6-29: Stuffed Turkey

This recipe, 6-29: Stuffed Turkey, is the WHOLE reason I originally decided to take on the challenge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year (TGV 2016)–when else was I going to get a chance to use the actual Thanksgiving recipe but on the holiday itself? I have cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before, but not in my own house, and not planned/shopped/organized for by myself. It was a fun challenge, and I have this card and project to thank for it.

Of course I made this recipe the day of Thanksgiving (Thursday 11/24), and it includes not only the turkey, but traditional stuffing and gravy as well. I cooked this in the afternoon, after making 17-5: Hot Seedy Rolls and 1-5: Pigs in a Blanket in the oven that morning.

This year’s Thanksgiving was at least 2 weeks ago by the time you’re reading this, but I hope that if you had one this year it was a nice one, and that if you’re reading this sometime in the future preparing for the current year’s feast, that yours is nice as well. Mine was lovely despite what’s been a tumultuous year, and this recipe was definitely a big part of making my first solo Thanksgiving successful. Thanks for taking time out of your day to read even just a bit of what I’ve written, and thanks for participating in my project, even just for this brief moment.

I’ve been working on this project for just under 3 years now, and I’ve got at least that long to go to attempt to finish it–thanks for giving me a reason to keep this project alive, an outlet for writing, a focus for creative energy, art to share with my family and friends, and a priceless set of memories and experiences tied to a set of stinky old cookbooks that have always meant a lot to me, and mean even more now. Thank you.

No Tips for you here–this is major cooking and we need all the room on the card that we can get. Good luck finding a 7-8 lb. turkey these days–we were able to locate a 10.5 lb one in the foggy, icy depths of the supermarket freezer section about a week before the big day. My mother insists that you need at LEAST 14 lbs., but I also don’t enjoy eating turkey for weeks afterwards.

Ingredients. Turkey spent the week defrosting after being rescued from the subarctic deep, and was more than ready to go by roasting time. I cheated and bought pre-seasoned stuffing cubes from the market, but the pre-done seasoning essentially equates to what the chicken bouillon & herbs accomplish. I only ended up using one of these bags–the other got tossed back in the pantry.

Rare terrible picture of me cooking in my apartment kitchen. I strongly considered not using it, but here it is. I didn’t even know it had been taken until I was processing the pictures.

Staring down the business end of the beginning of a Thanksgiving turkey. Simply Delicious advises you to dispose of the giblets–I saved mine in the fridge for gravy flavor later on.

Blurry picture of turning to sauté onions while prepping the turkey just to the left of the frame. Thanksgiving is all about multitasking.

Sliced a lemon in half for turkey rubbing. Saved the other half for turkey bum-stuffing.

Turkey lemon-rubbing. I’m not sure of the point of this step besides the added flavor and maybe some chemically-related benefit from the acid, but it was a good turkey, so I won’t argue with it.

Toasted the pre-done stuffing cubes in a bit of butter to add more flavor and depth. The onions are already in there, so those flavors meld better as well.

Turkey hanging out in a casserole dish while I season and prep it. I didn’t end up cooking it in there, but it did help while working with it–I didn’t want to put it right on the counter, and this made for easy transport while keeping it confined during the more active parts of preparation.

This turkey is equipped with a pop-up timer, but my research tells me that those are mostly bogus–they don’t go off until your meat is far past done, resulting in a dry, overcooked turkey.  Simply Delicious has a tendency to recommend cooking temperatures far higher than the current USDA temperatures, so I’d be wary of their suggested cook times and temps as well, especially when it comes to roasting. Just for reference–for this recipe they suggest 180°F, while the USDA currently recommends 165°F for poultry.

After toasting the stuffing cubes and adding some thinned down chicken stock (to compensate for the already-seasoned bread), I stuffed the large inner cavity of the turkey. The turkey had a plastic ring-thing to hold the legs together already, so I kept that to use for securing it closed. I pinned the skin with toothpicks to patch any other large holes so that as much of the stuffing would stay in as possible.

