As promised below, here’s how I prepared a 17 1/2 pound Narrangansett turkey.
First, I seasoned it inside with kosher salt and let it come to room temperature for about 2 hours. I made a dressing of Costeaux sourdough, torn into bite-sized pieces, and 2 diced yellow onions and one head of celery, trimmed and diced, sauteed in 2 sticks of butter until very soft. I added half a bunch of Italian parsley, minced, and about 2 tablespoons of freshly minced sage and seasoned it well with kosher salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. I filled both cavities of the bird with the hot stuffing.
I melted a stick of butter and added a couple of big chunks of the turkey’s fat and about 3 tablespoon of good medium-dry Madeira.
I set the turkey breast side down on a rack on a sheet pan, used a sturdy sage sprig to baste the bird all over with the butter mixture and then wrapped the wings and pope’s nose in cheesecloth soaked in butter. I put the turkey into a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes and then basted it all over and reduced the heat to 300 degrees. I kept about 1/4-inch of water in the pan so that the drippings wouldn’t burn. I basted every 30 minutes and after 2 1/2 hours, I pulled the bird out of the oven, reversed it to breast up and put it back in the oven. I wrapped the drumsticks, which were getting quite dark, in foil, removed the cheesecloth and basted the breast very thoroughly. In another 45 to 60 minutes, the thighs had reached 155 degrees so I pulled the turkey out and tented it with foil. It rested for about 45 minutes and then it was picked up.
This morning, I heard from the friend for whom I cooked it: “OooooOoooohhhoohhhHHooooooHoooooooooooo! Juicy, tender, tasty, delicious, melted in our mouths yum-yum to my tum-tum! Absolutely amazing! Best ever. Deliciously scrumptious! I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat another turkey again . . . It really was the most delectable Thanksgiving ever!”
Heritage breed turkeys need different cooking techniques that the white broad-breasted turkeys that have been ubiquitous in the United States for decades. I overcooked my first heritage turkey–years ago–as I did not realize that these birds typically cook much more quicker than their commercial cousins (just as grass-fed meat does).
This year, I think I have finally mastered the process. I cooked a 17 1/2 pound Narrangansett turkey for someone else and they were thrilled with the results, calling it the best turkey they have ever had. Later, I’ll post how I did it.
In the meantime, I’m curious how yours turned out. Please take a few minutes to share how you prepared yours and how it turned out.