Melissa Elsmo

Tending to a Thanksgiving turkey as it limps along in a slow oven to golden brown perfection is a labor of love and few folks will argue that a beautiful turkey doesn’t make an impressive centerpiece on a holiday table. Accolades are inevitable the moment a relieved cook deposits a thoughtfully garnished whole roasted bird on the table. Thanks to iconic Norman Rockwell images, however, the pressure to perform doesn’t end there. Knife wielding patriarchs everywhere are critically aware of the considerable gender pressure attached to a executing a flawless table-side turkey carving.

Here’s my advice: don’t do it. 

Sure the American population is largely disconnected from the food they eat, but a holiday table full of family and friends isn’t the setting to give folks a graphic reminder they are eating a formerly feathered friend. Before going all wild kingdom on the bird, have your most confident carver, male or female, make a dignified escape to the kitchen. Relieving the pressure to perform will invariably yield a better result. Bear in mind, carving is an artful affair and should never veer into serial killer territory. Please, respect the bird, and steer clear of using electric carving knives. Use a sharp carving or boning knife and a meat fork to break down a Thanksgiving turkey.

Turkey Carving 101:

  •  If the turkey has been stuffed, begin the carving process by removing all of the stuffing from the bird and transferring it to a serving bowl. 
  • Gently pull one of the legs away from the thigh and use the knife to separate the joint and remove the leg; place both of the legs on a serving platter. 
  • Removing the wings has always been tricky to me, but lifting the wing up and away from the breast should expose the joint near the wish bone. Simply, use the knife to cut the joint and free the wings from the bird; place them on the platter. 
  • To remove the breast meat, hold the turkey in place with the fork and run the knife parallel to one side of the breast bone cutting deeply into the meat. Next, make a cut perpendicular to the breast bone creating a near right angle and remove the one entire breast in a large chunk. Slice the breast across the grain into one inch pieces ensuring each piece has golden skin draped across the top. Arrange the slices on the platter with the wings and legs. 
  • Flip the bird and remove the dark meat from the bones and serve the loose meat on the platter with the rest of bird.
  • Toss a couple of fresh herbs on your pretty platter, leave the mess behind and confidently return to the dining room with a delicious display to share with your loved ones.
  • Exhale and give thanks! 

Mel’s Top Three Turkey Day Tips: 

1. Think Ahead: Set your table and sort your serving pieces the night before Thanksgiving. 

2. Don’t Jump the Gun: A turkey needs to rest for a full thirty minutes before carving. Use this vista of time to complete you side dishes,make the gravy and allow guests to photograph your beautiful bird. 

3. No Last Minute Mash: Hot mashed potatoes can be held in a crock pot set on low for up to 3 hours. Use this tactic to buy yourself some much needed time to socialize or work on other dishes. 

Simple Indian Spiced Roasted Turkey 

Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend featuring cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander, ginger, bay leaves, and sumac, Garam Masala is one of my favorite Indian spice blends. I love to buy whole Garam Masala at Patel Brothers on Devon and grind it myself, but feel free to substitute your favorite combination of herbs and spices in this recipe.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 (14-16 pound) all-natural Turkey (giblets removed) 
  • Kosher salt and fresh pepper 
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple, quartered 
  • 1 Sweet Onion, quartered 
  • 1 Lemon, quartered 
  • 3 Rosemary Sprigs 
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons ground Garam Masala, divided 
  • 1 Stick unsalted butter 

Instructions:Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Bend the wing tips back and secure them on the underside of the turkey.

Place the apple, onion, lemon and rosemary sprigs in the cavity and tie the legs securely. Season the outside of the turkey with salt, pepper and ½ Tablespoon of garam masala.

Roast the turkey for 1 hour. Meanwhile, melt the butter and mix in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of Garam Masala. After one hour, reduce the oven heat to 325 and baste the turkey all over with the spiced butter. Continue roasting, basting with butter and pan dripping every 30 minutes for 2 additional hours. If the turkey skin becomes too brown tent it with foil. The turkey is done when it is golden brown, the legs wiggle freely in their joints, and an instant read thermometer reads 165 at the thickest part of the thigh.

Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

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