How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Different times call for different measures.

This year we do not need this 18-pound centerpiece for the table.

In fact, being #saferathome means my husband and I will be on our own for the Thanksgiving meal. And I am okay with that. If the pandemic has taught me one thing, it is how to manage my expectations.

Meanwhile, we still need 8-quarts of poultry stock and 7 pounds of turkey meat to make our twenty-quart pot of Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage GumboMy adult children and their families look forward to getting their Thanksgiving gumbo in to-go containers every year and it is my pleasure and honor to do this for them. It is my family I am most thankful for in my life.

Since it is 2020 and we have been trying all sorts of new things in every aspect of our lives, I decided it was as good a time as ever for my husband and me to try our hand at spatchcocking a turkey. He was game!

What does spatchcock mean and why do we do it? Spatchcock is a butchering technique where you remove the backbone of poultry. This allows you to open and flatten the chest cavity for faster and more even roasting.

When the bird is turned over, it looks like this.

I cooked this turkey in a 400º oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The meat was super moist and the skin was crisp.

The bird weighed 16.5 pounds to start. Once I removed the innards, the wingtips, and the backbone, it weighed 13.5 pounds. After it was roasted and my sweet husband took all the meat off the bones, we had 7 pounds of meat. Each breast provided us with two pounds. The bones all went into the poultry stock that had been simmering all day. I started the stock with frozen rotisserie chicken carcasses from the freezer. Read about that here.

How to spatchcock a turkey.

A Mennonite farmer once told us any job is possible if you have the proper tool. The proper tool for this job is a pair of poultry shears. This is crazy, but we had a pair of these shears in our house and I never knew what they were for. In fact, I almost got rid of them because they were not good at cutting paper when I couldn’t find the scissors I wanted!

Poultry shears have sharp, curved blades helpful for getting into hard to reach places when deboning meat. They remind me of pruning shears – the handles help you get a good grip so you can squeeze down hard as you cut. Plain scissors will work, but there will be a little more huffing and puffing involved.

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Defrost the bird. Remove the neck and gizzards from inside the two cavities, one on each end of the turkey. Wash the bird inside and out. Pat dry.

Lay the bird breast-side down. The wings should be on top.

Remove the backbone with poultry shears. First, one side of the spine

and then the other. CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!

Save the backbone for the turkey stock.

Flip the bird over and press down on the sternum, aka the breastbone, located between the breasts, as if to do CPR. Repeat, moving your hands down along the sternum, until you no longer hear crunching as you press.

We practiced spatchcocking two different sized turkeys during the week. The smaller one splayed out flatly with just the chest compressions. The larger one needed a little more help to flatten it. My husband turned the breast over and used a meat cleaver to cut into the sternum to split the chest open a little more.

 

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How to Cook the Bird 

We cooked one in the oven and the other on the grill. I’ll show you the oven method first.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Arrange the bird on a roasting pan. Rub olive oil all over it, top and bottom, and season with a generous amount of salt and garlic pepper. I use McCormick’s Garlic Pepper.

The hottest part of an oven is the two back corners. Place the roasting pan in the oven, so the thick breasts are in the back.

I cooked the bird for an hour and fifteen minutes and then started checking the meat’s temperature every ten minutes. I checked the temperature in many spots — the thickest part of the breast, the thickest part of the thigh, etc. As long as every section registers at least 165º the turkey is safely cooked. I shoot for 160º because, after many years of cooking, I understand the concept of “carryover” heat and know that as the turkey rests, the internal temperature will climb to 165º. The concept is well described in this post.

I let the turkey rest on the counter for about 30 minutes and then poured off and saved the drippings for my poultry stock.

Before I added the drippings to the stock, I poured them into a fat separator to remove the fat.

When my husband and I spatchcocked the other turkey earlier in the week, we cooked it on a grill using indirect heat.

Don’t ask me what got into me; all that frilly seasoning was unnecessary! The flavor profile was a FAIL; too sagey and lemony.

Having said that, it sure was fun to decorate!

And it sounded lovely in all of its crackly glory as it roasted in the grill.

 

That turkey was 13.5 pounds before I opened the sack. It was done in 75 minutes. It was as moist as the oven-roasted turkey.

So, that is the end of my spatchcocking saga. I’ve got my eight quarts of gelatinous poultry stock and seven pounds of turkey meat.

Later this week, I will gather all the ingredients for Bruce’s gumbo and get busy chopping. For now, I’ll rest on my laurels

knowing this is in my future.

The recipe that is trending on my blog this morning is Karen’s Foolproof Make-Ahead GravyIt is delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I am grateful to all the folks who read my blog, make the recipes, and write to share their experiences. Thank you. You give me joy!

If you need last-minute instructions on how to cook a few traditional sides and desserts for Thanksgiving, check out Thanksgiving Week on the Menu.

