This is the first time I ever cooked a turkey and I have to say it’s the best turkey I’ve had! Apparently, I rock! I used this close up because the crispy skin was my key to keeping the juices inside the bird. That and I didn’t get a picture of the whole turkey before the crowd dove into it with a carving knife! I got this recipe out of Cooking Light magazine’s holiday issue, gave it a few modifications of my own, as is typical of me, and it was fantastic! I also did change the cooking method for it, to keep the skin perfectly crispy. It was simple and easy, tasty as hell and would make the perfect Christmas meal! Make sure beforehand that you have a meat thermometer on hand!
And last but not least, the most important part, get a gluten-free turkey! I got a turkey from Mary’s Farms, and these are available at Whole Foods.
1 turkey – mine was 18 pounds (you may want to google for adjusted cooking times if your turkey is larger or smaller – I’m not the expert on that!)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup Walnut oil
1 tbs thyme
1 tbs rosemary
1 onion – quartered
2 pears – quartered
The night before you plan on cooking your bird, prep it! That way it can sit and baste in the walnut oil over night. Remove the giblets from the turkey (save them if you plan on using them otherwise discard them).
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup walnut oil, cheese and herbs. Carefully part the skin from the breast meat and thighs. Rub the flesh beneath the skin with the walnut oil mixture, getting into every crevice. Put it in the fridge!
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and make sure you bring your turkey out prior so it can come to room temperature (this should be done with all meats anyway). The turkey should also be placed on a rack so it doesn’t just sit in its own juices and get soggy on the bottom. My little chicken rack does fine for a big turkey. Dry the turkey skin with a paper towel, stuff it with pears and onions, then cook it at 500 for 30 minutes. Check the skin. If it’s crispy, move on. If not, give it another 10 minutes.
Baste the turkey with some walnut oil. Just brush the skin all over. Then cover the turkey lightly with heavy-duty foil – lightly, not tightly, it just needs to sit over the top of the turkey to keep the skin from getting beyond that perfect crispness. Cook for 30 minutes now at 350. Remove the foil, baste again, replace the foil and cook for a full hour. Then repeat every thirty minutes for 3 and a half hours. At 3.5 hours, check the temperature of your turkey. The thighs should be at 160 and the breast itself should be at 170. Remove the turkey and let it sit under its foil for at least 30 minutes! It will still continue to cook as it rests.
I have seen variations on temperature for a ready turkey – from 180 to 165 – but 160 was perfect for my bird to be removed from the oven. It remained juicy and did not dry out in any way. The total time for my 18 pound turkey was 4 hours, with about 15 minutes of prep the night before. As long as you remember to baste it at the appropriate times, you’ll have a rather lovely bird!