Developed decades ago by Louisiana Cajun chefs, deep-fried turkey has taken America by storm and adds a whole new dimension to the art of Southern frying. If your bird is considerably larger than 10 pounds (and you have a large enough pot to hold it easily), you will have to adjust the frying time to about an hour. In any case, the result should be a turkey that is crunchy crisp on the outside with a succulent moist interior. Only an oil such as peanut with a high smoking point should be used, and because of spattering, the oil level should be no higher than about 7 inches from the top of the pot. This turkey cannot be stuffed, so if you want to also serve dressing, it will have to be baked in the oven. Is the fried turkey really as glorious as they say? You bet it is.
- One 9- to 10-pound dressed turkey (fresh or thawed frozen)
- 1/4 cup Cajun-style dry seasoning (available in most markets)
- 8 quarts peanut oil
- Remove the neck and giblet bag from the turkey cavity and reserve to make oven-baked dress¬ing and/or giblet gravy.
- Secure the turkey legs and wings with twine and pierce the turkey all over with a fork.
- Season the bird inside and out with the Cajun seasoning.
- In a large, heavy stockpot, heat enough oil to reach halfway up the sides to 350°F on a deep-fat thermometer.
- Using long-handled tongs, carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil breast side down till completely submerged and fry for about 20 minutes, maintaining the oil temperature at 350°F.
- Carefully turn the turkey over and fry breast side up till golden brown all over, about 15 minutes longer or till an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the breast regis¬ters 180°F.
- Carefully transfer the turkey to a heavy baking pan lined with paper towels to drain, remove the twine, and let stand for about 10 minutes before carving. Serve the bird while still hot.
James Villas was the food and wine editor for Town & Country magazine for twenty-seven years. His work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Gourmet, The New York Times and Esquire.
He's cooked with everyone from Julia Child, to James Beard to Craig Claiborne to Paul Prudhomme and has written seventeen cookbooks and books about food. "Pig: King of The Southern Table" earned him a James Beard Award, the equivalent of an "Oscar" in the food world.