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Nov 7, 2005 12:29 PM

A Zuni Roast Turkey?

  • j

Is this even possible? I made the zuni roast chicken once, and it was great. I know that the small size is a big factor. What is the smallest size turkey one can get? It's just for two. Would this method benefit a turkey as much as a chicken. Seems like it would.

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  1. I would not expect the same results. The birds are different, and size is very important in balancing doneness and delectability. Turkeys don't run much less than 9 lbs, and at that size, I'd much prefer a capon anyway.

    1. I'm wondering the same thing so am going to try it. The good thing is that we're having the big meal at my sister's house, so I'm just going to get a small turkey (8-10 lbs.) to experiment at home. No pressure or stress if it fails! All the leftovers to enjoy should it be delicious!

      I'm going to pre-season for 4-5 days in fridge and probably use sage as well as thyme under the skin. I'll probably toss in a few aromatics into the cavity right before roasting. I'm going to use my usual ratio of 3/4 tsp. kosher salt per pound of meat, but will use less to pre-season and then finish w/ remaining salt right before roasting since I want some crystals.

      Since this doesn't have as much fat, I'm going to rub on some olive oil right before roasting. No butter. I won't roast on high heat for the whole time since I don't want it to dry out, and I'm scared about all the smoke it might create! I'll start high and then reduce to 350-375F to finish, turning it a couple of times like I do for the Zuni chicken.

      Am going to make the bread salad instead of traditional stuffing, but will tweak to make more holiday-ish (dried cranberries, pecans, sauteed mushrooms, arugula). Will make a loose gravy w/ the drippings for the bird. Gotta have gravy!!

      FYI: Fine Cooking's Thanksgiving issue had info on dry brining a medium-sized turkey. There is also a wet brine recipe in the Zuni cookbook for a 15-lb. turkey. Interestingly, she suggests to brine for around 5-7 days and then let dry for at least a couple days.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Carb Lover

        I'm a fan of the zuni roast chicken so I say "why not?" My only concerns would be smoke in the kitchen and salting it enough. Judy is really good about giving proportions in the book, though, so follow them and you'll do great. And definitely let the skin dry out for a few days. I find this improves the crispyness of even the flabbiest bird. Do report back!

      2. The Diestel Petites run from 6 to 8 pounds. I priced them at Whole Foods, but I was going to need two and they ARE more per pound than the big ones. If you don't have a WF handy, go to the Diestel website for more info.

        First turkey I ever cooked was a 6-lb supermarket turkey, the last one they had in the store (hadn't sold because nobody wanted a small one!). I treated it like a big baking hen and it came out great!

        1. l
          La Dolce Vita

          On p. 402 of her book, Judy Rodgers gives directions for roasting a turkey. She brines it for 5 or 6 days in a salt-sugar-water solution.

          In her instructions for the Zuni roast chicken, she recommends that the bird be no larger than three-and-a-half pounds. She says that jumbo roasters don't work because they're too lean and don't tolerate the high heat that is a requirment of this method.

          You can experiment anyway and see if the dry-salt-rub method works with a turkey. Personally, I'd just do the brine, since it has worked well everytime I've done it.

          1. The current Sunset has a dry rubbed turkey which includes salt and a lot of spices and has been through their test kitchen. Looks good to me.


            6 Replies
            1. re: Tom Hall

              I'm planning to try this recipe. I'm curious, and it's less work than a wet brine but has similar seasonings to the Alice Waters brine, which I've liked in the past.

              There is a very basic recipe (just salt) for a 12-lb. bird in the recent (T-day) issue of Fine Cooking. This one calls for 1/4 cup kosher salt and does it just a day before IIRC, which doesn't seem like enough to me.

              1. re: ChowNews

                One day to dry brine a turkey doesn't sound ideal. For a 12-15 lb. bird, I think a minimum of 3 days is good, 4 if on the larger end of the scale.

                If I'm converting correctly (1/4 c = 4 TB), then the Fine Cooking recipe sounds like it uses too much salt IMO. For a 12 lb. bird, I'd use about 3 TB kosher salt.

                Should be interesting to see how the dry-cured turkeys turn out this year. Hope everyone reports back w/ their results!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  I salted a 7 pound Eberly bird 24 hours in advance and roasted it around 475. It was good...but Eberly turkeys always are, and I didn't feel that it was as superior to my usual turkeys as Zuni chicken is to normal roast chicken.

                  Of course, I think there was something wrong with this bird. ONe breast was twice the size of the other. It played HELL with my thermometer...i thought the thing was broken until I realized the turkey was deformed.

                  1. re: danna

                    Thanks for reporting back, danna. I still haven't tried the Zuni high heat method on a turkey. Did you rub on any oil or butter or keep it "naked"? Any problems w/ the oven smoking up?

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Nope, naked. I have not had trouble w/ smoke any of the times I've done the Zuni method. Not sure if my oven isn't hot enough, or if it's just well insulated, or what.

                      I finally bought the Zuni book last week. I made the savory apple charlotte last night. Interesting dish, and good.

                2. re: ChowNews

                  Please report your results. I'd like to try it but the hometown fans were nervous about it.