Friday, November 26, 2010

Roast Turkey and an American Thanksgiving Celebration

I know that Thanksgiving isn't much of a Kiwi thing - but the world is just a big global village now, right? And I read so many American food blogs I've been drooling over turkey and pumpkin pie for weeks. I also figured it would be a great opportunity to test some simple roasting techniques for Christmas. And we even have friends from North America, to lend authenticity (though one is Canadian and Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October).

I hunted down the smallest turkey I could find, as we weren't having a huge party and half of the eight at dinner are vegetarian. It still seemed huge to me - but then I'm more accustomed to seeing roast chickens.

I didn't do much to it; cut a lemon in half and put that along with a bunch of sage into the cavity, tied the legs together, and smeared a little bit of butter under the skin on the breast (a step which feels pretty gross but which did make for deliciously crispy skin.

I put it in an oven bag to save our oven - I was pushing my luck with a medium bag, though, go for the large ones if you're doing a turkey! - tied it up, and popped it in the oven. For the first 20 minutes I cooked it at about 240 C - this makes the skin nice and crispy - and then turned it down to about 150 C. The general guideline is about 40 minutes per kilo (after the first 20 minutes), but the best way to tell if it's done is with a meat thermometer - the breast meat should be 75-80 C. These are only about $30 from kitchen stores and I think are worth it if they stop you drying out your roast dinners "just to make sure" (plus you can use them for chocolate!). I would never want to undercook poultry - ew! - but it does lose its appeal pretty quickly when it gets overcooked.

I actually ended up cooking this too much - I was a bit distracted and not focussing on the turkey - but it was reasonably good, and I was happy with everything except the cooking time.

I was in such a hurry to get it on the table I didn't get a photo of the cooked bird - but you can see how awesomely crispy the skin is. The bag said the turkey was enough for 8-10 people, and the four omnivores between us got through about half of it, so that seems pretty accurate - and now we have some for sandwiches, yum!

I made a sage and onion "stuffing" as well - if you want you can actually stuff the bird (though it will need longer to cook as air won't be able to circulate as well when the cavity is crammed full of bread) but I prefer squishing it into a log and baking on a tray for about 15 minutes. There are a couple of bonuses with this: veggie friends can partake because it wasn't in the meat; and you can make lots more of it because it doesn't all have to fit inside the turkey! (and to be honest, I like the stuffing just as much as the meat)

This is super simple - an onion, a bunch of sage (or any herb, but I like sage in this - and you can use dried but sage is the only herb we've actually managed to convince to stay alive in our window box!), 4 pieces of bread and an egg. Oh, and salt & pepper to suit your taste. Multiply to suit your crowd; pulse in a food processor; form into balls or a log and bake.

We had quite a spread (and the best kind - everyone bringing a dish makes for a relatively easy but very generous feed), and were all feeling pretty full by the end of it.

Sally and Charles made a delicious pumpkin lasagne, as a sort of vegetarian twist on the Thanksgiving feast, and also brought a salad which was very welcome, as the only green veg on the table. Sylvia made gorgeous wee tarts which were largely gobbled up before I got near them with the camera - they were definitely well-liked!

The award for weirdest dish goes to Oakley and Fred, who made what is apparently an iconic American Thanksgiving dish. The dish consists of kumara (well, American sweet potato - slightly different but close enough), a syrup including maple syrup and brown sugar, and then, when it's all cooked through it's topped with marshmallows (often apparently of a spreadable variety but marshmallow all the same) and cooked again until it's all melty and good.

Except good would be a particularly subjective term in this case. I had some, despite being entirely apprehensive, and it was okay - but I didn't at all like it mingling with my turkey. As a dessert, maybe - but not on my dinner plate, thanks very much!

What do you think - do marshmallows ever have a place with savoury food? Would you be willing to give this dish a try or would you steer clear altogether? 

