This is Gillian, my daughter and our family’s master carver.
We are not that traditional family who always gives the task to the man of the house.
Gillian is so good at this that no one else ever offers anymore, although my son-in-law Greg does a good job on other meats.
We are a turkey-loving family, so Gillian gets lots of practice.
It’s turkey for Passover, that’s for sure. It’s the family tradition, dating as far back as my grandmother, then my mother and now me. (though I would guess that my grandmother’s mother, who lived in the “old country” (Iasi, Romania) probably didn’t make a turkey on Passover.
I make turkey parts (breasts, thighs and so on) when it’s just a few of us for dinner. But when the whole family gets together, I prefer a whole, roasted bird. Fortunately some of us like dark meat, some white. We even eat the neck and giblets (that I roast right along with the bird).
Although I season the turkey lots of different ways, depending on the occasion, for Passover I use the family standard: a few sprinkles of salt, pepper, garlic and paprika; baste with orange juice (or mango, apple, pineapple juice).
It’s simple and easy. The juices make wonderful gravy too.
I never put a foil tent over the bird when it’s roasting. It makes the meat too wet and steamy. I have found that by roasting the bird backside up for about half the time, then turning it over, the skin doesn’t scorch, so there’s no need for a tent.
Be sure to use a meat thermometer. It’s the best way to be sure that you don’t overcook the turkey. I don’t trust the “pop-up” devices. They are programmed for too high a temperature and by the time they pop up the turkey is overcooked and dry.
Another tip: let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes before you carve it. This lets the juices stay inside to keep the meat moist. Also, it’s easier to carve. The temperature will go up a couple of degrees during this resting period.
1 turkey, 12-15 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder and paprika
1 cup orange juice, apple juice, white wine or chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic bag of giblets from inside the turkey. Wash the giblets and set them aside. Wash the inside of the turkey thoroughly. Wash the skin and remove any obvious hairs and pinfeathers. Wipe the surface of the turkey with paper towels and brush the skin with the olive oil. Place the turkey breast-side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika (you don’t need to measure these spices, just dust the surface with them). Turn over the turkey and sprinkle the back with the seasonings. Keep the turkey breast-side down. Roast the turkey for 45-50 minutes. Baste with pan juices and pour the orange juice (or other liquid) over the bird. Roast for another 45-50 minutes. Baste the turkey and turn it breast-side up. Roast the turkey until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees (or a meat thermometer in the breast reads 160 degrees), or when the juices run clear when the thigh (or breast) is pricked with the tip of a sharp knife (12-15 pound turkey should take about 3 to 3-1/2 hours). After you turn the turkey breast-side up, baste it every 15-20 minutes, stopping about 1/2 hour before you expect the turkey to be done. Yield: general rule is one pound of whole turkey weight per person (a 12-15-pound turkey will feed 12-15 people, for example)