How's Bayou? A brut of a turkey
Whenever I think of a brute in the kitchen, British ubernasty chef Gordon Ramsay, with his no-holds-barred rantings against co-workers or contestants, comes immediately to mind.
That's not to say that Millie and I didn't thoroughly enjoy our 2007 dinner at Gordon Ramsay at Claridige's, the chef's surprisingly untrumpeted and gloriously underpriced restaurant in the main dining space of the legendary London hotel, where visiting dignitaries throw parties in honor of members of the Royal Family.
So when I saw Millie toss a bottle of brut champagne in with a butterball turkey at a Georgia grocery store on our way to North Carolina last week, I thought of Ramsay and wondered what she was up to.
"It's for the turkey, from the recipe I found at allrecipes.com," she explained. "And don't worry. It just looks expensive. The guy in the wine department says it's pretty good for $10, and great for cooking."
I'd heard of cooking wine -- even drunk some of it when I was in despair over not having a proper bottle of wine in the house. But cooking champagne?
Having just turned 66, I'd never cooked a turkey before, and I'd decided it was time to give it a try, especially as it would only be Millie and me, cocooning in the mountains on Thanksgiving Day.
I'd heard there was a cavity from which things had to be removed, and that was easily done; but I was surprised to discover another, in which I found a long bony thing, which turned out to be a straight-to-the-bin neck.
Stuffing the bird with orange segments was festive, and popping the champagne cork, releasing bubbles everywhere, made us feel Noel Cowardy de rigueur.
No one could fault us for the Stove Top dressing -- the type with herbs, of course -- that sat simmering nearby . . . as I'd parboiled fresh oysters from the local deli and blended them into the store-bought product.
Let me be the first to proclaim the browning powers of champagne: The exterior of the finished product was as rich as the paneling in an English men's club.
To recreate this culinary triumph, you'll need:
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons ground dried rosemary
2 tablespoons rubbed dried sage
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 (15 pound) whole turkey,
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (750 milliliter) bottle champagne
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Stir together the parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture into the cavity of the turkey, then stuff with the celery, orange, onion, and carrot. Truss if desired, and place the turkey into the roasting pan. Pour the chicken broth and champagne over the turkey, making sure to get some champagne in the cavity.
Bake the turkey in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear. Uncover the turkey, and continue baking until the skin turns golden brown, 30 minutes to 1 hour longer.
Dare Gordon Ramsey to complain about the finished product.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.