Showing posts with label roast turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label roast turkey. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to Make My Favorite Retro Diner Sandwich by Cleo Coyle

Prices at the deli counter have been giving my husband and I sticker shock for some time now. If you’re making lunch for one or two, the prices are tolerable. But if you’re buying for an entire family or a hungry group, be prepared to take out a second mortgage to pay the bill. 

Here in New York City, premium turkey breast is $8.00 (and more) a pound. We prefer to roast our own turkey sandwich meat for a fraction of that price, and we seldom fuss with a big bird. We simply use a small (6 to 7 pound) turkey breast. 

So here’s a simple recipe for buffet-style turkey. You can use it for a traditional meat-and-potatoes main meal or sandwich-slicing (or both)...

Cleo Coyle's husband is also
her partner in crime-writing.
Together they write
The Coffeehouse
Cleo Coyle’s 
Retro Deli-style
Roast Turkey

This small, all-white meat turkey breast tastes better than anything you can get at the deli counter. It's perfect for making our favorite retro diner sandwich, too, an open-faced turkey with mashed potatoes.

Our secret ingredient is a pair of turkey wings (or even two pairs). Small turkey breasts usually come without wings, but we buy them separately for roasting right along with the bird. The wings render plenty of extra juices for making the rich gravy. See the gravy recipe below this one, and... 

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo


6 to 8 pound turkey breast

+ 2 to 4 turkey wings
   (optional, for extra gravy juices)

3/4 stick (6 T) softened butter

1 teaspoon Bell Seasoning

1 teaspoon Poultry Seasoning

½ teaspoon white pepper

½ teaspoon Smokehouse Pepper

½ teaspoon ground sage

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1 tablespoon cooking oil or cooking spray


Above is a standard (wingless) turkey breast of about 7 pounds. Depending on the area where you live, you will either find these in your grocery store or something called "Hotel-Style Breasts," which are sold mainly in the Northeast. The Hotel-Style Breasts are perfect for a buffet. They are generally larger than a regular turkey breast (closer to 10 pounds instead of 4-8), and they have the wings attached. Like the big (15 to 35 pound) turkeys, many brands of Hotel-Style Turkey include a packet of giblets. Small turkey breasts like the one above do not include giblets.


Step 1—Prep the slurry: First preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. When the butter is soft, place it in a bowl and add your Bell Seasoning, Poultry Seasoning, white pepper, Smokehouse Pepper, ground sage, and Kosher salt. Blend everything well with a fork until you have a beautiful green slurry. Wash the turkey breast and pat dry. If using wings, remove the wing tips, wash, and pat dry.

Step 2—Prep the bird: Line a shallow baking or roasting pan with aluminum foil. Grease the rack that sits on top. Place the turkey on the rack, and (if using) position wings on either side of the breast. Slather the breast with the slurry you made in Step 1. Massage the slurry under the skin to impart the flavor into the meat. 

You can coat the wings with the slurry, as well. Or simply salt and pepper the wings instead since you're cooking these wings for their juices rather than their meat. 

The wings in my photo above are not attached.
Most small turkey breasts come without wings.
Marc and I like to buy the wings separately and
roast them with the turkey for extra pan juices.

We often roast a second pair
of wings in a separate pan.

Step 3—Roast and cool: Roast the breast, uncovered, according to package instructions, or about 20 minutes per pound. During the last hour, baste the meat in its own juices every fifteen minutes or so. When the meat reaches a temperature of 165 degrees F, remove from oven, tent loosely with foil, and let sit for AT LEAST 30 MINUTES before slicing. Trust me on this! The resting period will keep your turkey nice and moist. If you slice it too soon after removing it from the oven, the juices will run out and the turkey meat will taste dry. 

Amazing pan juices
come from the wings.

Cleo's Favorite Retro Diner Sandwich...

Open-Faced Turkey
with Mashed Potatoes
and Gravy!

For a single serving...

A few juicy slices of freshly roasted turkey

A hearty scoop of mashed potatoes

2 slices of white bread (yes, it has to be white!)

