Saturday, 12 May 2012

Star of the [Dinner] Party: Oven Roast Turkey

Roasted Turkey on a bed of Oriental Rice

Usually people are very intimidated of hosting a large dinner party, in fear of the insane prep and amount of food that they will have to cook. Why not just roast a turkey, and have it the star of the night? Make a few side dishes like mashed potatoes, or oriental rice. Throw in eggplant as an appetizer, and something simple for dessert, and you are set!

Roasting a turkey is easy, it just needs patience and a strong upper body for all the lifting.

You don't need to stick to traditional Thanksgiving or any other holiday to make this bird; it actually may be cheaper if its not it's high season.

You also want to choose a turkey that is enough for the people you are serving, with some leftovers for all your hard work. I am notorious for making insanely heavy turkeys, but this is due to the fact that small turkeys are not available year round where I live, and I don't mind the extra cooked turkey meat in the freezer.

To give yourself a ballpark figure, a group of 8 [hungry Egyptians] people can finish a 5 kg turkey, if it is the main attraction. It may sound like a lot, but remember most people like breast meat, also the bones and skin also account for unused weight. This will leave about 2 hefty portions for leftovers, plus bone picking that will give you meat that will go good for any casserole. Rough estimate is 1/2 kg of turkey weight per person, so keep this in mind when buying for your dinner party.

You want to make sure the turkey is fully thawed, preferably marinated and in the fridge, before you stick it in the oven. You might need to take the turkey out the night before if it is frozen. If it is fresh and you buy it the day before, marinate it and stick it in the fridge tightly covered. Before sticking it in the oven, cover your turkey with aluminum foil until about 45 mins before its done, then uncover to get a nice even brown. I like to raise the heat for the last 30 mins, and/or open the broiler to help with the browning process if I am in a rush. Be careful NOT to dry out your bird. Keep a eye on it once you put it to brown, and if needed, cover the wings and the drumsticks with foil if they brown too fast.

Cooking times are approximate but generally go by this weight-rule in this table by the Turkey Farmers of Canada. I like this table because it has the metric conversion!

Ingredients for the Marinade:

1- Celery stalk and leaves, washed
2- 2 large onions
3- 2 Large carrots
4- Dried rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage
5- 2 Large lemons
6- 2 Tbsp butter room temperature
7- 2 Tbsp olive oil
8- Vinegar [1/2 cup]

Wash your turkey in cold water with diluted vinegar. Be sure to check both cavities for any gizzards that the butcher may have left you in plastic baggies. The main cavity and the neck cavity. In Egypt, for example, they store the gizzards in the neck cavity. I have heard too many horror stories of people cooking their turkey with the plastic baggie by mistake, and ending up having to throw it out because of the melted plastic!

Keep your gizzards on the side, you can sautee them and use it to garnish your oriental rozz bil khalta rice.

Place the celery stalks, onions and carrots around our bird. Mix the olive oil, butter and lemon juice with all the herbs and mix well. Put the celery leaves and the used lemon in the cavity. Use your marinade mix and rub all over the bird, try to get under the breast skin and drumstick skin with your fingers if possible.

Heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius/ 425 Fahrenheit for first hour, then reduce to 180-200  degrees Celsius [350-380 F] for the rest of the cooking time.

Remove the bird about half way through to baste it; ladle the juices on top of the bird and make sure the cooking is even. If the wing or drumstick is browning or peeking from under the foil, cover it as not to burn it.

I don't have a meat thermometer, so i check the juices to make sure they aren't pink, also the joints [the thigh joint] need to be a bit flexible not too tough. I know that its not recommended NOT to use the meat thermometer, but in Egypt we wing it [snicker snicker] and it works every time. Just be thorough in checking the bird before you serve it.

After the bird is cooked, allow to cool for about 20 min or more before carving.

At the end of your dinner party, refrigerate only what you will eat the next day, then freeze the rest of the turkey meat with or without the bone.


Do you enjoy throwing dinner parties or do they stress you out?


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