Thanksgiving special: How to pick and prep the perfect Turkey centrepiece for your table

We break down everything you need to know

Sonali Shenoy Published :  22nd November 2019 07:14 PM   |   Published :   |  22nd November 2019 07:14 PM

The humble turkey will grace many a Thanksgiving dinner table next weekend. And we don’t just mean five star buffets. 

While Thanksgiving might be an American tradition, Chennai seems to be embracing its culinary centrepiece (minus the holiday and gratitude rituals) more and more each year. So much so, that top guns in the meat biz like Narayan P, MD of JK Cheese n More tells us, turkey sales have gone up substantially in the last 10 years. And the numbers he says, “continue to rise at a steady pace of 10 per cent each year”.
Both Narayan and Sushil Kanugolu, MD, Fipola Retail India Pvt Ltd expect to sell 500 to 700 kgs (roughly a 100 turkeys) each over Thanksgiving week. That’s not counting neighbourhood vendors supermarket chains and e-retail honchos who will likely stock up closer to the date. And demand escalates to an all-time high, “7X increase of 700 kgs” according to Sushil, come Christmas.

For novices to ‘fowl’ language (aka what to ask for) at the butcher’s shop — this might help. 

Turkeys are available in two broad categories — the Indian and the expat.

“There are three varieties of turkey commonly available in India. They are the Broad Breasted Bronze, Broad Breasted White and Beltsville Small White,” Sushil tells us. These birds usually weigh three to five kgs (INR 420 per kg). And by comparison are not as sought after as their fair feathered cousins from North Carolina, USA who pack in a hefty five to seven kgs per bird (INR 1,200 per kg). 

If you’re willing to make the investment in the latter, look out for the popular brand ‘Butterball’ that most chefs swear by. We recommend you move fast though as advance orders are already piling up. That aside, turkeys take two hours or more to completely cook so your better half might knock the stuffing out of you — if you gleefully arrive with the last one in hand at 8 pm, on November 28.




Recipe: Thanksgiving roasted turkey with bread and sausage stuffing

Ingredients (Serves 10)

Local Indian turkey 1 bird dressed 3.5 kg | Dijon mustard 50 gms | Salt 30 gms | Crushed pepper 30 gms | Olive oil 60 ml | Crusty bread cubes 250 gms | Chopped onion 50 gms | Chopped garlic 10 gms Chopped leeks 30 gms | Chopped celery 25 gms | Chopped carrot 25 gms | Chopped Cranberries-Dried  20 gms | Blueberries or strawberries  20 gms | White wine 30 ml  | Chicken sausages 50 gms chopped or minced  | Chicken meat 50 gms | Free range egg 1  | Chopped Thyme 15 gms | Chopped Almonds 
30 gms | Cranberries — boiled and made to a paste | 100 ml Lemon juice (2) 


• Wash and dry the turkey. Place a carrot from the stomach side up in the cavity so that the breast remains firm.

• Make a marinade by whisking together mustard, 30 ml of olive oil, 15 gms of salt, 15 gms of pepper, zest of the lemon, and half of the thyme to create a creamy emulsified paste.

• Heat the remaining olive oil in a sauce pan and sauté the carrots, onion, celery and leeks till translucent. Add the garlic and sauté. Once fragrant, add the white wine and flambé.

• Next, add the meats and cook till it coagulates.Once the meats are cooked add the bread, nuts, berries and cook slowly with the addition of stock till the stuffing comes together. Season and allow to cool till warm. Once it reaches a temperature where it can be handled, add eggs and mix well.

• Make a cavity between the breast meat and skin into which the stuffing should be inserted. Once stuffed, truss the bird and lay it in a roasting tray. Slow roast at 190-200 C for two hours, basting at intervals.

• Serve with cranberry sauce.


• Massage marinade under the skin because this is where it tends to get dry. 

• Place the turkey in the oven for 15 minutes at 280 degrees Celsius to brown, then remove and cover with a steel foil and put back in the oven at 170 degrees Celsius to slow cook.


Carving tips:

• Place the turkey on the carving board. Remove the strings wrapped around the bird to secure the stuffing.

• First, focus on the thighs and legs. Cut through the joint where the thigh connects to the breast. You will know when you are cutting correctly as when the bird is cooked and cut at the right joints, it cuts very easily. The moment you notice any resistance you know you are hitting a bone.

• Similarly, separate the thigh and the drum stick.

• Remove the wish bone.You will find this at the front end of the breast. This is a V-shaped bone and as the story goes, you can make a wish and then discard it. This will make the carving easier.

• Next, remove the breast. Position the knife right in the centre, as close to the bone as possible, press it down and slant to glide along the bone. Then move on to the wings. A long carving knife is best suited for this. 

• The thumb rule is that whenever any meat is fully cooked, especially poultry, it is very easy to cut. If you have resistance, it is safe to assume that the meat is underdone and needs to go back in the oven.  

• The turkey is usually carved by the head of the family or the host.

(Recipe and carving instructions courtesy Chef Ashutosh Nerlekar, Executive Chef, The Park Chennai)