The woman who allayed our fears of French cooking with the landmark "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" is back in video form to tell us that stuffing, trussing and roasting a turkey isn't as onerous a task as you might imagine.
And in "The Way to Cook Poultry" (Knopf Video Books), one of six recently released cooking videos starring Julia Child, she'll be with you every step of the way, from cleaning the bird to removing it from the oven, from stock making to gravy ladling.
You all but expect her to sit down for dinner.
The video, an easy-to-follow crash course in the basics, could almost replace the wisdom of Mom. And it's chock full of sound advice for first-time turkey roasters. Among other things, Child tells us:
Use oil, not butter, to grease the bird, and oil the rack on which the turkey is placed to avoid having the bird stick.
Start stuffing at the neck end by placing the bird upright in a large bowl and filling the cavity. Skewer the skin flap to the bird and turn the bird upside down and fill with remaining stuffing (Child cautions not to overstuff, as the stuffing swells during cooking). Remove from the bowl, and place a heel of bread or a piece of foil over the exposed cavity.
It is essential to truss the bird -- "It looks messy with its legs flopping around."
Start to baste the turkey 20 minutes into the cooking time, and keep checking, basting about every half hour, but rapidly so as to prevent the oven from cooling.
To "deglaze" is simply to add turkey stock to the roasting pan, allow it to come to a boil, and scrape up bits of brown from the pan.
To "degrease" the turkey stock, tilt the roasting pan and skim the top layer of fat from the liquid.
For more flavorful gravy, put the cooked vegetables in a strainer, and with your hand, or the back of a wooden spoon, press the mixture to extract remaining juices.
When mixing the port and cornstarch for the gravy making, be sure that the liquid is cold, or the combination will lump. (This holds true for any liquid mixed with the thickener.)
The following recipe for roast stuffed turkey is an answer to the question Child poses about her bird in the video's introduction -- "Gosh, what am I going to do with that?" JULIA CHILD'S ROAST STUFFED TURKEY (12 servings)
FOR THE STUFFING:
1/2 pound (1 cup) sausage meat
2 cups each chopped onions and celery
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 cups fresh white bread crumbs, toasted lightly and tossed with 4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon or more sage
Oil for basting turkey (about 1/4 cup)
1 cup each roughly chopped carrots and onions
1 teaspoon butter
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons port
To prepare the turkey: Remove fat, giblets and neck from cavities of turkey. Cut off elbow nubbins.
To prepare turkey stock: Place neck, gizzard, heart and nubbins in water to cover by 1 inch and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain, degrease and refrigerate. You will want 3 cups -- add chicken stock if necessary.
For the stuffing: In a frying pan, brown sausage meat lightly. Remove it, leaving fat in pan; add the onions and saute' until tender; stir in celery and cook 2 to 3 minutes. In a big bowl, mix onions and celery with the sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and sage. Taste and correct the seasoning. Stuff turkey cavities; truss; rub turkey with oil.
To roast: Place the turkey, breast side up, on an oiled rack in a roasting pan, and place in a 325-degree oven. Baste every 30 minutes with oil, then with pan juices. After 3 hours, strew chopped carrots and onions in the bottom of pan. Turkey is done when an instant meat thermometer, inserted through the thickest part of the breast, registers 180 to 185 degrees. Remove turkey and let it rest before carving.
To make the gravy: When gizzard is tender, remove it from the stock; peel and chop it. Saute' liver briefly in butter and chop. Add chopped gizzard to pan with liver and saute' 30 seconds. Reserve. Degrease turkey roasting pan, pour in the 3 cups turkey stock and boil several minutes, scraping up brown bits. Strain, pressing juices out of vegetables. Degrease again. Mix cornstarch with port; whisk into hot stock. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in saute'ed giblets and liver, heat through and correct seasoning.
For most of us, turkey roasting is a once- or twice-a-year experience. Hence, back to the beginning with the following primer on everything you need to know about selecting and preparing this year's fowl, plus a few safety tips from the experts: Buying
Turkey is becoming more and more a year-round meat as consumers discover that turkey doesn't have to be purchased whole: half turkeys, ground turkey, turkey cutlets and turkey tenderloin are all suitable options for single or small-group purchases. Moreover, notes Julie Kesteloot, consumer affairs specialist with the National Turkey Federation in Reston, 60 percent of all turkeys produced are sold in the first three quarters of the year.
This year's turkey prices are expected to be "no more, no less" than last year's, says Kesteloot. Local prices, according to chain stores, will range from 89 cents to $1.09 per pound for frozen, depending upon grade and brand, and from $1.09 to $1.39 for fresh.