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

Last Ditch before You Pitch Rotisserie Chicken Soup

Over the last two weeks, I have had my annual late winter/early spring allergies and dramatic cough that happen when trees start to bud in Nashville. I have socially distanced myself this time around because, you know, coronavirus. This self-imposed quarantine has been hard to maintain because of an F4 tornado that came through Middle Tennessee. I am someone who looks to be helpful. I have been a disaster nurse for the Nashville Chapter of the Red Cross since 2005 in the aftermath of Katrina. I have worked in shelters all over Middle-Tennessee with other tornadoes. But last week, with a persistent cough, I could not be a nurse or a cook (at The Nashville Food Project ).

I find soup to be infinitely satisfying when I get to feeling like this.

I have been known to eat a bowl of homemade soup over brown rice or pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I don’t feel well. As such, every morning, I dug through our garage freezer chest, past all the cookies and quart containers of marinara, to get to my beloved stash of frozen pasta e fagioli, Aunt Bridget’s soup, Portuguese kale soupturkey gumbo (too spicey to qualify for sick soup), roasted butternut squash, and duck stew. Eventually, my husband and I finished all of them. We were plum out of soup.

Looking in the refrigerator, I spied this lone, half-eaten rotisserie chicken.

Five years ago, I would have pitched it after four days. A few days ago, it became a colorful bowl of flavorful, healthy soup.

I’m going to show you how I made the soup, in pictures, with links at the end that describe in detail how you can do it. There will be answers to questions like, Why do you put vinegar in it? And, Where’s the salt? One thing I do want to say is if you make this soup, please double-strain the stock to get rid of small bones.

[So many people have called about how to make this soup. Refer to this post for details: Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones. Tip 1: add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to the water for one carcass. The vinegar helps draw the collagen out of the bones. Use more vinegar if making a large pot. Tip 2: do not bring the stock to a rolling boil. Hard boiling makes the broth cloudy. Tip 3: for a golden-colored broth, use yellow onions, not red onions.]

A Pot of Last Ditch before You Pitch Chicken Soup — in Pictures

Yield: about 6 servings

   

Making Large Quantities of Chicken Stock
I am very into the concept of zero food waste; I typically throw finished rotisserie chickens into a storage bag I keep in the freezer. When I get 4 or 5 carcasses, I cook the stew out of them for twelve hours and freeze the strained stock in quart containers.

Here are the recipes that describe how to do that:
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited

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Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Sheet Pan Supper: Butternut Squash Soup

A week after Thanksgiving, I was growing weary of looking at the winter squashes that had been staring at me from the windowsill for over a month. I initially put them there to inspire me to make a clever Thanksgiving centerpiece, but instead, they became a constant reminder that I had never gotten around to decorating with them. Or cooking them. I was over squash.

The question was, do I cook them, freeze them, or put them in the compost where my chickens could happily devour them over the winter? That’s one of the nice things about having chickens, they are the ultimate assuagers of guilt. If you don’t get around to eating food, the chickens are ready to step in — and they give you eggs for the trouble.

In the end, I roasted a variety of squashes, scooped out the flesh, and froze it.

Recently, I had a marvelous lunch with a few girlfriends. Each of them ordered butternut squash soup. I took a taste. It was delicious. I decided I would make butternut squash soup with the frozen squash. I had a rich homemade Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones in the freezer to use for the broth.

Yield: 12 cups of a hearty soup. You could have more volume by thinning the soup with extra chicken broth.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, roughly diced (3 cups or 1 pound)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped
4 pounds (7 cups) roasted winter squash (see directions below)
2 quarts (8 cups) no salt added chicken broth.
Salt and pepper to taste

Mise en Place

To Roast Squash:
To make this soup, you will need to roast the winter squash first. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. I used acorn, butternut and Seminole pumpkin squashes. As described in this post, microwave the butternut squash to make it easier to slice.
 

Use a silicone basting brush to swab the squash halves with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, garlic pepper, and“Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 425º oven. Cook for one hour.

Let cool for another hour and remove the skin and any remaining stringy pulp. I packed and froze the cooked squash.
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To Make Soup:
I had never made squash soup before but started by doing what I always did when making soup, I sautéed onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until they became soft and translucent – about 15 minutes.

Next, I added the mushy roasted veggies. If you desire a hearty soup, as I did, there is no need to puree the squash first. If you are looking for a daintier soup, or one with a more uniform consistency, purée the squash.

Stir in the broth and bring the soup to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste before serving. I only needed to add one teaspoon of salt and no pepper because the roasted vegetables I used had already been well-seasoned.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. You could add curry or ginger powder if you want to add more flavor, but I love the robust taste of roasted veggies.

My new seasonal windowsill.

Related Posts
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
Mrs. Lombard’s Portuguese Kale Soup (aka Caldo Verde)
Pasta e Fagioli, aka Pasta and Bean Soup

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Mrs. Lombard’s Portuguese Kale Soup

If I were to play a word-association game with my brothers about the elderly babysitters we had growing up in the Sixties in Bay View, our beloved, bucolic coastal neighborhood in Massachusetts, it would go like this:

Sting (sic) Bean Casserole”: Mrs. DeMers
She was elderly, gentle, and lived across the road from us. Her voice was thin and wispy just like she.

