May 222007
The turkey trifecta, ready to be minced

I used to think that I did a fair amount of cooking for myself. Sure, I ate pre-boxed cereals like Grape-Nuts and used mass-produced bread and turkey breast for my sandwiches, but surely that doesn’t count, right? You can’t make those things for yourself!!!

Then one day I woke up and realized, “Wait a minute, it is not natural for turkey breast to come in this shape. Plus this stuff doesn’t have nutrition labels I can read, so god only knows what they put in it!” Luckily, I had this epiphany around Thanksgiving and I had just gotten myself a brand new roasting pan. After eating leftover homemade turkey sandwiches for a couple of days, I decided something in my daily lunch routine had to change. “What the hell,” I thought. I had just started baking my own bread, so I figured I might as well go whole hog.

So I looked in some cookbooks and magazines for some inspiration. Some suggested brining before roasting, but one of the big reasons I decided to start doing this myself was to get away from all that sodium. Some suggested marinades, but I wanted a (relatively) quick fix. Others suggested lemon, but that tires pretty quickly for me.

Then I remembered our Thankgiving Turkey Trifecta: Sage. Rosemary. Thyme. And no, I am not going to Scarborough Fair!

Wings in the proper position, on its back, ready to go in the oven

Eureeka! It’s genius. So I minced up these fresh herbs and some garlic (because garlic makes everything better). I drizzled just a tad of olive oil over the mix to make it more paste-like and easy to handle. Instead of stuffing the cavity (as is the fate of the turkey), I borrowed an idea from Cook’s Illustrated and used my fingers to loosen the skin from the breast and thighs (they actually suggest using a chopstick to do this because “fingers are more likely to tear the skin” but I disagree — your fingers can bend. I’ve never torn the skin with my hand) and rubbed the meat with the herbs generously. Then I prepped the limbs for the oven, turned it breast-down (this helps the white and dark meat reach safe eating temperatures at the same time), and popped it in the oven. Twenty minutes later I flipped it on its back and let it continue to cook until the instant-read thermometer said it was done.

I will swear up and down that this is the best sandwich meat ever. After cooking your own lunch-meat, I promise you will never be able to go back to the salty, processed, unnaturally shaped abomination in your grocer’s deli counter again. I also promise that after you use the leftovers to make your own stock, you’ll never buy that salty, watered-down abomination in a can off the shelf again either.

Roasted to golden perfection

The Herbed Bird
A Jitterbean original

One whole chicken (3.5-4.5lb), gizzards removed
1 tablespoon(ish) each minced fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme (and no, I’m still not going to Scarborough Fair)
   note: if fresh are not available, dried will suffice. Or try a dried herbs de provence blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon (ish) extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put herbs, garlic, and olive oil in a small ingredient bowl and combine with your fingers so the ingredients stick together somewhat.
Slide your fingers underneath the skin to loosen it from the breast and thighs. Trim any visible fat. Stuff the herbs underneath the skin until the meat is evenly coated.
Use kitchen twine to tie the drumsticks together at the ankles. Flip the chicken over and twist and break the wings so that they are folded on top of the back (as shown above). Put the chicken breast down on a roasting rack in a pan, add a cup or two of water to the bottom of the pan (to make it easier to get the fond at the end) and put in the oven.
After about twenty minutes, flip the chicken so it is breast up and add another cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Continue to roast until the white meat registers 160 degrees and the dark meat reaches 175, about forty more minutes for a 3.5lb bird, sixty more minutes for a 4.5lb bird.
To carve, remove the skin and make a vertical slice along the center of the breast. Then make horizontal cuts from the side to remove the meat. This method gives moister, more substantial slices for a bird this size. I’m not real fancy, so to remove the dark meat I cut the twine, flip the chicken over, and pull the legs off the chicken. After peeling the skin, the muscle structure of the chicken makes it easy to pull good-size chunks of meat off the bone.
Reserve the skin, bones, and fond from the bottom of the roasting pan for stock.

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