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.

Roasted and Mashed Cauliflower

What do you do when you walk into a farm stand and see the most gorgeous, pearly white cauliflower you have ever seen in your life?

winter garden food mennonites

You buy two, ignoring your husband’s raised and questioning eyebrows. They are each ten inches high. He knows there is no room in the fridge, but you can’t help yourself; their color and texture are gorgeous. My mother always said, “Buy what you love and you’ll always find a way to use it.” She was talking about decorating her home and purchasing clothing accessories, but I feel the same way about vegetables.

winter garden food mennonites

I found the cauliflowers at my favorite Mennonite farm stand, Garden Patch Produce located at 1515 Buffalo-Cerulean Road in Cadiz, Kentucky. Do not bother to Google it as this electricity-free community of farmers adds up purchases with tally marks, so you can be sure they don’t subscribe to any form of electronic or print advertising. Note the “Bargain Table” along the back wall. It is full of yesterday’s vegetables at half price. There is no refrigeration in the building, so they don’t sell yesterday’s produce with their fresh produce.

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To Roast, Blanch or Saute the Cauliflower? That is the question.

That is the question I ask when I look at any vegetable when I’m getting ready to cook dinner.

Regardless of which cooking method you choose, you’ll first need to prep the veggie. In this case, after washing the cauliflower, cut it in half and carve out the center core. As you do this, the florets will detach from the stem. You’ll need to chop the large florets in half for even cooking.

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One of the extra-large cauliflowers yielded three pounds of florets. It took two two-pound cauliflowers from Kroger to yield the same amount.

winter garden food mennonites

To Roast Vegetables:
Out of habit, and because it is easier, I decided to roast one of the cauliflowers. I  roast most vegetables in a hot 425º oven for about 30-45 minutes. I season them with these three ingredients that you may recognize from my blog posts A Simple Everyday Salad Dressing and Easy Roasted Salmon.

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  1. Chop the florets so they will all be about the same size for even cooking.
  2. Mix florets in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon each of sea salt and garlic pepper. Toss until florets are well-coated. I tend to be heavy-handed with olive oil, and 1/3 cup is the minimum amount I would typically use.
  3. Bake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 425º for about 40 minutes.  Toss once or twice while roasting to encourage even browning.

Roasted cauliflower should be called Disappearing Cauliflower or Gone in Sixty Seconds Cauliflower. When you roast vegetables at high temperatures like this, they caramelize as they cook and their natural sweetness emerges. It becomes like eating candy; you can’t stop until they are all gone.

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To Blanch Vegetables:
Officially, blanching is a method of cooking vegetables quickly by putting them in a pot of salted, boiling water for a short amount of time and then, if desired,  plunging them into a bowl of ice-cold water, a technique known as “shocking” which halts the cooking process. I hardly ever do the shocking step unless I’ve lost track of time, allowed the vegetables to boil too long, and need to stop them from cooking any longer and changing color to blah.

Why and when would you blanch a vegetable?
1) To retain color. Blanching string beans, for example, “fixes” the color as bright green. Alternatively, if you were to boil them for 15 minutes, they would turn that army green color that may not be as appealing.

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2) To achieve “fork-tender” texture. Blanching cooks vegetables quickly so they don’t get water-logged, mushy and tasteless. Blanched vegetables are usually firm, hold their shape, and if you poke them with a fork, the fork tines will slide in easily indicating doneness.

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3) To loosen the skin off of a vegetable or fruit. Let’s say you want to peel a lot of tomatoes, or peaches, for canning purposes. An easy way to do so would be to boil them and then move them into a cold water bath. The skin will simply blister off.

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4) To prepare vegetables for freezing. Blanching destroys enzymes that cause color, texture and flavor deterioration.

How I Blanch Vegetables
1) Fill a large pot with hot water. You’ll need enough water to cover the vegetables you plan to cook.
2) Add one tablespoon of salt to the water. Bring water to a full rolling boil.
3) Add washed and chopped vegetables, cover, and bring water to a second boil. It could take 3-5 minutes for the water to return to a boil. Once the water returns to a rolling boil, set your timer and cook for one minute.
4) Remove vegetables from heat and drain in a colander. Let vegetables stay in the colander for five minutes. Vegetables will continue to cook as they steam in the colander. The steam will also evaporate the moisture around the vegetables. If you do not wish for the vegetables to continue cooking, shock them in a container of cold water.

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower

I’ve been hearing a lot about mashed cauliflower lately and decided to try making it. I read about five different recipes and came up with my plan. I had to tweak the plan quite a bit to get it to taste right. Let’s just say I now know my chickens like smashed cauliflower!

Ingredients:

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3 pounds blanched cauliflower florets
¼ cup cream cheese with chives and onion, or plain cream cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

Put cooked florets in the food processor. I could only fit about ¾ of the florets in the bowl of my processor. Add olive oil, cheeses, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Process until chunky and then add remaining florets to the mix.

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Process until it looks like mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving 2014

Serve hot. You may need to heat it up before serving as the mixture tends to cool down quite a bit in the food processor. I used cream cheese with onions because I already had it in the refrigerator. You could use plain cream cheese and add chopped herbs instead. I used chopped garlic chives as a garnish.

Make it Whole30

Whole30 has a version of this that includes 1/2 cup of coconut cream instead of other dairy products. Additionally, any Whole30 recipes that call for ghee, I use olive oil instead.

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