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What to do with this turkey? Please help the vegetarian!

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We came home from a night at my husband's sister's house (where we all sang Christmas Carols around the piano,) to find presents and a bag of food on our door. In the bag of food was a turkey.

Help! I have no idea what to do with this thing. I've been a vegetarian for 14 years, and while I've cooked the occasional chicken breast or hamburger for my family, I've never done a whole turkey. My husband put it in the fridge last night when we got home. How long can it stay there till it's thawed? How should I cook it? Anyone have any delicious no-fail recipes that they want to share? Ones that don't need the cook to taste them... ;) (Although I'm sure my husband will be more than happy to do that part for me.)

About the only thing I can help you with is the thawing part.  In the refrigerator, it'll take about 4 days to thaw completely.  You could probably use it after thawing for only 3 days, but you might have to give it a soak in cool salted water for an hour or so before hand.

This is the recipe I use to roast a turkey.  I always cook a smallish (11-13lb) bird.  It's simple and it makes a nice juicy bird.  People say soaking the turkey in brine will make a juicier bird but I've never done it so I can't say.  I never stuff my turkey either so if you do that it will need to cook a bit longer.  I'm also adding some tips on carving that I used this year. 

Herb Roasted Turkey
1 (12 pound) whole turkey
3/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can Roasted Garlic Chicken Broth
1 cups water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Take the giblets out of the turkey and rinse it with water.  Place in a roasting pan - breast side up.  (I feed the giblets to the dog, you may want to cook them for the gravy but I can't help with that)

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic powder, dried basil, ground sage, salt, and black pepper. Using a basting brush, apply the mixture to the outside of the uncooked turkey. Pour chicken broth and water into the bottom of the roasting pan, and cover.  My roasting pan doesn't have a lid so I just use aluminum foil.   

Bake for 2 hrs, remove the foil to allow the bird to get a nice golden brown, brush with the herb oil mixure again, bake another 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh measures 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove bird from oven, and allow to stand for about 30 minutes before carving.

Carving a Turkey
By:   Allrecipes Staff
While nothing is as impressive as a beautiful, bronzed turkey on the holiday buffet, it's much easier to carve the bird in the kitchen than at the table. These easy-to-follow steps take that turkey from centerpiece perfection to neat slices on your serving platter.

Sit Tight
Once the bird is removed from the oven, it should stand for 20 to 35 minutes, depending on its size. This gives the proteins time to relax and allows the juices to redistribute throughout the bird, resulting in succulent slices of meat. Before you begin carving, have a warm serving platter ready.

Legs First
Arrange the turkey, breast side up, on a cutting board. Steady the turkey with a carving fork. Using a sharp knife, slice through the meat between the breast and the leg. Next, using a large knife as an aid, press the thigh outward to find the hip joint. Slice down through the joint and remove the leg. Cut between the thigh bone and drumstick bone to divide the leg into one thigh piece and one drumstick. To carve the drumstick, steady it with a carving fork and cut a thick slice of meat from one side, along the bone. Next, turn the drumstick over so that the cut side faces down. Cut off another thick slice of meat. Repeat, turning the drumstick onto a flat side and cutting off meat, carving a total of four thick slices. To slice the thigh, place it flat side down on a cutting board. Steady the thigh with a carving fork. With a knife, cut parallel to the bone and slice off the meat. Be sure to place all the cuts on the warmed serving platter as you work.

Wings Take Off
Before you carve the breast, the wings must be removed. Slice diagonally down through the edge of the breast toward the wing. Using a knife as an aid, press the wing out to find the shoulder joint; cut through the joint and remove the wing. Place the wing on the serving platter as is.

Carve the Breast
To carve the breast meat, hold the back of the carving fork against the breastbone. Starting parallel to the breastbone, slice diagonally through the meat. Lift off each slice, holding it between the knife and fork, and layer them on the warm serving platter. Continue until you have carved all the meat on one side of the breast. Carve the other side of breast in the same fashion. And let the feasting begin!

Oh Thank you for your recipe!!  This is my first year doing turkey dinner- and first ever turkey I've cooked.  I've been avoiding getting a recipe because I'm worried.  My turkey is 12 lbs too, so it works!

My only question, you briefly mentioned stuffing and I don't want to poisin any of my family, but I LOVE stuffing in the bird.  You mentioned cook it longer, how much longer do you cook a turkey with stuffing?

I have a meat thermometer and I've heard that you make sure that the stuffing is the same temperature as the turkey (when the turkey is considered "done"- cannot remember off hand the degrees.)

Tricia- let us know how you did!

If you allow the bird to sit too long before carving you will need to nuke the slices to insure that it's served hot.  In my opinion there is nothing worse than food served cold that should be hot.

As for stuffing, the one thing to remember is to remove it from the cavity of the bird as soon as you take the bird out of the oven.  I think most turkeys have instructions as to how much oven time to add if you stuff it.

I don't remember because it's been far too long since I did this myself.


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