I still had a good amount of stuffing left. I thought about making another portion of “out-of-the-bird” stuffing, but I found another cavity on the front of the bird (where the giblets and neck were hiding) into which I was able to fit the remainder. Some more toothpicks and creative pinning secured that pocket as well.

I’m still impressed with my creative toothpicking–the skin is looped back through the plastic ring and stitched together with the toothpick to hold the top down. It held through the whole oven adventure.

Brushing the seasoned skin with the soy sauce/paprika/butter blend.

View from the top. This was the front cavity I put the remainder of the stuffing in and pinned shut with toothpicks. This stretched-out stuffing skin ended up being crunchy and delectable after roasting. By now I’ve moved the turkey to the roasting rack and pan that I’ve been carrying from place to place throughout most of my adult-life moves and have never gotten to use until now. 🙂

Prepped turkey, with its lemon stuffing stopper. Recipe advises starting breast side down, so that’s how we’ll roll.

There’s a lot more pan and rack than turkey, it seems. At least it all fits in my oven. See you in an hour, turkey. My goal was to get the turkey in the oven by 12:00 PM, and I made it.

After an hour of roasting. The back is getting some color, but the lemon stuffing cork has popped already.

I tried taking pictures when it spent the advised time on its sides, but it ended up being more of a lean than full on vertical. This was when I had finally gotten to put it breast side up for the remainder of the cook time. The stuffing that’s fallen out due to the popped lemon cork has started to caramelize, but most of it has stayed in the turkey.

After the final hour, along with another 15-20 minutes due to doubting the pop-up timer, my oven, the recipe, and with just about every holiday-themed movie turkey disaster running on repeat in my mind, I finally pulled the turkey out. Looks done, thermometer says more than done, but I’m still nervous. I wish I had those frilly white covers to put over those bony leg ends.

It does look pretty, even if the timer says otherwise. That dark bulge on the right is the pinned front stuffing cavity with its crunchy outer skin cover.

After removing the turkey, rack, and most of the (at this point fried) stuffing bits, all that’s left is flavor. I gently heated up the pan on the stove stretched over two burners while I worked a whisk gently back and forth along the bottom of the pan, picking up as much of the flavor and drippings as I could. I poured the recommended two cups of water into the bottom of the pan to help give the scrapings something to dissolve into.

I heated up a bit of butter in a large pan and sautéed the giblets I saved from the original prep of the turkey. After just enough heat to get them solid, I chopped them up and continued cooking them, adding in the pan scrapings and liquid from the original roasting vessel. Don’t worry about all the big solid bits–I’ll strain it out before finishing the gravy.

This is going to be VERY good gravy. There’s a lot of solid bits in all that turkey liquid, but they’ll all get strained out before adding the half-and-half & flour for the final product. I don’t even think I used the chicken bouillon–the brownings and sautéed giblets were more than enough flavor. Notice the (yet-to-be-washed) roasting pan on the right, virtually clean after deglazing.

Carved turkey pieces, waiting for a place on a plate. We only had 5 for Thanksgiving, so this was more than enough food for all of us.

Stuffing scooped out of both sides of the turkey and combined in a bowl. Had great flavor and went well with all the other dishes.

Final gravy product, sans bits but still all the flavor. There was almost no gravy left by the end of the night–it was probably the hottest seller. Another dish I finally got to use for the first time–the gravy boat I got for our wedding.

Same shot as 17-5: Hot Seedy Rolls, but (going backwards from front) you can also see the mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, gravy, and the turkey platter. I was waiting on the toaster oven to finish broiling the top of 4-27: Mushroom-Parsnip Au Gratin, which went on the left of the turkey. This was our main course Thanksgiving buffet spread. 🙂

The turkey was fantastic (if a little dry in places, but that’s my fault), and I would totally use that recipe again if I looking for a dependable, easy recipe for the holiday.

Grade: A+

Well, that’s the end of this year’s Thanksgiving journey (TGV 2016), and I thought it appropriate to end it where the meal really began–with the table and my family. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Interested in the full list of Simply Delicious dishes I made for 2016’s Thanksgiving feast?