Turkey with Sage & Onion Stuffing
Turkey - size to suit your gathering
1 lemon
bunch of sage
2 Tbsp butter, softened
Stuffing (serves 6-8 people - multiply recipe to suit) 
1 onion
bunch of sage
4 slices of bread
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste

Calculate your cooking time by multiplying 40 (minutes) by the weight in kg of your turkey, then adding 20. E.g. for a 3kg turkey 40 x 3 = 120 + 20 = 140 minutes, or 2 hours 20 minutes, plus 15-20 minutes to rest when cooked. .

Preheat the oven to 240 C. Cut the lemon in half and stuff both halves and the sage into the cavity of the turkey. Separate the skin from the breast of the bird and smear the butter in between to ensure a crispy skin. Tie the legs together and place in a large oven bag. Put into a roasting dish and place in the oven.

After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 150 C.

For the stuffing, place the onion and sage into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add bread, egg, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Form into a log or balls and place on a tray.

When a thermometer inserted into the breast of the turkey reads 75-80 C remove from the oven. Put the stuffing in the oven. Rest the meat for 15 minutes, then carve and place on a warmed serving plate. Remove the stuffing and cut into slices. Serve immediately.


  1. I actually really like sweet tastes with savoury tastes. One particular favourite is cold sausages with jam. It's just like pork and apple sauce, or sweet pickle and cheese.

    So I think I'd be game to try the marshmallow concoction. I'd have it instead of turkey though, as following my mother's attempts to cook turkey for Christmas when I was a child, I don't like turkey much. *Feel free to replace the word 'cook' with 'incinerate'

  2. I've heard of the sweet potato/marshmallow dish before and think I'd definitely pass....even the sound of pumpkin pie doesn't seem to sit well with me!
    yum your stuffing looks delish mmmmmm

  3. I love stuffing too...and made some last night!
    I've seen the Americans do the marshmallows on top of yams for thanksgiving....I probably wouldn't bother making it myself but would try anything once!

  4. Hi Mrs Cake! Thanks for your comment, I love your blog! I'm from Wellington too! Where abouts are you guys?! We are in Kelburn. Totally with you on the sweet potatos, I'm glad I tried them but never again. The marshmallows were just too sweet and weird!

  5. Kaz, I was *really* revolted by the idea of cold sausages with jam - but I guess it's not so different from relish, is it? :-) Love the turkey story, I can see how charred bird might put you off it!

    Widge, pumpkin pie is such that you probably wouldn't pick that it was pumpkin if you didn't know - it's more like a nicely spiced custard pie.

    Jacksta, stuffing is great! Good work. ;-)

    Sezasaurus, thanks! We live centrally, in an apartment - nice and handy for all the dangerous eateries of Courtenay Place etc. ;-)

  6. Haha, most people who hear of my love of cold sausages and jam ask if I'm pregnant, and when I assure them I'm not, they say I'm mad

    It's one of my guilty pleasures...cold sausage and jam sandwiches.


  7. Happy (slightly belated) Thanksgiving. I'm originally from Virginia, and think Turkey day is a fantastic holiday - you eat, sleep, enjoy the family, and give hugs, not gifts. Bliss! I've never much liked the sweet-potato-and-marshmallow thing, but do like pumkpin pie and make a mean pumpkin-goat cheese cheesecake. Chocolate bourbon pie is my specialty for holidays...thanks for the taste of home!

  8. We always have the sweet potato casserole dish at Christmas - it is the one dish I look forward to the most! Although the one my Mom does doesn't have as many marshmallows as the one brought to your dinner - we mix mini marshmallows with brown sugar (mixed with some softened butter to get it crumbly) and pecans and then sprinkle that on top. I love the look of your stuffing recipe - I was too busy this past week to prepare and cook a thanksgiving dinner so have decided to postpone to next Tuesday - so will try out your stuffing recipe :-)

  9. mrlew1, thanks! It does sound rather appealing, described like that. I'm all for anything food-centred! Pumpkin goat cheese cheesecake sounds fantastic, too, got me drooling now!

    Jen, it is interesting - it just seems to me it should be with dessert! I think I would be fine with it (especially with pecans, yum) if it was served after the meat etc. ;-)


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