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Better Holiday Roasting - and Better Wine Pairing - with Barbara Kafka

BETTER BIRDS WITH RED
Barbara Kafka

There is a silly tendency to think of roasted birds—for instance chicken and turkey—as foods to go with white wine. I would contend that this is an error when the birds are roasted giving them a deeper taste. Certainly, when it comes to duck and game birds, red is the hands down best choice. I would even argue that a good turkey does better with these wines than with white especially if serving a giblet gravy.

In the Rhone, fine red Rhone wines are often served with roasted birds. Made from the same grapes, Esprit de Beaucastel would do very nicely. It has enough body to partner the fowl; but it also has a liveliness that keeps the whole thing from getting stodgy and heavy. The 2006 Esprit is tasting particularly well now.

I do not recommend stuffing any bird for health reasons. Instead I bake stuffing in the oven. A stuffing using the bird’s liver sautéed and with chestnuts—now available in jars cleaned and roasted—would also go well with these darker tastes.

The only thing to be careful about is avoiding acid vegetables unless they are made smoother with olive oil and even garlic as with broccoli di rape. Braised vegetables such as leeks and endives are perfect friends for these roasts.

I roast somewhat differently than many other people. I roast most things at 500 F. which melts the fat under the skin to baste the bird. I do not brine nor do I baste. The exception is a somewhat complex way of roasting duck. I poach the duck when its skin has been thoroughly pricked with the tines of a fork. Then I dry it and roast it. This gives moist meat and crisp skin. I cannot really suggest duck for a holiday dinner unless there are very few people or a superfluity of oven space.

If gravy seems like too much trouble, the roasting pan can be deglazed with some red wine after the bird comes out. This is a perfect use for some Esprit left over from an earlier feast. Put the pan on top of the stove over medium heat, pour in the wine, bring to a boil and scrape like crazy with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Another advantage of this method is that it cleans the pan.

The oven must be very clean before roasting, or cooking at this high temperature will cause unpleasant smoke. In any case, there will be some smoke, so turn on the fan or open a window.

Happy roasting and eating.

SIMPLE ROAST TURKEY
Ingredients:
  • 9 to 20 pound turkey, thawed if necessary, and at room temperature (expect a turkey to take several hours to reach room temperature).
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup red wine
Directions:
  • Place oven rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500°F.
  • Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat dry. Sprinkle the outside with pepper. If stuffing, stuff cavity and crop, securing openings with long metal skewers. Do not truss.
  • Put turkey in an 18” x 13” x 2-inch roasting pan, breast side up. Put in oven legs-first.
  • Roast until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily, about 2 hours for a 15-pound turkey (for other sizes, or for stuffed turkeys, consult the chart below). If the top skin appears to be getting too dark, slip a doubled piece of aluminum foil on top of it. Remove the foil 10 minutes before the turkey comes out. Move the turkey around with a wooden spatula periodically to keep from sticking.  Alternately, measure doneness with a meat thermometer: rare 135°F-140°F... medium 160°F... well done 170°F-180°F. The last is criminal.
  • Remove the turkey to a large platter. Let stand 20 minutes before carving.
  • Pour off grease from roasting pan and put pan on top of stove. Add the wine. Bring to a boil while scraping bottom of pan vigorously with a wooden spoon, loosening all the crisp bits in the bottom of the pan, until reduced by half. Serve on the side in a sauceboat or add to your gravy.
BASIC ROAST TURKEY COOKING TIMES AT 500°F

WeightStuffedUnstuffed
9 pounds1 hour 45 minutes1 hour 15 minutes
12 pounds1 hour 50 minutes1 hour 20 minutes
15 pounds2 hours 30 minutes2 hours
20 pounds3 hours 30 minutes3 hours

Barbara Kafka is a longtime friend of the Haas family and a limited partner in Tablas Creek. She is former food editor for Vogue, a frequent contributor to the New York Times and is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks. She contributed this article for an upcoming Tablas Creek newsletter, and her above recipe is reprinted from her 1995 cookbook Roasting: a Simple Art. Learn more at www.bkafka.com.

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