Thursday, November 18, 2010

Roast Turkey, The Guardian Service Way

We began our culinary adventure with a trip to LA's Farmers Market at Fairfax and Third, a food-lovers' destination since 1934. (Side note: that's me crooning pop songs of the era at the Market's 75th Anniversary with vintage swing and big band Dean Mora and his Orchestra).

We were shopping a bit ahead of the Turkey Day rush, but the good folk at Puritan Poultry supplied us with a free-range, hormone and antibiotic-free turkey which was locally-raised—so local, in fact, that the Sun Valley ranch from which it originated was closer to our apartment than the Farmers Market itself...
Weighing the bird at Puritan Poultry at LA's Farmers Market
As this was our first Guardian Service turkey, we opted to cook it stove-top, a hallmark of Guardian Service cookware, and found that the stove-top method yields a rich and succulent turkey. While it is not "steaming" a turkey (as Joy of Cooking's Rombauer disparages it) this method employs lower temperatures, using the meat's own juices and is very similar to braising, a type of pan roasting. The bird can be browned at the finish using the "stove-top browning" technique to reflect burner heat back onto the food's surface. The result is a delectably juicy bird that excels in flavor, tenderness and ease of slicing. It may not have the uniformly  mahogany appearance and crispy shell of the Norman Rockwell ideal, but you won't suffer the dry and flavorless meat that often results from open-roasting in an oven, nor need to brine it for hours to ward against an arid turkey.

The large Guardian Service roaster is an impressive and beautiful design. The oval pan has claw like handles which allow for a firm grip, and jutting from either side of the deeply-pitched dome lid are wing-like handles, reminiscent of Mercury's helmet. But while the roaster may be the Big Bad Boy of this cookware line, it's still modest by today's out-sized expectations—its internal dimensions are 11" wide, 16.5" long, and about 9" high, if you're cooking with the rack. Our turkey was an ideal size for the roaster—just over 13 lbs—but I don't think the roaster could handle a turkey exceeding 15 lbs.
Roasting a turkey "The Guardian Way" employs a similar technique to the one we presented when roasting a chicken. It's just a bigger roaster and a bigger bird, so you may want a friend or two handy for some of the hefting and turning.

Guardian Roast Turkey

1) Prepare the turkey (bring to room temperature, remove the neck and giblets from the cavity and rinse thoroughly, pat dry and salt the bird, inside and out). Lather with butter, stuff and truss. In a medium pan (we used the 2 qt dome cooker), roast the neck and giblets over a layer of celery and garlic for an hour, then add water and continue to simmer on low until you're ready to add it to the stuffing and/or gravy (see below).

2) Over a medium burner, heat 2 Tbsp. fat and 2 Tbsp. butter in roaster and coat pan well. Place turkey in roaster and sear, browning all surfaces of the bird, 90 seconds per plane so that the skin caramelizes. (This keeps the juices inside the turkey as it cooks). Be bold! We used two large spatulas, rolled the bird in the pan, and grabbed it with a clean towel. Properly trussed the bird can take some handling. Remove turkey from pan; pouring off and reserving excess fat. Place turkey on its breast on roaster rack and lower into roaster. (Optional: we added two whole jalapeños to the roaster to scent the bird and compliment the Californio theme of our stuffing—see below). Cover with lid and cook over both burners at low heat for 15-20 min/lb.

3) Halfway through the roasting period, flip the bird—that is, turn it to  distribute the juices. Remove the roaster lid and invert it as a resting tray, then remove the rack from the roaster and place turkey in the lid. Turn the turkey on its back, reposition on the rack and return it to the roaster to continue cooking. 

4) The turkey is done when its juices run clear, the wings give and the thigh meat reaches 165℉. Now comes the fun part, finishing by browning the turkey using the deflected heat of the Guardian Service stove-top browning technique. Set roaster to one side of stove, remove lid and position it so it channels the heat over the turkey. Now you are a knight using his shield to roast his catch over an open fire! Turn it any way you please, letting each side of the turkey get a good toasting. Meanwhile baste well to give a healthy brown glaze. 

The Lee-Peterson-Robinson Gravy

My mother's family's method for making gravy is a long-held tradition passed down through my great grandmother Ruth Lee Peterson, as Yankee a Puritan as they came. The method is simple, but requires patience and diligence, for which you'll be rewarded with unparalleled flavor.

1) Over medium heat, reduce the roaster pan drippings until they caramelize and stick. NOTE: It can take 30-40 minutes for the sugar in the drippings to properly caramelize and the fat to separate and run clear. During this window it is crucial that you ignore your nagging doubt and the hand-wringing of loved-ones who think you're burning the gravy and wondering why dinner is getting cold and why you're ruining this festive occasion... Patience—and DON'T SCRAPE the bottom of the pan.

2) When the fat separates from the browned turkey drippings, pour off all but a Tbsp or two of the excess fat and return the roaster to a low heat. NOTE: Because the Guardian Service pan heats evenly, it's harder to get drippings to really hold to the bottom of the pan*. (We used a free-range bird which has very little fat—just enough for the following step, the roux—but if you're cooking a Butterball, you may need a gravy separator for this step).

3) Whisk 2-3 Tbsp. of flour into the giblet stock and add gradually to the roaster, de–glazing the pan and blending continuously until smooth and thick. Salt and pepper to taste and serve. (Note: You can also use leftover water from boiling potatoes (or  pasta) to de-glaze the pan, in which case there's no need for the extra flour—but if you're using the "waterless method" to cook your potatoes, you may not have any starchy water handy!).

Optional: for a heartier gravy, use a blender to incorporate the roasted neck and giblet meat (first removing meat from the neck bones) into some of the giblet stock and add to gravy as well.

*Don't fear a clean-up nightmare—the even heating of the Guardian Service cookware means an easier clean up than cheaper enamel pans which are more likely to scorch.

And now, as a bonus, this year's creation: a '49er, Californio–style stuffing!

Gold Rush Stuffing

Inspired by Hangtown Fry, an oyster-bacon omelet first concocted at the Cary House Hotel in Placerville, CA (then called "Hangtown" for its numerous hangings). A prospector who'd just struck it rich requested the most expensive dish the hotel chef could prepare. Eggs, bacon and oysters were precious ingredients, due to their delicacy, perishability and the distance from which they were brought in the 1850s... an early example of conspicuous consumption via "Food Miles."

3 cups jalapeño cornbread, cubed
1 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 fresh whole fried oysters (dipped in beaten egg and cornmeal, fried in bacon fat)
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 tomatillos, chopped
4 leaves fresh sage, minced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 cup giblet stock
1 egg, beaten
freshly ground salt and pepper

1) In the large GS fry pan, cook up 6-8 slices of bacon, crumble and reserve.
2) In bacon drippings, sauté the leek, celery and tomatillos. Remove and reserve.
3) Dip each oyster in beaten egg, dust with cornmeal and fry in bacon fat, adding butter as necessary. 
4) Mix all ingredients. Stuff turkey and top each end with half an apple before trussing. Cook excess in separate unit for about 30 minutes at 325℉.
- Damon Kirsche/Andrew Martin

For side dishes, we served up Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic (a perennial favorite from the NY Times) and another family favorite which we'll write about in our next post: the renowned Butternut Squash Bisque once served at Denver's Brown Palace Hotel.

Until then, thanks for reading and from our home to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

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