Let’s talk turkey: Consider these turkey tips in preparation for your Christmas feasts

This Christmas supper can be found at the grocery deli.
This Christmas supper can be found at the grocery deli. Special to the Sun Herald

The Christmas turkey can be problematic. Many people forgo the arduous task altogether, and substitute a leg of lamb or a crown roast of pork. Both make for beautiful presentation, but nothing says Christmas like a whole roasted turkey on the table.

Besides roasting, you can smoke or even deep fry a turkey (check out the Char-Broil web page for some great ideas), but if you are going for a traditional Christmas feast, then roasting is the way to go.

If you are on a tight budget, you can buy a turkey thigh for just $5 or $6. Season and roast at 450 F for 45 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts when there is just 15 minutes cooking time left. Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy.

If the problem is time, and not money, check out the deli at your grocery store. Some offer whole turkeys, halves or already sliced. You can also buy gravy, stuffing and pre-cooked vegetables. You’ll be done with Christmas dinner in a snap.

Roast turkey tips

If you are roasting your own turkey, here are a few tips.

Figure about a pound of turkey per person. That way you won’t run out and you won’t have too much left over. The basic recipe is to roast the turkey at 325 f, for about 15 minutes per pound. Remember to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey in the thickest part of the thigh. It should read no less than 165 F.

Types of turkeys

You might be confused by the kinds of turkey available.

▪  Fresh turkey, means it has never been frozen below 26 F. To be organic, the turkey must be labeled USDA certified organic which includes having been fed organic feed, having access to the outdoors and not having any antibiotics or hormones.

▪  A free-range bird means the bird had access to the outdoors, not that it lived out of doors in the sunshine.

▪  Premium brands turkeys are fed better quality feed, most are cage and antibiotic free.

▪  To brine a turkey, combine 5 oz. kosher salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 quarts cool water. Bring to a simmer, but cool completely before adding the bird. Brine for 8-12 hours. Make sure to dry the turkey before roasting.

▪  You can dry brine a turkey by rubbing it with salt and a few of your favorite turkey seasonings. Wrap in plastic and put in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

Stuffing a turkey

Whether to stuff the turkey with dressing or cook the dressing on the side is up to you. Stuffed turkeys are just a bit more susceptible to bacteria, but with proper temperature control, that should not be a problem.

When your bird is finally done, let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Side dishes

One last note. Add sweet potatoes and turnip greens for a Southern variation. Please do not forget the cranberries. Not only are they a sweet and tart side that goes well with a rather tame turkey, they also provide a vivid color contrast that will set your Christmas plates alight. The basic recipe involves nothing more than fresh cranberries, sugar, water and perhaps a bit of orange peel and cinnamon.

Merry Christmas!