Thanksgiving is a big day for anyone who loves to cook, or just those who are enthusiastic eaters. Chefs find that their friends and families have high expectations on turkey day. Eddie Merlot’s is closed for Thanksgiving, so our staff and chefs are home for the day, likely cooking up a storm.
We asked our chefs to share a few tips and stories for cooking a fabulous turkey. Bryan Hopping, Executive Chef of our Cincinnati location, told us he’s only expecting a handful of family at his home, so he’s considering an alternative meal: grilled salmon with herbs with potatoes. The potatoes will be sliced, layered with onions and wrapped in foil for cooking on the grill. “That’s a method of cooking my dad came up with,” Bryan tells us. “The potatoes cook very nicely on the grill.”
For turkey, he has a few tips. First, mash together a mixture of butter, garlic, and herbs, and tuck it under the skin of the turkey, along with prosciutto, for a moist, juicy turkey that cooks up nicely and browns evenly. The prosciutto adds extra flavor and texture to the turkey.
He also suggests buying two small turkeys instead of one large turkey if you’re feeding a big crowd. Extremely large turkeys are difficult to cook evenly, as the breast meat dries out before the rest of the turkey cooks. If you do cook a large bird, consider slicing off the breast when it is fully cooked, setting that aside and keeping it warm until the rest of the bird is done.
Executive Chef Anthony Lusiak of our Louisville location says he plans to cook two 17-pound turkeys for his Thanksgiving dinner, which may bring as many as 30 people to his home. One turkey will be brined, which is marinating it overnight in a bath of water, sugar, salt and herbs. To create the brine, boil the water and mix with the sugar, salt and herbs. Put ice in the mixture after the sugar and salt are fully dissolved to cool it down, and place the turkey in it as least overnight, but possibly as long as 24 hours.
The second turkey Tony plans to debone, stuff and roll up. He says he has deboned a turkey once, and it went well, but it is a difficult process. The concept, he says, is to create one large piece of turkey that is mostly flat. Stuffing is laid across it, and it is rolled and baked.
Tony’s top turkey tip: Don’t go with the pop-up thermometer that comes in the turkey. “Use a meat thermometer,” Tony says. “Cook it to 165 degrees. Put the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.”
We invite you to share your best turkey tips in the comments section. Tell us what you plan to make on Thanksgiving. Recipes welcome, too.