When I lived in the middle of the country, far away from my family, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner most years for my own little family and in-laws. And although many people complain about such a task, I always loved it. I enjoyed having people enjoying my food, and of course when you’re the cook, you get all your favorite dishes. 🙂 Now, I’m back in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by family and thrilled to be here. But since Thanksgiving is no longer at my house, I’ve found that I rarely cook turkey. Which is a shame, because it’s pretty darn good. And it’s not just for Thanksgiving.
I had a turkey in my freezer that I bought around Thanksgiving when it was on sale. I decided there was nothing wrong with eating turkey in springtime so I roasted that sucker the other day. The rest of the meal did not resemble Thanksgiving, since eating like that should definitely be limited to once a year. But this is pretty much how I cook turkey for any occasion. What leftovers don’t end up on a sandwich the next day get packed in ziplock bags in my freezer to be used in soups, pot pies and whatever else.
Everybody has their favorite method for cooking turkey. Some brine, some smoke, some deep fry. I am a huge fan of roasting bags. They reduce the cooking time and always yield a perfectly roasted, juicy turkey. Plus they make clean up a snap.
Herb Roasted Turkey
1 whole turkey
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp. fresh rosemary
2-3 tbsp. fresh sage
2-3 tbsp. fresh thyme
Salt & pepper
Roasting bag – turkey size
1 tsp. flour
Preheat oven to 350˚. Finely chop all herbs. In a small bowl mash together the butter, olive oil, and chopped herbs, along with a pinch of salt & pepper. Set aside.
Get out a turkey size cooking bag (I use the Reynolds bags) and lay it in a large roasting pan. The directions on the bag say to add a spoonful of flour to the bag so I always do, although I’m not sure if it’s actually necessary. I figure it just contributes to the good gravy in the end. If you’re gluten-free you can probably skip it or use gluten-free flour. Place the turkey in the bag. Using your hands, loosen the skin over the breast and drumsticks, wherever you can reach. Be gentle, and try not to tear the skin. Rub the butter and herb mixture under the skin and all over the outside of the turkey as well. I usually add another few grinds of salt & pepper on the outside as well.
Seal bag and tuck end down into the pan. Cut a couple of small slits in the bag so steam can escape. Cook according to the bag instructions. For my turkey (14 pounds, unstuffed), this meant 2 – 2 1/2 hours, until a meat thermometer in the thigh hits 180˚. Then take it out and let it rest at least 20 minutes. This is an important step, do not skip it! Letting the turkey rest will result in a more juicy bird. I use this time to make gravy, mash the potatoes, make the salad, etc.
To make gravy, cut off one corner of the cooking bag and drain turkey juice into a saucepan. Mix up a bit of water or milk with a few tablespoons of cornstarch. Bring liquid to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch mixture. Taste and add salt & pepper if needed. Serve with turkey (and mashed potatoes of course!).