Plenty of gravy (recipe below)

While the turkey is cooling, make mashed potatoes and gravy. Most home cooks have their favorite way to make mashed potatoes. If you feel adventurous, you can try my healthier potato, garlic, and carrot mash. It's absolutely delicious and very easy to make. Get the recipe here.

Good gravy and lots of it is the key to this deli-classic...

Turkey Gravy

Makes about 1 ½ cups


2 cups pan drippings
  (or enough chicken stock to make 2 cups)

2 Tablespoons Wondra flour

Salt and pepper to taste


Step 1—Make a roux: While the turkey is cooling, pour off the pan drippings and let them cool. Skim off two tablespoons of fat from these drippings and warm this small amount of fat in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour until the mixture thickens. You’ve just created a roux. Now gently cook until the roux turns slightly brown (1-3 minutes).

Step 2—Finish the gravy: Measure your remaining pan drippings. If you have less than 2 cups, pour in enough chicken stock to make the full two. Whisk these two cups of drippings (and/or stock) into the roux that you made in Step 1. Heat the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat but continue to stir and let the gravy simmer until it thickens and the flour cooks (4 to 5 minutes). The key here--
to prevent the gravy from breaking--really is stirring! Add salt and pepper to taste, serve hot, and...

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

Now a National
Bestseller in Hardcover

A Coffeehouse Mystery 

*Starred Review* -Kirkus

"Top Pick"  -RT Book Reviews

"...a highly satisfying mystery."
-Publishers Weekly

See the book's
Recipe Guide
by clicking here.

* * * 

Coffeehouse Mystery
Free Title Checklist
(with mini plot summaries)

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

* * * 

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Basic Roast Turkey from Thawing to Table with Pictures

This week we're supposed to be blogging about our Thanksgiving traditions. For me, it's usually the biggest feast of the year. Turkey, two kinds of stuffing so everyone will be happy, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade bread, cranberry sauce, veggies, and either pecan pie or pumpkin pie.

So instead of offering a fancy schmancy recipe, I'm going to talk about turkey.

First, a word about brining. If you buy an organic turkey, or a local turkey, you will probably want to brine it. Read the label. If your turkey is Kosher or has been preserved with a solution, then you should not brine it.

That was probably great news for some people. If you're planning to brine your turkey, head over here.

For those of you who are not going to brine your turkey, here are the basics of roasting a turkey, from thawing to table.


A turkey takes three days to thaw in the refrigerator. Take it out of the freezer on Sunday night or Monday morning. If you are reading this on Thanksgiving Day with a turkey on the counter that is frozen harder than rock, call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372). That's their hotline.

While I doubt that a government office would be open on Thanksgiving, you can also try  the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline number at 1-888-674-6854. It looks like they think you can cook a frozen turkey but that it takes longer. Don't do that without checking out their instructions in detail because I have no idea what happens to the giblets and neck that are frozen inside.

(may be skipped)

If you particularly relish crispy skin, remove the turkey from the bag on Wednesday. Remove the giblets and neck (see below), rinse it, dry it, salt and pepper it, and allow it to continue thawing in the refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours before roasting.

If you forget to do that, it's okay. Your turkey will still turn out fine.


Turkey roasting pans come in all shapes and sizes. This is what I use. A pan with a roasting rack inside it.

However, if you're shopping for one of these, buy the kind of pan that has handles that stand up on their own. It might be more complicated to store, but if the handles fall to the sides, it's impossible to get a grip on them when the pan is hot.

Or you can use this kind of roaster with a rack in it.


And in a pinch, you can even use the pan that came with your oven. They're not the best choice, but I've used them and everything worked out fine.


If your family has gotten together in the kitchen at 3AM for the last thirty years to cook Thanksgiving dinner and your nana, mom, and Aunt Birdie insist that a turkey must be roasted low and slow for hours and hours, then don't fight them. Do it their way.

Or you can do it this way.

Depending on the size of your oven, you will most likely have to move the rack down to the next to bottom level.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.


