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Simplify Your Thanksgiving Turkey

On Thanksgiving, it's all about turkey. But how should you prepare yours this year?

On "The Early Show" Thursday, Tom Valenti, owner and executive chef of New York's Ouest, offered his guidance on preparing the perfect, simple turkey for your Thanksgiving.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore

Frozen Turkey:
Although a whole turkey purchased frozen may safely be thawed in the refrigerator, it can also be thawed in cold water, or in the microwave oven, although thawing in the refrigerator is recommended, you might already be behind the ball. There is a way to thaw with water:

To thaw turkey in cold water:
Make certain that the turkey is in a leak proof package or a zipper-seal plastic bag. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. Approximately 30 minutes per pound of turkey are required for thawing. After thawing in cold water, the turkey should be cooked immediately.

Cooking temperature:
A lot of chefs, including Valenti, believe in a combination of low and slow and hotter temperatures. Some people start their turkey at a high temp, such as 450 or 475 to get a nice color on the skin, then lower the temperature after say 20 minutes to cook the bird through (around 350 or so). Some people start their turkey low, then raise the temperature at the end to get the color. If you feel that your turkey is getting dry or the skin is getting too much color, feel free to cover your turkey with aluminum foil to protect the skin.

How do you know when it's done?

The Food and Drug Administration recommends using a thermometer at the end of the cooking process to make sure your bird is at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. To take the temperature, insert the thermometer into the thick part of the breast. You can also use the pop up turkey timer provided, or use your own pop up timer. If you use these, it is still a good idea to verify the temperature of your bird with a thermometer.

RECIPES:

TURKEY WITH GARLIC GRAVY

Turkey, 10-14 pounds, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 thyme sprigs
4 rosemary sprigs
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
4 heads of garlic, halved crosswise
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 475°. Season the turkey cavities with salt and pepper and stuff each with 2 sprigs each of thyme and rosemary and 4 tablespoons of butter. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Season the outside with salt and pepper; fold the wing tips under. Place in a roasting pan.

Add 1 cup of stock to each pan and roast the turkey for 20 minutes. Baste the and arrange 2 halved heads of garlic in pan, cut side down. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and continue to roasting and basting every 30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 170°. This should take about 3 hours.

Lift the turkey from the roasting pan, tilting them to allow the cavity juices to run into the pan. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and cover loosely with foil. Set the garlic halves aside.

GRAVY
Strain the pan juices into a large glass measuring cup. Skim 1 1/2 tablespoons of fat from the surface; transfer the fat to a small bowl. Skim off and discard the remaining fat. Whisk the flour into the reserved fat to make a paste. Set each roasting pan over moderate heat and when sizzling, pour 1 cup of the remaining stock into each pan. Simmer the stock, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pans, about 4 minutes. Add the stock to the pan juices.

Transfer the juices to a medium saucepan. Squeeze the softened garlic cloves into the pan juices and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. With an immersion blender, puree the garlic until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Whisk about 1/2 cup of the gravy into the flour paste until smooth, then whisk it back into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, whisking occasionally, until no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper.

Carve the turkey and serve, passing the gravy at the table.

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