Adventures in Spatchcocking a Turkey

I was intrigued. I am not a Thanksgiving turkey lover. Dry bird, more sides, please. Bon Appetit promised the best bird ever in 90 minutes. Could it be? Could I actually run the town Turkey Trot in the morning and host Thanksgiving all in the same day? (I've always aspired to do this, but have never been organized enough to make it happen.) I decided to give it a pre-Thanksgiving whirl. I'm not one for experiments on game day, so I thought I would trial the method before deciding if I could pull it off before the in-laws arrive. 

I am a spatchcocking rookie. Never heard of it or done it before now. First, I did my research: studied diagrams, watched videos. I purchased new (sharp) kitchen shears because I was pretty sure my spatchcocking adventures would end up in the ER if given a chef's knife to break turkey bones. Next year I will own poultry shears, but I could not secure any at nearby stores.

It really was pretty easy. With breasts down, I took the shears and cut through the little bones on either side of the backbone, and then removed it. I then flipped the bird over (and in all honesty got up on top of my island on my knees for more leverage), and pressed my palms firmly down on the center bone in between the breasts until hearing/feeling bones crack. It sounds terrible when writing it, but it really just flattens the bird to increase the surface area for cooking ( for juicy meat, crispy skin).

Then I chopped up onions, crushed garlic and prepared a roasting pan. I laid the bird over the prepared pan, doused it in olive oil, tucked garlic and rosemary into all the available crevices, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I followed Bon Appetit's instructions for cooking a 12-14 pound bird (please reference this article for proper instructions if you are interested in trying it). The turkey went into the oven at 450 degrees and cooked for 30 minutes. I removed it and basted it with juices, turned the oven down to 350 and cooked for an hour, basting it every 20 minutes. (Full disclosure: mine took slightly longer because it was practically frozen when I took it out of the fridge. The lesson here is make sure to get it up to room temperature before putting it in the oven). When my trusty meat thermometer read 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, I removed it, and tented it with foil for thirty minutes. Voila! I'm a convert, a believer. It was amazing!!

Note: This is not the fully cooked bird. See that in the first picture, above.

Note: This is not the fully cooked bird. See that in the first picture, above.

I am a native Californian - born and raised - then transplanted to New England. I remember when I was first married, one of my husband's relatives asked me (in all seriousness) if we really celebrated Thanksgiving in California. Naturally, I was incredulous and slightly offended, but as she explained, it all sort of started right here. I recently took Miff to Plimouth Plantation during her study of the pilgrims and Native Americans. It was inspiring to see the history of Thanksgiving dinner in what they were cooking over their open fire (below). As an early American history fan, I do love the history and tradition of the holiday; I feel connected when I read that their seasonal staples were similar to ours in this region. Having a holiday that celebrates our heritage, food, family and gratitude is obviously special in all of the 50 states! 

Native American turkey stew at Plimouth Plantation. Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

Native American turkey stew at Plimouth Plantation. Photo Credit: Petite Nutrition

What are your favorite sides? Our menu this year includes: roasted brussels sprouts (did you read the ridiculous but oh-so-true story of how I hated brussels as a kid), butternut squash pudding (family favorite from my husband's aunt), kale salad, rainbow carrots, mashed potatoes, stuffing, homemade popovers and lots of pie. Simple, but I'm looking forward to it (aside from the polar vortex forecasted). Happiest Thanksgiving from our family to yours!