A $4 Turkey? Yes!
Most people have long since finished their Thanksgiving turkey, maxed out on leftovers, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey potpie, etc.. Not me. On a recent foray to Costco, I noticed a big pile of fresh Butterball turkeys in the refrigerator case. The turkeys were offered at $5 off for small, 10 pounds or less, "hens." Gee, I thought, one of those would fit nicely in my slow cooker and come out to about $5 with the discount. I started to plop one in my cart and then spied the larger "Tom" turkeys. Those were discounted by $15 each. I ended up with a turkey just under 20 pounds for $4.25 cents. So, while most people were finished with their Thanksgiving cooking projects, I had to begin again. No, I didn't have room in the freezer for the whole turkey, but, yes, I did have room in the freezer and refrigerator to store the meat when cooked and cut off the bone. We eat a lot of turkey because it's good, inexpensive meat--low in fat and high in protein. I now have plenty for casseroles, soup, and, Christmas eating. Plus, my turkey cooking was less hassle now than I suspect it would be during the busy Christmas week. The moral of the story? If you can find a cheap turkey now, after Thanksgiving, go for it. You don't have to go to elaborate lengths to cook it. My simple turkey preparation and cooking yielded a turkey that was nicely browned (not that I cared, because I carved it up quickly rather than doing a "Normal Rockwell" presentation) and incredibly moist and tender. My secret? I don't have one. I ignored all the food channel and magazine advice--no brining, spatchcocking, deep frying, etc.--and cooked the turkey like my mom always did--in a moderate oven, loosely covered with aluminum foil. I also used a cooking thermometer that beeps when the turkey is done. Worked like a charm.
Simple, Cheap Turkey -- Serves a Lot!
1 20 pound or so turkey
A few sprigs of rosemary
1 tablespoon of minced dried onions
1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning
1-2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper
1 teaspoon of paprika
Get a large pan--I use a 9 x 13-inch aluminum one that I can lift easily--line it with heavy duty aluminum foil, and spritz the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey (yeah, it's kind of gross, but that's the way it is). Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel if it's wet. Put the rosemary sprigs and minced dried onions in the turkey cavity. Sprinkle about half of the poultry seasoning, salt, and lemon pepper into the cavity. Put the turkey, breast side down, in the pan and sprinkle half of the remaining poultry seasoning, salt, and lemon pepper on. Flip the bird so it's breast-side up and sprinkle on the remaining poultry seasoning, salt, lemon pepper. Dust the top of the bird with the paprika. Spritz the top of the bird--legs and wings, too--with non-stick cooking spray. Add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Insert a cooking thermometer into the meatiest part of the turkey near where the breast and thigh are joined, and loosely cover the turkey and pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Let the turkey sit on the counter while you heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pop the turkey into the oven and cook it for 4-5 hours or until the thermometer registers about 175 degrees. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before carving it.