Spatchcock Heritage Turkey for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-Turkey-Cartoon-4As the few remaining loyal readers of GourMay are aware, Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year.  I am obsessed with the struggle to cook the “perfect” turkey and each year fortunately brings me closer to achieving that goal.   This year (with a few minor and inconsequential variations), I will “spatchcock” my heritage turkey using the preparation method described in the latest edition of Cook’s Illustrated (Nov – Dec 2014).   For Tea Party activists who no longer read, there is a FREE video demonstration that will be on the Cook’s Illustrated website for 4 months.

Cook’s Illustrated follows two techniques already highly recommended by GourMay:

  1. Make sure you use a Heritage turkey.  We will use a Bourbon Red, but Cook’s Illustrated (“CI”) plans to use “Mary’s Free-Range Heritage Turkey.”  According to CI, Heritage turkeys were “nearly extinct in 1997,” but have rebounded nicely and are vastly superior to the factory-processed turkeys sold at most markets (even under questionable “organic” labels).
  2. Also, I thoroughly agree that the dry brine cited by CI is as good as most complicated wet brining techniques that I sadly recommended in 2009.   By all means brine the turkey with salt and allow it to rest uncovered in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

The most difficult part of cooking a turkey is to make sure the white meat is moist and the dark meat is thoroughly cooked.   The white turkey breast is generally moist at 155ºF, but the dark meat (leg and thigh) needs another 20ºs or 175º.  Last year, I cooked the turkey on a closed Weber and almost achieved perfection, but I couldn’t control the internal temperature and it could have done with about 30 minutes less cooking.  This year, I will spatchcock the turkey using the technique beautifully illustrated in CI.

The Cook’s Illustrated recipe is quoted in its entirety below:

Cook’s Illustrated:  How to Cook Heritage Turkey


  • 1(10- to 12-pound) heritage breed turkey, neck removed
  • Kosher salt


  1. 1. Place wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and lightly grease rack. With turkey breast side up, using sharp knife, slice through skin between breast and thigh down to joint on both sides. Using your hands, pull each leg quarter back to expose joint between leg and breast. Remove legs by cutting through hip joint and then skin. Slice through membrane connecting breast to backbone. Bend backbone away from breast to break where it meets rib cage; use knife to remove completely.

    2. Using your fingers, gently loosen skin covering legs and breasts. Rub 1 1/2 teaspoons salt evenly inside cavity of turkey breast, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt under skin of each breast, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt under skin of each leg. Tuck wings underneath breast. Place turkey legs and breast, skin side up, on prepared wire rack. Refrigerate turkey parts, uncovered, for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.

    3. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Transfer breast to large plate and set aside while leg quarters start roasting. Flip leg quarters skin side down and transfer to oven; roast until thighs register 140 degrees, 45 to 75 minutes.

    4. Flip leg quarters skin side up and place breast, skin side down, on wire rack next to leg quarters. Return to oven and roast for 1 hour.

    5. Flip breast skin side up and continue to roast until breast registers 155 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 hours longer. Remove turkey from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.

    6. While turkey is resting, increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Stack turkey assembly on second baking sheet to prevent excess smoking. Return turkey to oven and roast until skin is golden brown and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes.

    7. Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest for 20 minutes. Carve turkey and serve.

I wish you all a warm and caring Thanksgiving.

Chicken Soup: Better than a Flu Shot?

chicken soupWhen you get to be my age, there is a “big” push at this time of year by pharmaceutical companies to get your FREE flu shot.  I am not sure if this is simply an Obamacare benefit or rather a promotional offer by CVS to encourage Americans to restock their medicine chests for the cold winter. Nevertheless, I continue to resist the FREEBIE on the simple premise that it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to introduce “foreign” antibodies into my body. Sheila thinks differently and has accused me of suffering from some mental disorder after escaping the siege at the Branch Dividians’ Compound in Waco, Texas.   Now that the Bird Flu (aka avian influenza) has appeared in the United Kingdom killing three mute swans in Dorset, I have decided to ingest my own personal remedy:  Chicken broth.

GourMay’s Organic Chicken Broth


  • Carcass of an organic chicken,
  • A carrot cut in three large pieces;
  • A stock of celery cut in three or more large pieces;
  • Half of an onion cut in a couple of large pieces,
  • A sprig of thyme,
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation (makes a 1 1/2 to 2 cups)

  • Most people can get about four servings from a roasted chicken.  For broth, simply strip the chicken meat from the carcass and break down the carcass so that it will easily fit into a large sauce pan;
  • Cover the carcass in cold water, add the carrot, celery, onion and thyme and bring to a boil;
  • Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer uncovered for about an hour or so until most of the meat is off the carcass;
  • Strain the broth through cheese cloth or a very fine wire mesh strainer and discard the carcass and veggies.

Unless you are in perfect physical condition – like “Bogey” Pinson – and drink a cup a day of organic chicken broth, you are likely to get the flu.  In that case you will need “Get Better Soup” that was featured in Gourmay in 2011.

Royal Christmas Cake 2014

As Anglophiles and wannabe pastry chefs are aware, preparation for the Royal Christmas Cake begins on Guy Fawkes Day.   Once they have burnt the effigy of “the Guido,” the Brits do their level best to set back culinary artistry several decades with the “Royal Christmas Cake.”   I have written often about this British assault on the palate, but sadly my wife doesn’t agree.  As a minor concession, she has agreed to soak the currants in whiskey rather than my fine brandy, but now that the marzipan has been hand-delivered by a recent courier from London this exercise in culinary futility is in full-flow.


Now, I don’t plan to bite the hand that feeds me, but I do intend to read what appears to be a fascinating book that was brought to my attention recently by Lord Cheseline of Maiden Lot: The Men Who Lost America, written by Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy. Sadly, I missed his talk in Chestertown, Maryland, but like most “folks” today, I relish true stories of gross incompetence rather than inspired leadership. Found below is an excerpt from The Men Who Lost America:


The loss of America was a stunning and unexpected defeat for the powerful British Empire. Common wisdom has held that incompetent military commanders and political leaders in Britain must have been to blame, but were they? This intriguing book makes a different argument. Weaving together the personal stories of ten prominent men who directed the British dimension of the war, historian Andrew O’Shaughnessy dispels the incompetence myth and uncovers the real reasons that rebellious colonials were able to achieve their surprising victory.


While I will no doubt be reading O’Shaughnessy’s ode to failure this Christmas while others wax poetic about the virtues of the Royal Christmas cake, I do hope that parents will avoid feeding this sugar-laden creation to young children before their naps. It is wise to avoid sugar highs!