Flavorful Turkey's Secret Ingredient


Photo by Regina Charboneau

To try turkey and anchovies, click here for the recipe.

I know you are thinking, "How did she ever come up with anchovies on a turkey?" I have to be honest I have been looking through all my old books and recipes because I cannot remember the exact source, but I do remember the why and how.

Why? I was looking for something besides brining to create a moist, flavorful turkey.

How? At some point at least 20 years ago the idea of cooking a roast goose with anchovies was brought to my attention. The idea behind adding anchovies on top of this typically dry bird was that the salt and oil would baste the bird while cooking. This intrigued me. I cannot remember if it were a French cookbook or from Arlette my French friend and mentor.

Then... I decided to experiment with this concept, and I actually thought the mild flavor of turkey could handle the anchovies more than the wildness of a goose. I have been pleasantly surprised that it worked for both. When you cook the turkey they disintegrate and leave a design. The flavor they add to the gravy is magical. It is not a flavor that grabs you; it is subtle and so rich that you know it is better but you are not sure why. I have never had anyone identify the anchovies, but I have heard on many occasions, "This is the best turkey and gravy I have ever had." I do not want to come away too confident because I never asked where they had turkey in the past...it may have been at Thanksgiving with my mother's side of the family.

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Other turkey tips:

1.) Read the label. Many are pre-brined and have lots of other additives. Pre-brined is fine but beware of what else may be in there. Also remember brining is a salt solution, so be aware to not over salt your turkey. If I have a choice, I buy fresh turkeys, with my recipe I am sharing I do not brine, I have used the same recipe on a frozen, brined turkey and I used less salt because of the salt in the brining and the salt from the anchovies.

2.) if you buy a frozen turkey, the safest and only way to defrost is in the refrigerator. Be aware depending on the size it can take 3 to 5 days to defrost. I never take a risk in thawing out food. I always take the time to thaw in a refrigerator for food safety reasons. Do not wait until the last minute, but plan ahead and plan your timing if you need to defrost a turkey.

3.) I do not stuff my turkey because I always worry about food safety. The dressing needs to be cooked to 165 degrees. The time it takes to get the dressing to that temperature the turkey is over-cooked. If you feel you have to stuff your turkey take care--do not stuff it until you are ready to put it into the oven and make sure you cook it until your stuffing is 165 degrees.

4.) I prefer about an 18 lb turkey. I rarely go over 22 pounds for a turkey. I would rather two medium size turkeys than a huge one.

5.) Always let your turkey rest at least a half hour after removing from the oven before you carve it. The juices redistribute as it slightly cools and the turkey will carve much easier if it is moist.

6.) I always plan on 2 pounds per person because if you want to be a perfect host you send some home with your guests for a turkey sandwich. Is that not the best part of Thanksgiving, the turkey sandwich later that night?

Recipe: Twin Oaks Roast Turkey with Anchovies