In My Kitchen: The Thanksgiving Turkey

After a few years of trying fancy stuffings, toppings and glazes, I finally figured out that simple is best when it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey. Here’s how I prepare our turkey year after year -- plus, my simple basting recipe.
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I used to panic about my how to prepare my turkey. After a few years of trying fancy stuffings, toppings and glazes, I finally figured out that simple is best. Here’s how I prepare our Thanksgiving centerpiece year after year -- plus, my simple baste recipe.

Choosing the Turkey

Each Thanksgiving, I usually cook for about 12 (hungry) people so a 14 to 16 pound bird does the trick. Along with all the side dishes and appetizers, this makes plenty for everyone (with leftovers). I used to think that bigger was better and once made the mistake of getting a 20-pounder. It was way too big for my oven and took forever to cook -- turkey overload!

When picking out the bird, I turn to a local farm. These turkeys do tend to be a little more expensive (another reason to get a smaller bird), but the taste is amazing and we’re supporting a local business. Visit LocalHarvest.org to find a turkey farm near you.

Stuffed?

I’m not a fan of cooking bread stuffings inside my turkey. Instead, I fill it with aromatics such as garlic, onion, celery, lemon and a bunch of fresh herbs (usually sage, rosemary and thyme). And don’t forget to season the inside with salt and pepper! These flavors will cook down, permeate the meat and help keep the turkey juicy and tender.

Basting

Before the turkey goes in the oven, I top it with a combo of olive oil, a smidge of softened butter, salt and pepper. Then I add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. As it cooks, I baste the turkey periodically with pan drippings and my special baste (see the recipe below). I place this basting concoction in a squeeze bottle for easy application. This helps keep the meat moist and gives a wonderful flavor to my turkey and gravy.

Dana’s “Drunken” Turkey Baste
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)

Place ingredients in bowl and stir to combine. Apply to turkey using a baster or transfer to a squeeze bottle.

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