My first whole turkey roast went without a hitch. Sure there are things I'd do differently, but for the most part, things went quite well, people liked the turkey, and as far as I know, no one has gotten sick.
This was the first year Eric and I hosted anyone at our place for Thanksgiving and I felt a little anxious about preparing the turkey for my in-laws. My mother-in-law is a master turkey/chicken roaster and has hosted many family feasts over the years. When Eric advised a few weeks ago that he volunteered us to host this year, I (internally) freaked out at the prospect of cooking a bird all by myself. But I got over it pretty quick, thinking back to my first ever whole roasted chicken experience not too long ago, which, too, went quite well.
I knew I'd buy a Diestel turkey and I was not disappointed. We have cooked Diestel boneless roasts before and they've been consistently tasty and easy to prepare. Well, what's to prepare when they've taken all the bones out and wrapped it all up in a tidy ball? So I ordered a 10-12 pound natural turkey from our local independent grocer and tried not to stress out about how to cook it.
In the end, I did a dry-brine preparation (and as someone pointed out, it's somewhat of an oxymoron, that term) in my fridge for about a day and a half. I would have loved to have given it more time but I didn't stumble onto this technique until after I ordered the bird. I picked it up on Tuesday evening and it would be roasted for a Thanksgiving day lunch. I used a tablespoon of kosher salt for the cavity and three tablespoons for the outside and followed all the turning, massaging, and patting dry instructions.
Timing is everything. Thanksgiving morning, I left for the bakery to pick up the day's bread. I left the turkey at room temperature. I knew I'd be away for about an hour. When I returned, I preheated the oven to 425 and prepped Diestel's oil and paprika rub. The turkey went in at 10AM, 30 minutes at 425F breast-side down. Eric, after running the Turkey Trot, came back just in time to help me turn it breast-side up. We learned our lesson on where to stick the thermometer, having poked it several times in the thigh and finally deciding on the breast. It spent the next hour and half at 325F. It came out at noon, and we placed it onto a platter with a foil tent while I made gravy from the drippings and the giblet/neck stock I had prepared the night before. And here's how it all came together on the plate:
We never had to baste the turkey so this kept us free to do other things while it roasted. I made the mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts with bacon. Eric had made the cranberry sauce and a roasted garlic spread the night before. He had time to run down to the store to buy a mixed green salad and dressing, dust, and vacuum. Then he cut and prep the hors d'oeuvres - apples, cheeses, salami, bread, and garlic spread. Our little kitchen hadn't seen so much action in such a short amount of time in ages. I think we went through 4 kitchen towels as we constantly washed and dried dishes and tools to continually make room for more dishes and tools. One side of the turkey carved up is here. Eric set our table with old family dishes and flatware we use all too rarely. All in all, we were stuffed and happy.
Any lessons learned? Yes! Choose an earlier pick-up date for the turkey for more brining time. Buy resealable bags especially. I improvised with an oven bag and potato chip clip. My paella pan, which has never been used for paella, makes for a great roasting pan. Figure out a way to turn the turkey over if Eric isn't on hand to help. Remember where to stick the thermometer.
And Eric will make a larger quantity of garlic spread. Folks really loved that too.