“Mulligan Stew”: Mrs. Townsend
She and Mr. Towsend were retired, very Irish, and lived next door. It seemed like she always had a pot of mulligan stew simmering on the stove. Mulligan stew is a beef and vegetable stew similar to burgoo. If we got locked out of the house, the Townsends had the spare key.

“Kale Soup”: Mrs. Lombard
Mrs. Lombard was Portuguese, retired, and had buried three husbands by the time she came to live with us as a housekeeper and babysitter. She stayed with us on weekdays and went to her own home on weekends.

She arrived at our house on the heels of many promising live-in sitters who lasted only a few days. Apparently, five children were a lot to manage. Not so for Mrs. Lombard. She drove up our driveway in her silver-green 1953 Chrysler New Yorker land yacht with her strong, solid build and pinned-up long dark hair, fully confident in her ability to wrangle up and care for our large family.

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Mrs. Lombard was tough and her unfiltered comments to us kids and our friends were legendary. For example, my brothers’ socks were so dirty they “stood up by themselves,” and I had “male nails,” short and wide fingernails that would “always be that way.” Sadly, she was right about that. She was our Mrs. Doubtfire. She kept us in line and took care of our hard-working mother, too. The last time I saw her was at my wedding. She was in her nineties. It was lovely to be in her presence, to hear her voice again, and to know she was still full of vim and vigor.

The only meal I remember Mrs. Lombard ever making for us was kale soup, also known as caldo verde (green broth). I can still see the tall Revere soup pot on the stove filled to the brim with knobs of white potatoes bobbing in and out of a sea of dark-green kale. The broth was tinged with orange from the juice of the linguica sausage. I have worked for years to recreate this beautiful, tasty soup and finally figured it out by reading through many versions of it in my mother’s vintage collection of plastic spiral-bound community cookbooks from that geographical area and time period.

Kale Soup

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A few words about ingredients:

The key ingredient in kale soup is a smoke-cured Portuguese sausage called Linguica (lin-gwee-sah). Linguica is made with pork and paprika, garlic, pepper, and sometimes cinnamon, coriander or cumin. There is another Portuguese sausage that is very similar called chouriço (not the same as chorizo, a Mexican sausage). In the absence of linguica, I would use either chouriço or andouille. Or, and I have done this before, use a spicy Italian sausage and make it an Italian Kale Soup.

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I suggest using unsalted chicken broth instead of a salted broth. The linguica brings plenty of saltiness of its own. Too much salt can quickly make this soup go from tasting delicious to tasting like a briny bath of sea water. Carefully add salt to taste.

If you are using a fresh bunch of kale, prepare it the same way I prepped the collards for this recipe only cut the logs of kale into two-inch wide slices. I would not use young leaves of kale as they will disintegrate too quickly when cooked. Some people prefer their caldo verde with collards. That works just as well. Occasionally, I add a half cup of chopped cilantro or parsley to the soup during the last minute of cooking, for more flavor and to make the broth greener.

Lastly, many cooks from our area of the southeastern coast of Massachusetts add a pound of lima beans to the soup. I enjoy that, as well, but I’ve come to prefer the simple and pure flavor of just the kale, potatoes and sausage.

Yield: 4 quarts

Ingredients:
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⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound linguica smoked sausage, sliced (sold locally at Publix)
1 medium onion (2 cups or ½ pound), peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5 cups or 2 pounds), unpeeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups unsalted chicken broth
4 cups hot water
1 pound kale, chopped into 2-inch pieces (could substitute collards)
Add more sea salt and black pepper to taste
½ cup cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)

Mise en Place:

Rinse and dry linguica sausages. Slice into bite-sized pieces.
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Prep onions and garlic as described and set aside. Prep potatoes into bite-sized chunks and set aside. Gold potatoes hold their shape better than white potatoes and have a nice buttery taste, so I suggest using them.

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Instructions:

Coat bottom of a six-quart sauté pan with olive oil. Add linguica to warmed oil and sauté for about three minutes on medium-high heat. Avoid overcooking the linguica which makes it leathery and tasteless.

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Use a serrated spoon to remove sausage into a small bowl. Set aside meat.

Add onions and garlic into the linguica flavored oil that remains. Sauté for five minutes over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.

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Add the potatoes, broth, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for ten minutes.

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Remove 1 cup of potatoes and 1 cup of broth from the pan and put them in a food processor. Purée for about 15 seconds until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

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Add four cups of hot water to the potatoes in the sauté pan and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, add about half the kale to the pan. Stir it down. As the kale collapses, continuing adding more kale until it all fits in the pan. Add the puréed potatoes and the linguica and stir everything together.

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Simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat. The soup will taste equally delicious the next day. I’ve never tried freezing it.

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Serve with a nice crusty bread.

Other great soups:
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.