Tahoe recipe: Bye tradition, hello ‘Judy Bird’ – the easier way to turkey
November 16, 2015
A couple years ago, I ran a column on a revolutionary method of roasting a chicken, a new technique that has rocked the culinary industry. It was introduced by the late Judy Rogers, owner of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco and author of "The Zuni Cafe cookbook," and involves very high heat and a short cook time.
So I ran the recipe, making it very clear this was a departure from our low heat, slow roast tradition, and to make sure the chicken was patted dry — bone dry — before placing it in the oven.
Well, the response I got from friends and readers was overwhelming, and all with the similar complaints. "I set off my fire alarm," "my entire kitchen was filled with smoke," "I cannot get the smell of charred chicken out of my house," etc. etc.
The problem was not in the high-heat recipe, but because they could not resist resorting to the same old habit of oiling up the chicken or sneaking butter under the skin before placing it in the oven to do its thing.
It did its thing all right — butter at 450 degrees? Bad idea. So I am a little bit nervous about extending this high-heat method to your Thanksgiving bird, but having done it myself last year, I feel compelled to share the love.
Actually, I didn't do it last year, my father did. This is a man who has been making his turkey the same way since he was seven (very precocious) and you know "Old dogs, new tricks" blah blah blah.
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But I convinced him to do it in the name of culinary science (Simone Appetit) and he has never looked back. This turkey is, hands down, the best turkey you will ever have anywhere — unless you go to Zuni Cafe. And on the big day of thanks, for this recipe, I will be grateful.
One 2.5 gallon resealable plastic bag
Preparation begins three days before cooking:
Wash your turkey inside and out and pat it dry. Do not, I repeat, do not oil up the surface or "flavor" with pats of butter anywhere. Measure 1 tablespoon of salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs. Keep this bowl handy.
Next, sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place the turkey on its back and salt the breast, concentrating the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You'll probably use a little more than a tablespoon.
Flip the turkey on one side and sprinkle the entire side facing up with salt, concentrating on the thigh. You should use a little less than a tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the opposite side.
Now place the turkey in a 2 and a 1/2 gallon resealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 2 days, turning it onto its breast for the second day.
On the third day, remove the turkey from the bag, place the turkey breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
On the big day, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and place in heated oven.
After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and carefully, using kitchen towels on your hands or oven mitts, turn the turkey over so the breast is facing up. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and return the turkey to the oven.
Roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees. Your total roasting time should be about 2 and 3/4 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board and tent loosely with foil.
Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices settle. Carve and serve.
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen "must-haves" and food news at firstname.lastname@example.org.