When thinking about writing this post, I considered many variations on making turkey. With the Thanksgiving holiday soon approaching I know everyone ‘s minds are on the big feast. Shall I try Tagine turkey? Or Indian spices? Or deep fried? Brined? Traditional? There are so many possibilities using different herbs and spices. I often find Thanksgiving fun in this regard. No two Turkeys have ever been alike at Thanksgiving at my house. After mulling this over for a few days I decided to consider the turkey itself. What if I cooked the turkey pieces separately? This would offer more control over when it’s done. I have always disliked the fact that turkey breasts are so often overcooked while waiting for the legs and thighs to be done. Dry turkey breast on Thanksgiving is really one big let down for me.
I purchased two legs, two thighs and a full breast with the bone still attached. I cut the breast on the center bone from underneath so that it would lay flatter. I like bone in pieces as they offer the most flavor and juiciness. Then, since the pieces were going to roast in pans I decided to line my pans with the stuffing. My ideas was that all the juices that came off the turkey pieces would conveniently collect in the stuffing. Yum!
My first decision was to figure out how to season the turkey pieces. I remembered I had a compound butter in my freezer from spring that I made with wild ramps and garlic chives (including the flowers).
This, I thought, would be perfect sliced and seasoned additionally with chopped rosemary and freshly ground pepper. You could also make your own compound butter with softened butter and the fresh herbs of your choice. It doesn’t have to be frozen to tuck or spread under the skin. You can see by the photos that I was quite generous with the seasonings. I would say to get a “liberal” amount of spices into your butter. This part is not a science but for those who need a recipe, let’s say about 2-4 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs, 1/4 tsp. pepper and one minced garlic clove for every stick of salted butter.
I sliced my frozen butter into 1/4 inch pieces and tucked them under the skin of each piece. I put two to four herbed butter wedges on each turkey piece.
Next, I layered the stuffing mixture into foil lined roasting pans. I buttered the foil generously to prevent any sticking. In the pan with the turkey breast I also put the rack over the stuffing to help facilitate dripping and to allow some air between the stuffing and the breast. Then I put the legs and thighs into one pan and the breast into the other pan. I first put the breast into the oven alone on the top rack at 375 degrees F. for 30 minutes. I then added the pan with the legs and thighs to the top rack after putting the breast on the bottom rack. The breast was nice and golden brown from being on the highest rack and I wanted to achieve this color and crispy skin to the legs and thighs as well. The bottom rack will not allow browning quite so quickly. I continued to roast the turkey at 375 degrees F. for another 20 minutes then turned down the oven to 325 degrees F. for the final 30 minutes. These cooking times are just guidelines as your exact oven temperatures and turkey pieces will vary in size. If you start using your meat thermometer when you turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. and check temps about every 10-20 minutes you will know when to pull each pan. I like to get an internal meat temperature around 160 degrees F. on my thermometer and then pull the pieces as they are done and cover with foil for a good 30 minutes so they reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, please get one. They make life so much easier. No more guess work.