Here is Mark Bittman’s 45 minute roast turkey recipe from the New York Times Archives. I have made it several times and can vouch for it. I am also attaching the video because he is quite the performer in a slightly cranky, benevolent, minimalist East Coast way. Basically you are roasting a small to medium turkey that has been butterflied. You can get the butcher to do it or if you want you can do it yourself as Mark shows in the video with a sharp knife or as I do, with kitchen scissors or shears.
I have one request though, if you are using my site to cook a turkey then I want you to make sure you DO NOT buy one of those factory farmed turkeys. My first Thanksgiving in the US I was volunteered to cook a Turkey for a large gathering and had recently read in the Bay Guardian or SF Weekly about the horrors of factory farmed turkeys. On top of all the other reasons you can read about in subsequent discussions of factory farming (Michael Pollan, Food Inc., just to name a couple) I was horrified to discover that since there was a much stronger demand for “light meat” (ie the breast of the turkey) rather than “dark” thighs and legs, they bred the turkeys so they were massively buxom and couldn’t even stand up on their little legs.)
SO PLEASE: No sad or mystery meat!!!!! (Thanks to Roxan McDonald of Santa Cruz for this very handy description of the kind of meat eaters we are). Make sure your turkey has been ethically raised in pasture (is that paddock in Australia?) so it can eat grass, bugs and grubs and live a normal turkey life before it is killed for food. Organic is good (then you aren’t eating GMO corn or antibiotics for growth etc.) and if you know who raised it and can ask questions, even better. I have bought Diestel’s in California and from my butcher Darren and his sister Kylie in Thirroul, NSW.
Oh and if you want to read about how people in the US came to call poultry “light and dark meat” and use all kinds of other euphemisms, go to this TCL post, it’s hilarious: The Golden Age of Euphemisms. I researched it especially for this turkey post 🙂
THE MINIMALIST; Turning Your Slow-Lane Turkey Into a Roadrunner
IT’S almost a given that both time and oven space are at a premium on Thanksgiving. Both of those problems are caused by the same animal: the turkey. With an average cooking time of three hours and a size that fills even a big oven, turkey can be trouble.
Yet it’s hard to argue with tradition. Otherwise sophisticated cooks remain wedded to canned sweet potatoes with marshmallows, packaged stuffing and canned cranberry sauce. Trying to wean them from the turkey to something equally festive but more flavorful (capon, goose, pork roast and standing rib all come to mind) is akin to trying to sell a tofu dog at Yankee Stadium: there will be takers, but don’t bet against the norm.
There is at least one way, however, to cut the cooking time of the average turkey by about 75 percent while still presenting an attractive bird. That is to split it down the middle before roasting. The technique, commonly used with chickens (and sometimes called spatchcocking), is simple. You turn the bird backside up and use a sharp, sturdy knife to cut along both sides of the backbone, where it meets the ribs. The bones there are thin enough for the process to be easy and straightforward, and it usually takes less than five minutes. Turn the bird over, press on the breastbone, and you’ve reduced an eight-inch-high monster to something under four inches (you can even roast the turkey on one oven rack and something else, simultaneously, on the other).
You’ve also exposed the legs, which need more cooking than the breasts, to more heat — you’ll notice how they stick out — and allowed the wings to shield the breast. Roasted at 450 degrees (with the heat moderated if the bird browns too fast), a 10-pound bird will be done in about 45 minutes. Really. It will also be more evenly browned (all of the skin is exposed to the heat), more evenly cooked, and moister than birds cooked conventionally.
This method of roasting precludes stuffing the turkey. (Because I’ve long maintained that stuffing is best cooked outside of the bird, where it can become crisp, rather than inside, where it is mushy, this is hardly a disadvantage.) You can still make a great pan gravy:
First, pour off all but a few tablespoons of the fat from the turkey’s roasting pan. Leave as many of the solids and as much of the dark juices behind as possible. Place the roasting pan over high heat (use two burners if necessary) and add about three cups of stock. Bring to a boil, stirring, then turn the heat to low. If you want a thick gravy, stir in a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch blended with an equal amount of cold water (if that doesn’t thicken it to your liking, repeat). Simmer while you carve the bird, and stir in a little butter if you like.
Some people will balk at the inclusion of garlic in the recipe here, but the turkey must derive its flavor from something. And I might suggest a couple of possible variations:
You can roast a mixture of vegetables — diced carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes, turnips or a combination are all good — beneath the bird. Or you can substitute a couple of tablespoons of finely minced ginger, a bunch or two of chopped scallions and a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce for the tarragon.
But perhaps this is too heretical. You’ll already be presenting a bird with a surprising new look.
45-MINUTE ROAST TURKEY
1 8- to 12-pound turkey
10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed, more to taste
1 branch fresh tarragon or thyme separated into sprigs, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or tarragon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper to taste.
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put turkey on a stable cutting board breast side down and cut out backbone. Turn turkey over, and press on it to flatten. Put it, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Wings should partly cover breasts, and legs should protrude a bit.
2. Tuck garlic and tarragon under the bird and in the nooks of the wings and legs. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Roast for 20 minutes, undisturbed. Turkey should be browning. Remove from oven, baste with pan juices, and return to oven. Reduce heat to 400 degrees (if turkey browns too quickly, reduce temperature to 350 degrees).
4. Begin to check turkey’s temperature about 15 minutes later (10 minutes if bird is on the small side). It is done when thigh meat registers 165 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer. Check it in a couple of places.
5. Let turkey rest for a few minutes before carving, then serve with garlic cloves and pan juices.
Yield: At least 10 servings.