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Talkin turkey with Chef Mick

Colorado CuisineChef Mick Rosacci

Are you preparing the Thanksgiving feast this year? Your family is so lucky! A house isnt a home unless theres a loving person tending the hearth. If it wasnt for you setting the stage and stirring that pot with love, the family may never get together! Whether this is your first Thanksgiving, or your 51st, my advise is exactly the same Relax and dont try to get too fancy. The secret to a great Thanksgiving feast is a juicy turkey, a tasty dressing, and a rich, flavorful gravy. Everything else pales in comparison.A salute to the family cook; its your loving work in the kitchen that brings the family together! Buon Appetito! Chef Mick Rosacci, Tonys Meats & Specialty FoodsChef Michaelangelo (mick) Rosacci and family own and operate Tonys Meats & Specialty Foods and Tony Rosaccis Fine Catering in Littleton and Centennial. More turkey tips at http://www.tonysmarket.com/foodhealth/gobblezone.cfmChoosing a turkeyStarting with a great turkey gives you the best chance for success. Here are some facts to help you make a choice.Choose a fresh turkey: Freezing actually damages poultry meat at a cellular level which leads to excessive moisture loss and loss of flavor and juiciness.Choose a natural turkey: Natural turkeys have no added ingredients. The opposite of natural is basted, self-basting, or enhanced these birds are injected with solution of water, fats, and chemical flavorings to increase weight, flavor, and juiciness. Hen or tom turkeysHen turkeys are female birds weighing from 8-16 pounds. Tom turkeys are males, usually weighing from 18 to 32 pounds. Both are equal in quality and offer a high ratio of white to dark meat.Free-range TurkeysRegardless of what images slick marketing wizards have conjured, or how many chefs have fallen for them; free-range is a labeling and marketing term that has no bearing on quality or taste. While free-range turkeys can be of excellent quality, I would never pay extra for it. Most producers avoid this gimmick because of the negative effects.Organic turkeysThis labeling/marketing term has nothing to do with quality, taste, tenderness or juiciness. The regulations governing organic labeling are concerned with items such as feed certification, genetic engineering, and the use of ionizing radiation. An organic turkeys can be of excellent quality, but after visiting many poultry farms, I would never pay more for an organic label.Turkey Day tips1. One week before: Create your complete menu and a cooking time line, and then troubleshoot it. Is it realistic? Do you have enough pots, pans and serving vessels? What can you cook ahead? Can you ask one or two of your guests bring a side or dessert?2. Test your meat thermometer! Having an accurate meat thermometer is crucial to roasting success!3. Never ever: Never roast your turkey in a slow oven or overnight. Never stuff your turkey until it is time to cook.4. Remember Cooking is simple if you keep three things in mind: Start with great ingredients, prepare them simply, and cook them just right.5. Relax and get over it: While we all want everything to be perfect, things rarely are. Focus on the basics, relax and enjoy your time in the kitchen and your loved ones.Thanksgiving roast turkeyEstimate your turkeys roasting time; allow 15 minutes per pound, adding 40 minutes for resting and one hour if you plan to stuff your turkey. One hour before your estimated start time, remove turkey from brine (if using), rinse, drain and pat dry.Coarsely chop enough onion, carrots and celery to cover the bottom of your roasting pan. Toss veggies with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Scatter veggies to cover the bottom of your roasting pan this will help protect pan from scorching and enhance gravy. Place turkey on a roasting rack in your pan. Add one cup of water to pan.For the best results, do not stuff turkey. Stuffed birds just dont cook as evenly. Dressing baked on the side and then doused with homemade stock can taste even better than that cooked in the bird. If stuffing, do so lightly with hot dressing immediately before roasting.Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rub turkey with oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper or your favorite blend. Note: Be stingy with salt it tends to collect in the bottom of your roasting pan making and make your gravy salty. Place turkey in the middle of oven and close door.Roast uncovered, basting regularly with a sauce made of one part butter to three parts stock. This not only enhances color, it protects the pan from scorching essential for good gravy.If the breast is browning too much, tent loosely with foil. Start taking temperature readings early. Your turkey is fully cooked when the temperature in the thigh is 180 degrees. Remove turkey from oven; draining all drippings to a measuring cup. Transfer bird to a serving platter, cover with parchment paper then a kitchen towel, and rest for 30-40 minutes before carving. While turkey rests, prepare gravy and set the table. Chefs note: A perfectly cooked turkey has meat with a slightly pink hue and juices that run clear.Micks UltimateTurkey Dressing1 pound loaf rustic bread1 pound pork breakfast sausage2 sticks butter (separated)8 cups chopped medley of celery, carrots and onion4-8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced2 cups roasted pecans, chopped1 large apple, chopped1 cup dried apricots, chopped1 cup dried cranberries1 tablespoon rubbed sage2 teaspoons dried marjoram1 teaspoon dry or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme1 teaspoon salt, separated1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg4 eggs, lightly beaten1.5 cups turkey (or chicken) brothCut bread into 1/2-inch cubes and toast lightly under broiler. Place in a large bowl. Brown sausage in a large skillet, remove with a slotted spoon and add to bread. Melt 1 tablespoon butter into sausage drippings and add 8 cups veggie medley along with 1/2 tsp salt and saut for 15 minutes. Add to bread along with sliced mushrooms, pecans, fruit and remaining seasonings and toss to combine. Stir eggs in well, and then stir in stock.Place dressing into two large buttered casserole dishes and dot with second stick of butter. Roast along with your turkey during the last 45-60 minutes (for a moister dressing, cover pan for a crispier dressing, cook uncovered). Or stuff gently into turkey and place remaining dressing in a casserole to roast on the side.To get that roasted-in-the-bird flavor douse with homemade turkey stock just before serving. Homemade turkey stockHomemade turkey stock is so simple, and nothing else you can do adds so much magic to your turkey, dressing and gravy!1 stick butterTurkey neck, tail and giblets3-4 cups celery, carrots and onions, rough chop (trimmings are fine)5 each fresh thyme & parsley sprigs2 bay leaves6 whole cloves12 peppercorns1/2 teaspoon saltMelt butter in a large stock pot. Add the turkey neck, tail, heart and chopped gizzard (no liver) cook to brown. Add veggies, stirring and sauting to loosen brown bits in pan. Add 16 cups water and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil and reduce to medium. Simmer uncovered until the liquid is reduced by about two thirds and the taste is rich, about 3 hours. Do not oversalt! Strain into a measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract all the liquid. Discard solids and skim fats. Yields approximately 4 cups. Chefs note: Great homemade stock is the key to great gravy and amazing drizzled over sliced turkey and dressing before serving you can never have enough! You can increase your stock by seeking out an extra turkey neck, extra giblets or even raw chicken bones.Classic turkey gravyWith the turkey resting, its time to make the gravy. This is also a good time to invite any volunteers to help put the final touches on your side dishes, put the pies in the oven, set the table and do a little clean up.Pan drippings from roasted turkeyMadeira or dry white winelow sodium turkey or chicken stockMilk-and-flour slurryStrain pan drippings into a measuring cup or bowl, pressing on veggies to release all of the drippings; when fats rise, remove them with a bulb baster. Place roasting pan directly over two burners with a medium flame. Immediately add a glass of wine, simmer and loosen brown bits from the pan with a spatula. Strain into a saucepan along with defatted drippings and about 2 cups of homemade stock. Bring to a simmer, taste and adjust with seasonings, or reduce further to concentrate flavors.Allow 1 to 1.5 tablespoons flour for every cup of liquid. Whisk flour into 1 cup of cold milk until smooth. Whisk 1/2-cup hot stock into milk slurry, and then slowly whisk slurry into simmering stock. Bring to a boil to thicken and reduce to a simmer, stirring regularly. Serve hot.


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