Most turkeys are packed with a gizmo that holds the legs together called a hock lock. Honestly, removing it might be the most difficult part of this whole process. There are several different styles in use, but the thing to note is that it has little wings to the left and the right that are wedged very firmly in your turkey.

Depress the ends of the legs, one at a time, until you can free them from the gizmo. Now for the difficult part. You'll note that the little wings on the left and the right are curved (some are, some aren't). That means if you pull it straight toward you, it's only being lodged deeper in the meat. Push it away and try, if at all possible, to squeeze it together or tug it to one side then the other side until both sides are out.

Whew! The rest is easy. Generally the neck will be found inside the cavity accessed between the legs. Sometimes the giblets are also there. If not, they are on the other end with a flap of skin holding them in place. Remove the neck and the giblets. I'm not going into gravy here, because that's a whole other thing. However, if you're cooking gravy, hold onto the neck and giblets because you'll need them. Not going there? Cook the giblets (not the neck) and chop them up for your dog. You might also want to check out Annie Knox's mushroom gravy.

Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat dry.

Rub the exterior of the turkey with salt and pepper. Just pour a little into your hand and rub it on the turkey.

Turn the turkey onto its tummy. Breast side down.

Take the end of the wing in your hand. Lift it toward the neck of the turkey and scoot it over onto the back. Repeat with other wing.

If your turkey has a pop-up timer, be sure it's not wedged on your rack. You don't want it to be touching anything.


Slide turkey into oven. Set timer for 45 minutes. If you have a giant turkey that's over 16 pounds, set the timer for 1 hour.

When the timer goes off, remove the turkey from the oven.

Forget these.

They make handy dandy weapons for murder mystery authors, but old kitchen towels are cheaper and provide a much better grip.

Double two kitchen towels, one in each hand. Grasp the knob on the ends of the legs. Make sure no one is on the other side because hot liquid is going to come out. Lift and slowly roll the turkey forward (away from you). Let the juices drip into the pan. Now lift the turkey, move it toward you, and place it on the rack on its BACK.

Put the turkey back into the oven. Be sure the side with the pop-up timer is visible.

Turn the temperature down to 375.

Set the timer for 45 minutes if it's a small turkey. Most turkeys will need at least another hour or hour and a half of cooking time or more. It's my theory that previously frozen turkeys take longer to cook than fresh turkeys. After 1 hour, watch the turkey. I usually set the timer for 10 - 20 minutes so I won't forget to check.


Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Beware of removing the turkey from the oven too soon. It will look perfect before it's through cooking.

The USDA says turkey should cook to 165 degrees.

Loads of recipes say to tent the turkey with aluminum foil until it's served. That guarantees non-crispy skin because it ends up steaming. Just let the turkey stand for about ten minutes while you eat your soup, and then serve.

As many of you know, I write the Domestic Diva Mysteries and my domestic divas are available today to answer questions.

Dear Sophie,

My mother-in-law asked if I trussed the turkey. I don't know what she's talking about.

                   Feeling Like a Turkey

Dear Feeling Like a Turkey,

Trussing means tying the legs together. It's highly overrated. I actually think it's better not to tie the legs because they cook faster and more evenly when they're loose.


Dear Sophie,

My aunt told me to baste the turkey with butter while it's baking. You didn't mention that.

                    First Time Roaster

Dear First Time Roaster,

Cooking guru Alton Brown says that basting, while not harmful, doesn't make a difference and can be detrimental because each time the oven is opened the temperature drops a little. Skip the basting.


Dear Natasha,

Have you seen Sophie's super simple directions for roasting turkey? Is it true that I don't have to truss the turkey or baste it?

      President of the I ♥ Natasha Fan Club

Dear President of the I ♥ Natasha Fan Club,

I'm so honored! You are quite right, of course. Not only should one truss and baste, but a properly roasted turkey also wears ruffly white turkey frills on the ends of his legs. And that nonsense about using kitchen towels to turn the turkey! We are not heathens. We use turkey lifters, no matter how hard it is to lift the turkey with them.


Don't know Sophie and Natasha yet? It all started one Thanksgiving with THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME.

 Happy Thanksgiving to All!