Alternatively, at least one local market is offering fresh organic (free-ranging) birds for sale. Hugo's Market, located at 3813-3817 Livingston St. NW, is accepting orders for the Pennsylvania farm-raised turkeys through Saturday, for pick-up on Nov. 27. No phone orders will be accepted, and all orders require a $10 deposit. The turkeys cost $1.99 per pound for all sizes. Storing
If you decide to cook a fresh bird, then buy it no more than 2 days before you plan to cook it, and immediately refrigerate it at 40 degrees or below. Frozen turkeys can be stored up to a year in a freezer without much quality depreciation, although turkey parts should be used within six months of storing. Frozen pre-stuffed birds should be kept frozen until cooking time, as bacteria can develop if the bird has a chance to thaw. Thawing
It's important to keep the turkey cold while it thaws. There are two methods of thawing fresh turkeys, the more preferable being in the refrigerator. Simply place the wrapped turkey in a pan large enough to keep the water accumulation from spilling over. The USDA recommends allowing 1-2 days for 8-12 pound birds to thaw, 2-3 days for 12-16 pounders, 3-4 days for 16-20 pounders and 4-5 days for 20-25 pounders.
Alternatively, one can place the wrapped frozen turkey in a cold water bath and change the water every 30 minutes. Using this method, the thawing time is 4-6 hours for 8-12 pound birds, 6-9 hours for 12-16 pound birds, 9-11 hours for 16-20 pounders and 11-12 hours for 20-24 pounders. Washing
Remove the neck and giblets and carefully wash inside and out with cold water. Drain well and pat dry. Salt and pepper the inside of the bird. Wash your hands after touching the bird, and remember to keep utensils clean throughout the cooking process. Stuffing
There are two ways to handle stuffing. One method is to bake it in a greased and covered casserole dish for the last hour the turkey cooks. This option entails less mess and less cooking time for the turkey. The other alternative is to pack the cavity loosely by hand and close the opening with a skewer, toothpicks or a clean piece of string, or cover the opening with the heel of a loaf of bread. Do not stuff the bird in advance to save time; that creates a breeding ground for bacteria. If you wish to get as much work done as possible in advance, assemble the dry and wet ingredients separately the night before, making sure to refrigerate the latter, and combine them just before stuffing the turkey the next day. Allow 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Roasting
In a shallow roasting pan, place the turkey breast side up, and brush the surface with a coating of cooking oil or butter if desired. To avoid overbrowning and to promote heat circulation, cover the bird with a tent made of foil, crimping the edges loosely on the sides of the pan. Poke a meat thermometer through the foil and into the thickest part of the thigh muscle. The turkey is done once the temperature reaches 180 to 185 degrees here. (Stuffing temperature should be at least 160-165 degrees.) Another way to check doneness is to press the meat of the drumstick between your fingers -- the meat should feel very soft.
To brown the turkey, remove the foil 20 to 30 minutes before the cooking time is finished. Basting is not necessary using this method.
Use the accompanying guide to roast your turkey (in a 325-degree oven). Let the turkey rest, covered with foil, at least 20 minutes before carving. Leftovers
Turkey and stuffing should be allowed to remain standing no more than two hours from the time they're removed from the oven. And be sure to remove remaining stuffing from the turkey as soon as possible. Store large portions of leftovers in small quantities in shallow covered containers. Turkey leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator no more than 3-4 days. Stuffing and gravy leftovers should be used within 1-2 days. Added Tips
Assistance is just a post card or a phone call away for anxious first-time roasters -- or anyone with a question about buying, cooking or storing a turkey.
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: 447-3333 (local calls) or toll free 1-800-535-4555. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday (except holidays), throughout the year. To obtain a free copy of "Talking About Turkey" write (do not call) Meat and Poultry Hotline, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, Room 1165 South, Washington, D.C. 20250.
Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: 1-800-323-4848. Questions will be answered Nov. 4-Dec. 24, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Buying suggestions, cooking tips and leftover ideas are also offered the two weekends preceding Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. "Butterball Answers Holiday Cooks," a free booklet featuring instructions for alternative roasting methods for turkeys (microwave, grilling, smoker-cooker, clay pot, convection ovens) and recipes for using leftovers, is available by calling the above number or sending a post card with your name and address to "Butterball Answers Holiday Cooks," Beatrice Meats, Inc., 4100 South Laflin St., Chicago, Ill. 60609.
Cooperative Extension Services: These phone numbers are listed under county government or state university in the phone book. Call your area extension service for questions regarding the handling and storage of food, as well as nutritional content.