Here’s my step-by-step guide to Thanksgiving turkey. Plan ahead, follow these instruction and your friends and family will be giving thanks all night long. And, if you want to make your life easier, pick up some of our housemade stuffing, gravy, and brine kits, available at both locations!
6 quarts water
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
6 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
8 thyme sprigs
1 turkey, 15 lbs
1 quart ice
Vegetable oil for drizzling
1 lb unsalted butter
1 bunch sage, leaves picked and chopped
1 bunch thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 tsp ground allspice
¼ cup Madeira (or port)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ lb butter
2 large cooking onions, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
Liver from the turkey, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
1 bunch sage, leaves picked and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup Madeira (or port) (optional)
1 cups turkey or Chicken Stock (page xxx)
4 cups diced stale bread (dice it the day before and leave it to dry out)
2 cups white wine (divided)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp cooking fat (from the turkey)
1 turkey neck (from the bird), chopped into smaller chunks
Giblets from the turkey
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
4 sage sprigs
Salt and pepper to taste
the drippings from the cooked turkey (should be about 2 cups)
1 cup dark turkey or Chicken Stock (page xxx)
1. The night before you plan to serve the turkey, in a stockpot large enough to hold the turkey, bring the water to a boil with the salt, sugar, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. When the salt and sugar are dissolved, turn off the heat and add the ice. Allow the brine to cool until you can stick your finger into it, pain free.
2. Remove the giblets, liver, and neck from the turkey (usually these are in the neck or body cavity). Set them in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Place the turkey in the pot with the brine (or place the turkey in the brining bag and add the brine, then place it in a bowl). Refrigerate for at least 12–15 hours (or one hour per pound).
3. To make the compound butter, cut the butter into slices and arrange them on a plate at room temperature to soften. In a small bowl, mix the chopped herbs, allspice, and Madeira with salt and pepper to taste. When the butter is soft, add it to the herb mixture and, using a spatula, fold them all together. Shape the butter into a rectangle on a layer of plastic wrap, roll up, and refrigerate overnight.
4. On the day of the celebration, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine and set the turkey aside while you make the stuffing.
5. To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and the bay leaves, cover, and, stirring frequently, sweat for 15 minutes or until the onions start to change color slightly. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the giblets and liver and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the celery, carrots, allspice, nutmeg, sage, salt, and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium and sauté, stirring frequently until the celery starts to take on a bit of color.
6. Add the Madeira (if using) and reduce by half. Add 1 cup of stock, bring to a simmer, then pour the mixture on top of the diced bread. Mix thoroughly. If you find the mixture too dry, add a little more stock. Taste for salt and pepper. Set aside.
7. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Have ready your roasting pan. I like to use a pan with an elevated roasting rack, which allows hot air to circulate around the meat and cook it more evenly.
8. To prepare the turkey, lift the skin at the front of each breast and use your fingers to make a pocket between the skin and the breast meat. Cut the compound butter into ½-inch slices and slide the slices under the skin so they cover the breast. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the bread stuffing. Place the turkey on the rack in your roasting pan (if you don’t have a rack, line the bottom of the roasting pan with large chunks of onion and carrot and set the turkey on top of those.) Season the bird with salt and pepper and drizzle enough vegetable oil to cover the skin.
9. Place the pan on the center rack in the oven and roast for 4½–5 hours, basting every 30 minutes or so with the pan juices, until a thermometer plunged into the thigh of the turkey reads 180°F; the breast or stuffing should read 165°F. Remove from oven and transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Wrap the turkey in aluminum foil, then a tea towel to keep warm while it rests.
10. To make the gravy, pour the drippings and fat into a clear measuring cup (you might need two). The fat will rise above the drippings, spoon off the fat and discard, saving 2 tbsp. Reserve the drippings. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-low heat and add 1 cup of white wine. As it simmers, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to lift up all of the bits of caramelized roasting juices. Turn the heat off and set aside.
11. In a separate saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with 2 tbsp of the reserved roasted turkey fat. Add the turkey neck and giblet. Once brown, add the shallots and garlic and sauté until golden. Add the flour and stir vigorously to make an aromatic roux. Add the bay leaves, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper, and then deglaze the pot with the remaining white wine. Turn down the heat and stir constantly for about 5 minutes to cook the alcohol from the sauce. Add the reserved drippings (from both the measuring cup and the deglazed roasting pan) and stock, whisking to incorporate. Simmer for 5 minutes to incorporate the flavors. Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve into a gravy boat.
12. To carve the turkey, use a spoon to remove the stuffing from the cavity. Place some in a bowl and some on the turkey serving platter. Slice the breast meat first using clean long slices on the diagonal through each breast. Remove the whole leg by twisting the thigh away from the backbone. Separate the drumstick from the thigh. Set the drumsticks on the platter leaning against the stuffing. Slice the meat away from the thigh bone and pile it next to the drumsticks. Fan out the breast slices next to that.
13. To serve, present the platter of turkey with the stuffing and gravy to your hungry (and happy) guests.