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Editor's Note: While Phil is on sabbatical, we bring you encore presentations of some of his favorite columns over the years. Enjoy.
Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair! In the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday, this month I am presenting a new and unique recipe for cooking turkey. I invented this recipe recently and found it to be most pleasing to the palate. Jennifer, my 9 year old daughter, thought it was pretty good too, as she helped herself to 4 servings of the moist, sweet and tender meat! And then, she promptly fell asleep.
Turkey does have the effect of making people sleepy due to the tryptophan it contains. This compound has the effect of making people sleepy, so it is probably not wise to drive a long distance after eating a turkey dinner or eating a turkey sandwich. Parents can use this to their advantage before going out for the evening. Feed the kids lots of turkey before going out and the babysitter will appreciate how well behaved your children were because they went to bed early.
Before we get to the recipes however, I would like to share a picture of a very large salmon that I caught last weekend in the Feather River in Northern California. I estimated its weight to be around 40 pounds, the largest I have caught to date. I cooked it using my recipe for smoked salmon and several who tried it claimed it was the best fish they had ever eaten! I had to agree. This fish was not in prime condition having a condition of fungus and fin rot common to salmon in fresh water, yet the meat was of very good quality. It took about half an hour to land this animal, and even after a formidable fight this fish had enough energy left to bite my fingers and draw a bit of blood. A fair exchange, I would say.
The recipes presented this month are from my yet to be published cookbook, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests. Be well, and good eating!
Now, on to the recipes!
This recipe was inspired by the recipe I use for Peking Duck. I reasoned that if a duck can be made to taste so good by immersing it into a pot of honey water, why not a turkey? I must say that the results were very good. The turkey meat was slightly sweet, very juicy and tender. Everyone who ate it had favorable compliments for the chef, and the leftovers did not last long. I thought that this experiment was a very good success, and it is a recipe worth sharing and worth cooking again.
1 small hen turkey, about 7 to 10 lbs, thawed or fresh
12 oz. raw honey
6 quarts water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup wine
3 additional cups water
2 pats butter
In a large stockpot, mix the 6 quarts of water with the honey and bring to a boil over medium to high heat. Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity of the turkey, rinse, and then carefully immerse the bird into the boiling honey water. Reduce the heat to low and bring the water back to a simmer. Once the water begins to simmer, cover the stock pot and turn off the heat. This can be done a day prior to roasting the bird, if desired.
My busy schedule made it convenient to simmer the bird in the honey water, turn off the heat, and leave it to soak overnight. I roasted the bird the following day after letting the bird dry on the counter for an hour or so. This process of soaking allowed the honey water to penetrate the bird, sweetening the skin and the meat. If you plan to cook the turkey the same day, I would suggest allowing the bird to soak in the honey water for at least and hour after turning off the heat. Then remove it from the honey water and allow it to dry for an hour before roasting.
Honey is a natural preservative. Once the bird is allowed to dry, it will have a honey glaze on the surface that will inhibit the growth of bacteria. Once the bird has had an opportunity to dry, you may stuff it or not, according to your preference. I did not stuff my bird. Salt and pepper the bird to taste.
Preheat the oven to maximum (500 degrees or more) for 15 minutes before putting the bird in the oven. Place the turkey into a roasting pan and put it into the oven uncovered, preheated to maximum, for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 300 degrees F, baste the bird with a pat of butter, pour a cup of wine over the bird and add 3 cups of water to the pan. I used a rather light and mellow Rose for cooking the bird. A white wine such as a chardonnay would also be suitable. I would avoid using a heavy red wine such as burgundy, however a little merlot might add a nice complexity to the flavor of the gravy.
Roast the turkey covered for about 1 hour. Then, remove the cover, add more wine or water if desired, and continue cooking for an additional half hour. Baste with more butter if desired. Finally, remove the bird from the oven and allow it to set for 20 minutes before carving. Allowing the bird to cool down slightly will cause some of the moisture to be reabsorbed into the meat, making the meat very juicy.
The gravy should be prepared from the juices remaining in the pan that the turkey was roasted in, after the turkey has been allowed to set for 20 minutes.
5 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. butter
Pan juices from the turkey roasting pan
A light sprinkling of dried tarragon or marjoram
Prepare a roux by melting the butter with the flour in a large saucepan over medium heat until it is slightly browned. Stir the roux constantly so as not to burn the flour. Gradually add the turkey juice, a little at a time, stirring constantly until all of the juice has been used and the mixture reaches a simmer. If the resulting gravy is not thick enough, mix a little flour or corn starch in a little wine or water and add to the gravy. If the gravy is too thick, add a little water or wine and bring back to a simmer.
These mashed potatoes are not for the diet conscious! However, the richness and flavor of this recipe is worth the indulgence.
Kitchen tip: Rather than peel the potatoes, use a scrubber on the potatoes under cold running water to remove most of the peels and dirt. The peelings contain nutrients that are beneficial to your health unless they are green. Green peels are toxic and should be removed entirely by peeling. You can prevent potatoes from turning green by keeping them away from light.
4 large russet potatoes, Yukon potatoes, or red potatoes (about 4 lbs.)
4 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. cream (whipping cream works fine as long as it is not whipped). You may substitute half and half.
Cut the potatoes into cubes approximately 1/2 inch thick. Place the potatoes into a pot of boiling water and boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. After the potatoes are tender (test by piercing with a fork), drain most of the water and mash, adding the butter and cream. Add just enough milk to obtain a smooth texture and consistency. Mash until the potatoes are lump free.
Serve with gravy as a topping. Enjoy!