Monday, November 26, 2012

Tiny turkey, big flavor

It was a tiny turkey, rather like an overgrown chicken.

But it was all the turkey I needed.

This Thanksgiving was a little different than most.  I wasn't expected anywhere.  I didn't have to do anything.  I wasn't expecting anyone, or to have to cook for anyone either.  I could do whatever I wanted, eat whatever and whenever I wanted.  I could cook or not.

I chose to cook.  And I cooked and ate at a leisurely pace, from about 11 a.m. to about 6 p.m.  Several appetizers, a couple of rebujito cocktails, a little wine, and then a great dinner. Some would call it gluttony.  I call it a supremely relaxing and satisfying day.

I wanted a turkey full of flavor, moist, and with perfectly crisp skin.  I had a large head of fennel, plenty of oranges from the two trees in my yard and some beautiful basil.  And I had my tiny turkey, only 10 lbs.

I made a paste of fennel fronds, orange peel and basil and emulsified it with some EVOO.  Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper heightened the melodic and harmonious properties of these simple ingredients.

I separated the breast skin from the breast meat and rubbed most of this paste directly on the meat.  I used a little more to rub the turkey all over, then showered my tiny turkey with plenty of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  The remaining paste (about 1 Tbs.) I set aside to add to the reduction sauce I planned to make before serving the turkey.

Then  I cut the orange into quarters and stuffed it into the cavity of my tiny turkey with more fresh basil and fennel fronds.

And then, as a roasting rack, I used the fennel stalks after I had sliced up the bulb very thinly and tossed with with a little EVOO, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to be roasted separately.

Into the oven, preheated at 425 degrees, it went to crisp the skin for about 20 minutes, then I added some dry white wine to the pan, tented it with foil, and reduced the oven temperature to 350 degrees to finish roasting my tiny turkey until it was beautifully golden.  The house was fragrant with orange and fennel.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed my appetizers at a casual pace (see recipe for fried green tomato napoleons here; I'll share another recipe for spinach-stuffed portobellos later) and whipped up some great sides, which I'll write about in future posts.

The tiny turkey rested on a sheet pan while I made the reduction sauce by straining the pan juices, then adding more white wine and the rest of the orange peel/fennel/basil paste.  With a crisp, juicy white wine, and a very affordable one at that, I reveled in my lovely, leisurely day of food and wine.  And I was very thankful.

Crisp, juicy golden delicious apple and while floral notes pair well with the turkey recipe.

Roasted Turkey with a Fragrant Paste of Orange, Fennel and Basil, and a Reduction Sauce

     The initial searing at a high temperature crisps the skin and seals in juices while the fragrant paste of orange peel, fennel fronds and basil infuses the turkey breast with flavor and keeps it moist.  The quantity of ingredients is for a smaller turkey (10-12 lbs.).  If you have a larger turkey, just double the ingredients.

1 10 to 12 lb. turkey
1 medium orange
3 large sprigs basil
1 large bulb fennel
2 to 3 Tbs. EVOO
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups dry white wine, divided

1.)  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.)  Clean the turkey well, inside and out, drain well, then tuck the wings neatly behind the back and set aside.
3.)  Remove the peel from the orange, avoiding the white pith, with a vegetable peeler.  Reserve peeled orange for stuffing into cavity
4.)  Drop the peel into a small food processor or blender, along with 2 of the basil sprigs.
5.)  Trim the stalks off the fennel and set the bulb aside for other use (I like to slice it thinly and roast it with a little EVOO, salt and pepper until crispy and serve it alongside the turkey).
6.)  Trim the fennel fronds from the stalks, making sure you give everything a good wash.  You will use the stalks later for a "roasting rack."
7.)  Place 3 or 4 fennel fronds (about 1/4 cup in volume) in the processor or blender.
8.)  Drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of EVOO and add a little salt and pepper.
9.)  Process mixture until it resembles a coarse paste (see picture above), adding more EVOO as necessary until you have the consistency of cooked oatmeal.
10.)  Using your fingers, carefully separate the turkey breast skin from the breast meat as much as you can.
11.)  Smear the orange peel mixture on the turkey breast under the skin, covering as much surface as you can and using about 3/4 of the mixture.
12.)  Use about half of the remaining mixture to smear all over the outside of the turkey, including the legs, thighs and wings.
13.)  Refrigerate remaining mixture for use in the reduction sauce after turkey is finished roasting.
14.)  Season the outside of the turkey well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
15.)  Arrange fennel stalks in bottom of roasting pan to form a "rack" and place the turkey on top, breast side up.
16.)  Cut peeled orange into quarters and place inside the turkey cavity, along with the remaining sprig of basil and several more fennel fronds.
17.)  Place turkey in lower third of preheated oven and roast for about 20 minutes to sear skin.
18.)  Pour 1 cup dry white wine into roasting pan.
19.)  Tent turkey fairly securely with foil, leaving an edge for steam to escape.
20.)  Return turkey to oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees.
21.)  Roast turkey about 3 to 3 1/4 hours, or until internal temperature of breast meat registers 165 degrees.
22.)  When turkey is done, remove it from the oven and transfer it to a sided baking pan or cutting board and let it rest, covered with foil.
23.)  Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan, scraping up any juicy scraps and transferring them to the strainer as well.
24.)  Pour remaining cup of white wine through strainer and over scraps to loosen up and disgorge any remaining juices; discard contents of strainer.
25.)  Add remaining orange peel, basil and fennel paste to saucepan.
25.)  Bring saucepan contents to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by about 1/3 in volume, about 10 minutes.
26.)  Remove sauce from heat, taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
27.)  Carve turkey and serve with reduction sauce and roasted fennel.  Serves 4.

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh! I can smell it from over here! Your flavor profile sounds divine! :)