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Tips for turkey success

What to do with the bird once it's in your kitchen

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Dec 19/01) - The Christmas season is as much about smell as it is about anything else.

Whether it's the scent of roasting chestnuts, the aroma of hot gingerbread or the sharp tingle of an evergreen tree, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas unless our noses were involved.

That said, there is one smell, one fragrance that pleases some of us more than words can express -- the succulent scent of a turkey in the oven.

Sure, there's something to be said for the fumes given off by mincemeat or the simmering of cranberry sauce, but it's the flesh of the fowl that delights the young and old alike.

Patrick Gogarty, the head waiter at the Wild Wolf Cafe in Rankin Inlet, has years of experience in the turkey field.

Hailing from a clan where the men traditionally cook the Christmas bird, Gogarty said he's cooked at least five himself and has been witness to many other turkeys making the ultimate sacrifice. He said the key to a tasty, pungent turkey is regular basting and perfectly timed tinfoil.

"From my experience, the best way to cook a turkey is to baste it lots, keep it moist and leave tinfoil on it until the last half hour."

Gogarty said the final 30 minutes without foil wrap gave the poultry the time it needed to get brown and crispy.

It's also important for the turkey to be stuffed, Gogarty said. The bird and the stuffing trade flavours and leave each other richer for having been party to the relationship.

"I use bread, celery, apples, a little bit of brown sugar, water and carrots," said Gogarty. "You mix it together, stuff it in the turkey and let it absorb the juices of the turkey," he said.

In Baker Lake, where a turkey retails for $2.59 a pound at the local Co-op (putting a 20-pound turkey in the neighbourhood of $50), Elizabeth Kotelewetz has plans to roast a bird big enough to feed six family members on Christmas day.

She said she dusts her turkey with salt, rubs a garlic clove over its skin and stuffs it with a concoction that includes the organs from the bird.

And, even though Kotelewetz has cooked between 40 and 50 turkeys in her lifetime, she still refuses to call herself an expert.

"It's difficult to get it to that point where it's cooked and the skin is crispy, but the meat is still moist."

"But, if you do, it's great," said Kotelewetz.