Chef Chat: Turkey Talk

This month, as our culinary cogitations turn to all things turkey, we thought we'd ask the pros what they do at home with the quintessential all-American bird.

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By David Feder and Diane Toops


'Tis the season for turkey talk. Americans eat more of these birds from Thanksgiving through Christmas than at any other time of year. But what of the professional chef’s who find their days off a “busman’s holiday” with the responsibility of preparing the traditional repast? Well, you don’t know until you ask! Join us as some of our favorite experts tell us how they like to prepare the great gobbler.

J. Hugh McEvoy (Chef J), CEC, CRC, ASB
Executive Director of Global Culinary Development
East Balt Inc.
Chicago, Paris, London
and Director of Alternative Nutrition
Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Chicago


I grew up on Cape Cod — just minutes from where the Pilgrims landed in the Mayflower. Thanksgiving dinner is the most important meal of the year in my family. Now my personal focus is on “gourmet nutrition.” My holiday meals are built around at least five colors of vegetables (pumpkin, broccoli, carrots, two colors of beet and two types of beans) plus a complete protein. We love to include a variety of wild mushrooms and fresh baked breads, too. We vertically roast an organic turkey – never brined – to a golden brown. The wonderful caramelized flavors and textures developed during vertical roasting are one of the joys of our Thanksgiving. And, by focusing on the vegetables as star attractions in their own right, the meal is perfectly healthy and well balanced. Of course, then come the desserts!

In praise of turkey: American's favorite holiday entree is high in protein, low in fat and an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B-vitamins.

Chef Andrew Hunter
President of Recipe Development &
Merchandising Solutions
San Francisco. Calif.


My family's Thanksgiving tradition includes everyone, from child to grandparent, in the preparation of the turkey. We cut out the central bone cavity and stuff the bird back in shape with a savory dressing. It's like a ballotine with the leg and thighbones intact. This year, we are stuffing the turkey with steamed tamales, roasted green chilies and onions, and basting it with a blend of smoky chili powders, brown sugar and melted butter. We carve the turkey from left to right so each guest gets stuffing between two slices of breast.

Ray Sierengowski, CCE, CCC
Corporate Research Chef/Lead Scientist
Kellogg's Advanced Innovation Team
Battle Creek, Mich.


Last year our family cooked two medium-size turkeys — one traditional oven roasted and the other deep fried. This year, we plan on making “Turducken.” Turducken is a Cajun delicacy of stuffing wrapped in a boneless duck that is wrapped in a boneless chicken then it's stuffed in a partially deboned turkey. The trio is roasted for approximately 9-10 hours at 225˚F. It takes all day to make, but it is well worth the wait. If you’re bored with the same old turkey year after year, this is definitely the recipe to try.

Scott Brown, CCC
Corporate Chef
Ocean Pier Inc.
Scoudouc, New Brunswick, Canada


Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated the second Monday in October. Here’s what I did this year: First, I brined the turkey for 24 hours in a solution of 8 liters (about 2-1/4 gallons) water, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup sea salt. Brining makes for a very moist turkey. Then I rinsed the bird thoroughly and completely deboned it, leaving it in one piece with the skin intact. (This is called a "dodine" in French classical cooking.) I chopped the bones and used them to make a bed for the turkey, along with celery, carrots, and onion, bay leaf and thyme. The turkey was completely stuffed with wild mushroom cornbread stuffing and re-shaped with the stuffing to its natural form (to look as if it had the bones in). I stitched it closed, loosened the skin, and rubbed herbs and butter underneath. I seasoned the outside of the skin, topping it with chilled pieces of butter. Finally, I roasted the turkey at 425˚F for the first 45 minutes to crisp the skin, then slow roasted at 300˚F until done. I followed with a rich sauce made by deglazing the pan of roasted bones and vegetables with port wine, water and herbs and simmering until ready.

The Truth About Turkey

How about some turkey facts? Turkey is high in protein, low in fat and an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B-vitamins. It’s also a great source of the natural sedative tryptophan, so now you know why everyone falls asleep after holiday dinners.

Recent fossil evidence shows that turkeys have roamed the Americas for ten million years, and the Aztecs are believed to be the first to domesticate the turkey. Christopher Columbus brought turkeys back to Europe, and by the 1500s turkeys were being raised domestically in Italy, France, and England for royalty and the aristocracy. And although these birds are known to flutter more than fly, did you know a turkey once flew to the moon? Turkey and all the trimmings was the first meal eaten on the moon by astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin.
— Costa Magoulas, BA, CEC, CCE,
Coordinator of Culinary Operations
Volusia County Public Schools
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Michael R. Parr
Certified Executive Chef
Palmetto Marketing LLC
Metairie, La.


I look for a fresh (never frozen), 15-18 lb turkey because I find that size the most flavorful. The day before serving, I wash it thoroughly and place it in a large plastic ice chest. I make a simple brine solution of 1 cup kosher salt per each gallon of cold water, making enough to just cover the turkey. Next, I top with crushed ice and let the turkey soak for 8-10 hours, checking on a regular basis to keep the turkey and brine mixture well iced. This method will make the juiciest turkey you’ve ever eaten. Before roasting, rinse and dry the turkey and rub it with oil. Season inside and out with your favorite seasoning and stuff cut-up fresh garlic under the skin. Cut up four oranges and two limes and stuff the turkey cavity with them. Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven until done. Remove; let rest for at least 15-20 minutes, slice and enjoy!


Denis Dronne
Executive Chef
Joyce Foods
Winston-Salem, N.C.


This thanksgiving I’ll serve our free-range American Bronze turkey. Our turkey is considered a heritage breed, and is recognized by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC). It was first developed in Rhode Island in the 1830s by crossing Narragansett turkeys with wild turkeys. This is the closest you will find to the bird of our forefathers. As with many chefs, I prefer the birds we serve be raised without any chemicals or drugs and under humane conditions on small family farms promoting sustainable agriculture. These turkeys have superior culinary characteristics. I favor native ingredients — wild rice and cranberry stuffing, corn spoon bread, sweet potatoes — to go along with the turkey. Since I moved to the south, I have a lot more fun frying my turkey outside on Thanksgiving Day.

Fred Fatino
Recipe Research and Development
The Creative Chef
Belton, Mo.


One of my favorite turkey creations is to present it like a Beef Wellington. I first bone the turkey, “book” open the breast, and fill it with a forcemeat or other stuffing and herbed spinach. I then wrap the whole bird en croûte — in pastry crust — and bake until done. It makes for a dramatic service.

Wendy E. Baskerville
Research Chef
Center Plate Development LLC
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


We’ve already had Thanksgiving up here in the frozen North. I am a low-carb dieter, so this year the chef got her own way! I didn’t use bread in the stuffing at all; just lots of slow-cooked onion, garlic, home-smoked bacon and a variety of mushrooms. I also added some diced zucchini with a handful of chopped fresh herbs. Then deglaze the roasting pan with a really good red wine and added a handful of crumbled pork rinds. The resulting sauce was met with much skepticism when I first served it, but there was barely a spoonful left at the end of dinner. Of course the reduced heavy cream and drippings gravy may have played a part, too.

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