Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Upside Down Turkey

My "upside down" turkey

Did you notice how expensive turkeys were this year?  I read that Heritage turkeys are the closest the what the pilgrams dined on and that the turkeys we have today are far inferior in taste.  The only problem is that the Heritage turkeys that I saw started at over $100.  But, lo and behold, across from the million dollar Heritages, I spotted a Maplecrest 12 pounder for $24.99.  Sold! 

Such a bargain!

Now, you will notice this isn't exactly a "skinny" recipe.  It's a holiday - live it up!  And, for the most part, my sides were low fat.  Those recipes will follow in the coming days.

The prep

On the night before Thanksgiving I unwrapped the turkey and covered it inside and out with sea salt and put it back in the fridge (covered).  When I got home from the gym on Thanksgiving I took the turkey out to come to room temperature on the counter.  Again, I covered it in salt and this time added plenty of pepper.  In the morning I took the unsalted danish butter from the fridge so it would be soft.

Ready for the oven

Just before cooking, I covered the bird with butter - on and underneath the skin.  Make sure to dry off the bird with paper towels so the butter will stick.  (Did I mention this isn't exactly a "skinny" recipe?)  I stuffed the bird with quartered lemons, and roughly chopped yellow onions and garic.  I left the skin on for added flavor.  After all, you won't be eating them.

Fill the roasting pan with chicken stock

Bobby Flay has a great trick for keeping the turkey moist.  Fill your roasting pan with chicken stock.  Be sure your pan has a rack so the bird isn't poached.  I basted the turkey with stock I reserved on the counter so I wouldn't have the open too long when I basted.

Upside down

My friend Alan at the Y said his wife Kathy turns their turkey upside down for part of the cooking.  I had never heard of this.  But, coincidently, the package said to do it too.  The 12 pounder would take 3 hours to cook at 350 degrees and the package said to cook it upside down for the first two hours and rightside up for the final hour.

Parsnips and baby carrots in the roasting pan while cooking

I would say the only mistake I made was not to truss the bird.  I thought the weight of the bird would keep the legs in place, but they shifted during takeoff and the bones peeked through on one of the legs.

Turkey when I turned it rightside up at 2 hours

When I flipped the bird over at 2 hours I was a bit concerned.  It looked totally raw on top.  And I think it probably was - maybe a bit poached from the chicken stock.  But, after an hour it was golden brown.

After the fact: I trussed the bird when I turned it over

I think the point of cooking the bird upside down is to cook the dark meat first - which takes longer.  Many turkeys have dry white meat because it's overcooked.  This little trick worked.  The white meat was really juicy and the dark meat was cooked to perfection.

How delicious does this look?

I cooked parsnips and thick baby carrots throughout.  They, too, were delicious - they fell apart when pierced with a fork.

Be sure to let the turkey rest for at least an hour

After three hours I took the bird out of the oven, covered in foil and let it rest for an hour.  I set the timer for 30 minutes and started cooking the sides at that point, and everything was ready at the same time.


One 12 lb turkey
Two lemons, quartered
Two parsnips
3 cups baby carrots
1/2 - 3/4 cups sea salt
Two bulbs garlic, roughly chopped, skin on
Two yellow onions, roughly chopped, skin on
1/8 cup coarse black pepper
1/2 cup butter (did you ever think you'd see that on this blog?)
3 cups fat free chicken stock


Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees
On the night before, cover the turkey with half of the salt; inside and out
Cover and place in fridge overnight
On the next day, take turkey out of fridge and let it come to room temperature - about 2 hours
Let the butter come to room temperature (take it out of the fridge that morning)
Dry the bird with paper towels
Cover with remaining salt and pepper - inside and out
Fill the cavity with the lemons, garlic and onions
Smear the butter all over the turkey - gently lift skin and put butter there too - careful not to tear
Put the room temperature chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan
Add baby carrots and parsnips - my parsnips were too big to put under rack so I put next to turkey.  Be sure to peel the parsnips.
Truss the turkey and place upside down on the rack
Cook for 2 hours
Flip the turkey and cook for another hour
Remove turkey from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least an hour
Serve and enjoy!

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