Here’s a fun fact – I’m a Thanksgiving baby. When I was born on October 12th in 1980, it was ‘Thanks-for-giving’ Day (at least that’s what my mom called it). My mom immigrated from India in 1974 and promptly began embracing new traditions while holding onto her own culture. One of her first endeavors was learning English from the TV, followed closely by learning how to cook ‘Western food’. A term used by many South Asians to cover anything non-Indian including pizza, pasta, noodles, hot dogs and turkey.
My first turkey memories are from the 80’s, when my dad worked in a lumber mill. Each year the owners of the mill would give every employee a coupon for a free turkey. Year after year my mom would try her hand at cooking a turkey, and eventually she got pretty good at it. This was before google and YouTube, and my mother cooks by instinct not recipes, so their was an unpredictability factor to turkey dinner. As a bonus, every four years, my birthday would fall on turkey day, which felt like the best thing in the world.
I just might enjoy decorating the tabletop as much as cooking the dinner!
These days the turkey baton has been passed on to me – I’m the official host for all large family gatherings, and I love it. I’ve also come to realize that making a whole turkey well isn’t that hard. You just have to be willing to do a bit of prep work and use a thermometer not instinct to gauge ‘doneness’. If you are a novice turkey cook, I highly recommend checking out the whole bird resources on the Canadian Turkey website. It literally covers everything from what size to buy, how to cook & store, and what to do with leftovers!
Over the years we’ve had many family members and friends join our dinner party circle, and most are fans of traditional Indian dishes and spice, so I’m constantly trying to marry Indian flavours and ‘Western foods’. That’s how I landed on the idea to do a tandoori turkey for our Friendsgiving dinner this year.
Since we now have two families – our friends (family by choice), and our family, we have two dinners. Our Friendsgiving bunch includes different religions and dietary restrictions so turkey is the perfect choice. Not to get all preachy and stuff, but turkey is the best meat for an inclusive desi dinner party. To add a little spice and South Asian flavour to the meal I used a traditional tandoori marinade and did a spicy pulao with Indian yams as a side dish, and both were a hit!
If you are planning a Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving dinner this year, here are a few tips from our experience:
- Choose a local turkey from a butcher if possible. We got our turkey from Jackson Meats in Vancouver who sourced it from a local farm. Some of the turkeys I saw at local grocery stores weren’t even Canadian – make sure to buy Canadian turkey!
- If you can get a fresh turkey it makes cooking it so much easier. If not, be sure to leave enough time to thaw.
- Go heavy on the spices. Even though my tandoori turkey came out really well, I kind of wish I added a little more red chili
- If your friends offer to bring a side, take them up on it! I’m the worst and accepting help, but it makes everyone enjoy dinner more if they can contribute a little something.
- Plan to use the leftovers so you can cook once and eat twice! Set aside containers ahead of time and have your stock pot ready. I put all the bones into a pot and made stock as soon as dinner was over. (Look out for a Thai turkey soup, and kadhai turkey recipe coming soon).
TANDOORI TURKEY RECIPE:
What You Need:
Tandoori paste marinade (see below)
TANDOORI MARINADE: (for a 12-15 pound turkey)
Combine the following in a bowl:
3 cups yogurt
2 tbsp chilli powder
1.5 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp coriander
1.5 tsp chaat masala
1.5 tsp garam masala
1.5 tsp black peper
1.5 tsp crushed fenugreek leaves
2 tsp black salt
5 tbsps each ginger and garlic paste
3 tbsps oil
2 tsp red food color 2
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1/2 cup chopped mint
- Start by defrosting your turkey safely if needed. (Directions here)
- Brine your turkey 2 days before you are going to cook it. For me a brine is a must for a moist and tender turkey, but some people skip it. One of the reasons I like to buy a turkey from the butcher is that they will often brine it for you.
- 6-24 hours before cooking the turkey marinate with the tandoori paste and store safely in your refrigerator.
- Calculate when to put the turkey in the oven based on when you want to serve it. A turkey requires approximately 15 minutes of cooking time per pound, and then half an hour to rest before serving.
- Place your turkey in a roasting pan and into the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit tented in aluminum foil. Baste the bird with juices every 45 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 45 minutes of cooking.
- Use a turkey thermometer to test that the internal temperature of the bird has reached 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast and 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the thigh.
- Let your turkey rest for 30 minutes, carve, and enjoy!
I hope you will have an opportunity to connect with your family or ‘friends family’ over the dinner table this Thanksgiving, and that you’ll try your hand at roasting a full turkey! It really wasn’t hard and it was totally worth it for that wow moment when I brought it out of the kitchen. Let me know how it goes if you try it!