For your convenience, I’m posting this column one week before Thanksgiving 2014, so you can prepare for battle.
Every holiday for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been asked to repost this recipe. Why? Because it works. It’s as simple as that. A better-tasting turkey that’s less fuss, giving you even more free time so you can argue with your relatives over stupid things, like, the Obama administration.
I love Thanksgiving! It’s a time where we should enjoy ourselves and give thanks to God for this wonderful life and country he has given us. However, as the true conservative that I am, I don’t outsource my cooking like Mr. Obama would. That guy needs to have underlings do his dirty work for him so he can deny he had anything to do with it should something go wrong.
Not me. I roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty and destroy the kitchen because that’s the way the good Lord and my American ancestors wanted it! Through trial, error and much tribulation, I have recaptured the Thanksgiving spirit and hope to inspire you to do the same.
It all centers on cooking the perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey.
There is a lot at stake every time I do battle with Tom Turkey, but make no mistake, I am up to the task and I am now victorious, every … single … time! With my help you too can be the “Tamer of the Turkey” the “Doctor of the Dinner” or the “Magician of the Meal.”
Sure, there have been setbacks along the way. As when any battle plan meets the enemy, everything changes. The “fateful” Thanksgiving of 1996 is where this journey began.
It was just after Bill Clinton won re-election over World War II hero Bob Dole. I was despondent for my country. Neither Bill nor Hillary had shown America any leadership in tax cutting, morality or cooking (Bill was, at the time, addicted to Big Macs). I knew the only way to improve upon my patriotic spirit was to honor the Pilgrims and Native Americans — Hey, I was born here, that makes me a “Native American” doesn’t it? Note to self: Save for later column — by preparing my first Thanksgiving feast.
I didn’t want help from friends, relatives, local restaurants, and especially no help from Swanson’s Hungry Man TV dinners. (Thanksgiving 1987 — Bozeman, Montana, not a night I give much thanks for.)
No, like our brave forefathers who struggled mightily against the elements, disease, famine and their own horrific sense of fashion (they put the “grim” in “Pilgrim”), I was determined to spend the entire Thanksgiving Day doing for myself. No more wallowing in sorrow over the Clintons promoting “Midnight Basketball” – perhaps the shallowest idea from a thoroughly shallow administration. I was determined to honor the American spirit and celebrate my individualism.
Well, it was a disaster and my first imperfect step toward perfecting the homemade Thanksgiving turkey.
Having lived in three of the great barbecue capitals of the world — Kansas City, Dallas and Atlanta — I have developed a fondness for barbecue (second note to self: column on what style of barbecue is best Texas, Kansas City or Carolina – a debate as fierce as any battle over amnesty, abortion or Obamacare in intensity). In my mind, slow-smoking meat adds flavors that could mask any mistakes an amateur like me might make: issues such as a poor choice of turkey, cooking a turkey that’s not completely thawed, unbalanced seasonings. These things would be lost/covered up in the wonderful taste of hickory-smoked turkey.
Nevertheless, that year, I suffered a rather grievous defeat. I admitted my mistake and slogged on. Frankly, I had not calculated the “dryness” factor in slow-cooking. Turkey is a lean meat and I learned why gravy has become the universal cure-all for slow-cookers. Seeking a moist, succulent turkey is a counter-intuitive journey.
In an effort to create such a delicacy, we baste; We employ the use of foil and embedded thermometers. Just about everything we can think of, except maybe the use of a Cross to ward off whatever Dracula-like force sucks the moisture out of our once-a-year dinners (third note to self: Try asbestos Cross next year).
Like the persistent Pilgrims who sacrificed everything so you and I could have a much-needed four-day weekend and a late-night shopping spree, I stuck with my Turkey Day experimentations and now have created the perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey recipe for you and yours. I have countered the counter-intuitive problem of cooking lean meat and preserving what little moisture it has. As a result, I now use gravy as a flavor enhancement and not a moisture-delivery system.
What’s the secret? Cook your turkey at a very high temperature!
(What? That goes against everything you’ve been taught about cooking turkey!)
The truth is: Cooking your bird faster is the only way to successfully combat the moisture riddle wrapped in a mystery inside your oven. It is the answer to all your gravy-fixing problems.
And now … Rusty Humphries’ World Famous Flash Cooked Roast Turkey
16-18 pound turkey, tops. Heavier birds are generally older and do not stay as moist
2 teaspoons kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 cups turkey or chicken broth
3 cloves garlic (whole)
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Basting not allowed! (I cannot stress this enough!)
This discourages skin caramelization and creates wild fluctuations in cooking temperatures (lesson learned - Thanksgiving of 1999). Also, and most important, make sure your turkey is completely thawed (Oopsy - Thanksgiving 2001).
Dry your thawed turkey, inside and out. Use a paper towel, not a hair dryer (Thanksgiving 2003). Preheat oven to 475F. Mix the vegetable oil, salt and pepper together and then brush on or rub the oil and seasonings mix on the turkey – inside and out. Put the 1/2 lemon, 3 cloves of garlic and the 3 sprigs of fresh thyme inside the cavity. Fold neck skin under body and tie drumsticks together with kitchen string. Pour the broth in the roasting pan and then place the seasoned turkey in the pan. Cover, do not wrap, the turkey with aluminum foil. Put the pan on a rack in the 475F oven and cook for two hours.
Cook the stuffing in a pan, not the bird.
While the turkey is cooking, fight the urge to baste it.
To take your mind off this unnecessary and harmful practice, read the Declaration of Independence. It will demoralize any liberals you might have mistakenly invited over. Then, read the U.S. Constitution. Read aloud Article II. That is the part that sets out the powers of the Executive Branch, i.e, the president. Take this opportunity to remind your guests the president is the commander-in-chief, not the emperor or king who can do whatever the heck he wants. That will really tick your Democratic family members off and you will forget about the basting no-no.
To really “get ‘um goin’”, show them my music video.
It’s fun, funny and you can say, “Hey that’s the guy who came up with this awesome turkey recipe!” Or watch the video and take credit for the turkey. I’m cool with that.
After two hours, open the over for the first time and don’t baste anything! Just take the aluminum foil off the bird and cook at 425F for 20 minutes to brown the skin. Thigh meat should register 170F at this time. Let stand 20 minutes before carving/bragging.
Cut the string, thank me on twitter @Talk2Rusty and tell all your friends read my columns at The Washington Times.
With all humility, all I can say is, you’re welcome.
And with those words of wisdom: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and may God Bless you, your family and this great country of ours!