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to Roast Chickens and Turkeys
Close your eyes, and imagine a festive Shabbas or Holiday
meal. No matter what else is there, if you are like most
Americans, the most prominent item is a perfectly roasted
Chicken or Turkey. In our minds eye, it has a shiny dark
brown glaze, and rests in a bed of Parsley, on a large
platter. We long to hear our family gasp with delight as
it is carried to the table, but suspect that this
masterpiece can only be created by the food photographer
of a gourmet magazine.
I promise that, if you follow my directions, every one of
you can make that vision a reality. You will not have to
put it in a paper bag, wrap it in cheesecloth, or do
anything else complicated. Moreover, your gravy will be a
beautiful color and perfectly seasoned with no
possibility for error. With one special ingredient, and a
few simple steps, you will have a picture perfect
centerpiece for your feast.
The first step is to buy two platters. You will need one
to hold the bird, and another on which to carve the
various pieces. Be sure to have the second platter
available. It is impossible to do a neat job of carving
The next step, and your most important decision will be
to decide which bird to roast. The general rule is to
allow one pound per person. This will be enough and not
force you to consume the same thing for days after the
holiday. A smaller bird will cook in less time, and be
easier to handle. The best strategy is to roast two small
birds rather than a large one. This will leave the breast
meat more moist and give you 4 drumsticks for the
children. Another benefit is that a platter which holds
two birds is extremely impressive.
Do not buy a 15 pound Turkey for 8 people unless you are
willing to rise and package the leftovers immediately
after eating. Food which sits at room temperature while
you enjoy your coffee, may be the source of food
poisoning when eaten the next day. Roasting Chickens are
available up to 10 pounds, while Turkeys start at about
that weight. A special note: if you purchase a frozen
bird, for safety's sake, be sure to thaw it in the
refrigerator, not on your kitchen counter.
The roasting process is much easier and faster than you
might think. I strongly recommend that you use a
disposable aluminum pan placed within another rigid
container. Disposable pans are inexpensive and save a
great deal of unpleasant work after dinner. Remove the
bag of innards from the body and neck cavities. Rinse the
bird in cold water, then put it in the pan. Pull the
wings slightly out from the body, and twist so that you
can tuck the tips underneath it.
Never put dressing into a bird. It takes longer to cook,
is unsafe if stuffed of time, and the cavity never holds
an adequate amount. Instead, fill the cavity with several
lemons or oranges which have been cut into quarters. Put
your dressing in a separate casserole to bake. The
special flavor of dressing baked in the bird comes from
the fat it absorbs during roasting. Just render and use
the bits of fat at the opening of the body cavity to have
the same taste in a convenient and safe fashion.
If the bird is 10 pounds or less, have the oven rack in
the center of the oven. For a bird over 10 pounds, place
the oven rack on the bottom rung, but not on the floor of
the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees if the bird is 10
pound or less, 325 degrees if it is larger. Place the pan
on the rack. Wiggle the leg of the bird a bit; I want you
to notice the rigidity of the joint.
If the bird is 10 pounds or less, pour a bottle of White
Wine into the pan. If the bird is over 10 pounds, use 2
bottles. Do not let anyone see you do this. There will be
some killjoy who will say, "Isn't that a lot of
wine?" It is just the right amount and broth or
water will not do the same thing. Do not try to place the
bird or pour the wine before the pan is in the oven. It
will be too heavy and you stand a good chance of dropping
dinner on the floor. Slide the rack into the oven and
close the door. Do not cover the bird with foil. A cover
is a nuisance to remove while basting and the skin will
look steamed rather than having the golden crispy glaze
Roasting time is approximately 20 minutes per pound.
Every 20 minutes, open the oven door and spoon some of
the juices over the bird. As you approach the correct
time, try wiggling the leg a bit to test for looseness.
When the bird is done, the joint will be loose and the
skin at the end of the leg will be pulling away. It is
easiest to buy a meat thermometer, insert it at the
thickest part of the thigh, (not touching the bone) and
check that it has reached 180 degrees. Be sure to baste
every 20 minutes, that will keep it moist and make a
Just before the bird is done, wash the Parsley and pat it
dry with paper towels. Arrange it on the platter. make
sure you use enough to make a luxurious bed. When the
bird is done, have someone big lift the pan onto the top
of the stove. Take the bird out and put it on a platter.
This is most easily done by inserting a large fork as far
as possible into the body cavity, sliding a long metal
spatula under it, then lifting.
Measure the pan liquids into a large saucepan (you may
skim off most of the fat). Whisk 2 tablespoons of Flour
for every cup of liquid with a bit of cold water to make
a thin paste. Add the paste to the pan juices whilst
whisking until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil while
stirring, then remove from the heat. If you have a hand
blender, use it instead of stirring, because the gravy
will have a more creamy consistency. Don't season the
gravy; the Wine and natural juices will have formed a
stock during the roasting process, and made it tasty.
Children dislike spicy gravy and those on sodium
restricted diets will be grateful that they may enjoy it.
This is an excerpt from It's
Not Just Chicken Soup.
copyright 2001 Eddy Robey
Eddy Robey M.A.
Author of It's
Not Just Chicken Soup. Like all Jewish mothers, I
feed everyone in sight, and have been at work in the
kitchen for over 25 years. Correspondence should be
addressed to email@example.com
and will be read as soon as the dishes are done. You can
find many of my recipes online at Gantseh Megillah.
Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think
would enjoy it, as long as you include my copyright.
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