover him yet. Set timer for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove Mr. Bird and liberally smear some butter on that nice hot skin. Then pour some really good orange juice onto him, spilling a little into the cavity with the fruit. Sprinkle a little more salt on, as well. Add a touch more water to the bottom of the pan, to bring the level up to about an inch.
Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to 450 and pop the good fellow back in for another 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, baste with a little more orange juice and add some more water to the bottom of the pan, if needed, so that it remains about an inch deep.
Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to 425 and toss that handsome bird in for another 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, baste our de-feathered fellow with hot juices from the bottom of the pan, then add more water to bring the fluid level up to an inch and a half or so.
Put the cover onto the pan at this point.
Reduce the oven heat to 400 and put the covered bird back in.
The general rule of thumb is to cook him for 10 minutes for each pound of his weight (so, for example, two hours for a 12 pound bird; three hours for an 18 pounder). This will vary, though, if your oven tends to cook hotter or cooler than expected, so you will need to check up on him now and then. My oven was on the small side and my birds usually were around 20 pounds so they cooked really fast in there!
After an hour, take Mr. Bird out. Carefully remove the cover. Use a turkey baster or ladle and pull the juices from the bottom of the pan and give him a nice hot, soaking bath in them.
And here’s the best part: Dribble some honey back and forth over the breast and legs–Yum!
Add some more water to the bottom of the pan if it looks like it needs it. You want the juices down there to be at least a couple of inches deep at this point.
Recover and continue to cook.
Check every 30 to 45 minutes or so. More frequently when the time nears for His Highness to become His Doneness. Each time you check him, give him another gentle, hot shower with his pan juices.
Use a meat thermometer and when he is done, remove the cover and put him aside for a few minutes. Once he is cool enough to safely handle, remove him from the pan and put him into a nice carving dish.
Scoop out those apples and oranges; they have done their job, so you can toss them now.
His Magnificence should rest awhile before being carved, so it’s time to get to work on that gravy!
Carol’s Awesome Gravy
Remember the flour/water mixture you put together before you started messing with that bird? See if you can find it, and mix in a little more water if you need to, so that it is nice and thick, but thin enough to flow.
Once the bird and bird pieces are out of the pan, carefully (helper, come help here please!) pour some of those sumptuous juices through a large strainer or colander and into a medium sized pot. You will have way more juices than you will need for the gravy, so once you have the amount you decide you want, put the rest of the juices aside. You can store them in a container in the back of the refrigerator and in a few days, once you are left with nothing but a smoldering turkey carcass, you can add them to the water you use to boil that carcass down into an incredible turkey soup! Ah, but I digress.
Bring the strained juices to a boil and slowly add the flour/water mixture, constantly and vigorously stirring as you do so. Once it reaches the desired consistency, don’t add any more of the mixture. Just turn down the burner, add salt to taste (maybe even a little pepper), and slowly cook while someone is hopefully carving that bird (and mashing the potatoes!). Don’t forget to stir frequently. Just two or three minutes will do the trick, then remove from burner.
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(um… ^ snowflakes)
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace & Love to All
Carol and Dawny