SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - Back in the 1980's, we aired a daily program called "The KCBS Kitchen." One of the regular guests was a fellow named Ken Wolfe, who had served as Executive Chef at the Mark Hopkins Hotel before starting the Culinary Arts Department at Contra Costa College. Chef Wolfe loved turkey and believed the "regular way" of roasting turkey was a nightmare.
He came up with a way of breaking the turkey into parts before roasting.
no dry white meat, perfectly-done dark meat, and a total cooking time of only about 2 hours for a big turkey (a smaller bird can be cooked in 1 1/4 hours!). And...there's no need for basting.
I bought Ken Wolfe's book "Chef Wolfe's New American Cookery" when it came out 30 years ago and I've used it ever since. The book is now out of print (although used copies can be found), but the basics are pretty simple:
Remove the legs (the trick is to pull the leg away from the body, slice into the joint, and snap the hip bone out of the socket to complete the cut).
Remove the wings.
Remove the back
Wash, salt and oil the parts. Place the biggest part (the breast section) in a pan, neck cavity up (this puts it in a self-basting position). The legs and wings go in a separate pan (although you can use a single pan if it's big enough--just don't crowd).
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place turkey in oven and drop temperature to 350. For a big (22-24) pound bird, roast for 2-1/4 hours, check the turkey for internal temperature. The internal temperature for turkey should be a minimum 165° F at the thickest part of each piece and any juices from the turkey should run clear. A smaller (14-16 pound) bird will be done in about 1-1/4 hours.
We've done away with the whole "grand presentation" of the turkey at the table, but if you really must show off, you can re-assemble the cooked parts before carving. Of course, the Wolfe method doesn't allow for cooking the dressing inside the bird, but I'm a big fan of the crispy crust you get when cooking the dressing separately anyway.
Finally, here are a few photos that sort of show me doing the cutting-up process...and then enjoying the benefits of a nice dose of L-tryptophan afterward.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving Holiday!
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