bacon-covered breasts are roasted and the thighs and
legs are braised for a turkey that forgoes the
whole-bird trophy reveal at the table but makes up for
that in great flavor.
how I hated Thanksgiving and Christmas as a kid. Well, the
dinners, anyway: As if the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes
(ewww!) and nondairy whipped dessert topping-topped pumpkin
pie (blech!) weren’t bad enough. The turkey, though.
Breast meat as dry as Tutankhamen’s toenails. Legs so
greasy and tough they should have auditioned for
"American Graffiti." And gravy with exactly
one-billionth the pizazz of a lecture on 14th-century
as a grown-up, I’ve discovered a way to eliminate these
problems (no, not ordering Chinese). Follow me.
YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS
at first blush, this may seem like a huge pain, but trust
me: Follow these instructions, and I guarantee you’ll have
a meal that, had you lived in ancient Greece, undoubtedly
there would have been epic poems written about you. Like the
"Iliad," only about you, cooking turkey. Call it,
STEPS YOU TAKE
off the bat, let’s find you a good turkey. Stay away from
the frozen bowling balls. For one thing, they’ve had more
injections than Dolly Parton. For another, they read
Solzhenitsyn and think, "Wish we had had it that
your local butcher. Get a locally raised, humanely
slaughtered bird. Sure, you’ll pay a little more, but,
come on … the injections … the turkey gulags … Plus,
you’re supporting the local economy.
that we’ve got your bird sorted, we’re going to hammer
through what you’re going to do with it, because it’s a
three-day process, and the work starts Tuesday before
down bird, brine pieces, roast bones and prep veggies (about
1 hour of prep).
break down the bird, remove the boneless breasts from the
carcass, and take off the legs and wings. Wait! You mean you
don’t know how to do that? Oh, dear criminy Pete!
Fortunately, Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder, says
the butchers there can break down the bird for you at no
extra charge. Lots of butchers will, in fact.
them to give you two each: boneless breasts, wings, thighs,
drumsticks. And, of course, a bag of giblets, including the
neck, along with the carcass, preferably chopped into three
or four pieces (easier to fit in the stockpot).
make the brine, dissolve 3/4 cup each of salt and sugar in a
gallon of water. Submerge the breasts, legs and thighs,
cover and refrigerate overnight. If it’s cold enough
outside, I’ll just put it all in a brining bag and leave
it like a mob hit in the trunk of my car.
you’ve done that, roast the turkey carcass along with the
wings in a hot oven (425-ish) until they’re nice and
brown, about 30 to 60 minutes. While they’re roasting,
roughly chop a couple of onions, two carrots and four ribs
of celery into about six pieces each. Brown them in a little
fat in a saute pan or in the hot oven. The amount of onion
you have should be roughly equal to the combined amount of
carrot and celery. This is called mirepoix. The total weight
of mirepoix should be roughly one fifth (20 percent) of the
weight of the carcass and wings combined. And remember, I’m
saying "roughly." This is neither rocket science
nor brain surgery. When the turkey parts and mirepoix are
all nice and brown, pack everything up together and store in
the fridge overnight.
the turkey and make the stock (30 minutes of prep and six
hours of simmering).
the turkey pieces from the brine, and set the brine free by
pouring it down the drain. Put the turkey pieces on a wire
rack over a sheet pan and set them in the refrigerator
overnight to dry.
make stock, put the roasted turkey carcass, wings and
mirepoix in a stockpot. Cover them with cold water, and add
a couple of bay leaves, a bunch of parsley, a teaspoon-ish
of dried thyme or a small bunch of fresh thyme, and 5 to 10
peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and
simmer 4 to 6 hours. When the stock is done, pass through a
fine-meshed strainer and chill it in an ice bath until cool.
Wrap it and store it in the fridge until Thursday.
the legs, roast the breasts and make the sauce.
For smaller dinner parties, cook only one each: breast, leg
and thigh. And freeze the rest along with some turkey stock
for another day.
braise the legs and thighs: Sear them on all sides in a
little fat in a pot just big enough to hold them comfortably
in one layer. While they’re searing, roughly chop an
onion, a carrot and a couple ribs of celery. Remove the
browned legs and add the vegetables along with two or three
cloves of smashed garlic. When the veggies are brown,
deglaze the pan with a little white wine if you like, then
put the legs back in and add enough turkey stock to almost
cover them completely. Add some fresh herbs, too — thyme,
sage, parsley, whatever you like. Crank the heat, and bring
it to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low to
braise at a bare simmer. Braise until the meat is falling
off the bone, 60 to 90 minutes.
the legs braise, roast the breasts: Make a couple of bacon
mats to cover the breasts. Weave slices of bacon as you
would strips of dough for a lattice pie crust. Sprinkle the
breasts with salt and pepper, then cover each with a bacon
blanket. Roast side by side in a 375-degree oven to an
internal temperature of 165 degrees, about an hour. Remove
from the oven and rest on a cutting board for about 15
minutes before slicing.
the breasts rest, remove the legs from the braising liquid.
To make your sauce, what we Amerkins like to call
"gravy," you’re going to need about 1 ounce of
roux (equal parts by weight butter and flour) for every cup
of liquid. Strain and degrease your braising liquid,
discarding the used-up veggies and herbs. Melt your butter,
then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, until it turns a
light brown, then whisk in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then
reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste for
seasoning, then remove from the heat until right before you’re
ready to serve.
For giblet gravy, season all the organ-y bits like the
heart, gizzard and liver, and saute them in fat until cooked
through. When they’re done, chop them up and add them to
your gravy. You could also flavor it with sauteed mushrooms
or braised pearl onions, a little cream, some fresh herbs of
your choice — whatever moves you.)
the sauce is simmering, carve the breasts and legs, and put
the slices on a warm platter. Finish the sauce by whisking
in an ounce or two of whole butter. Serve everything
immediately and confidently, then sit back and wait for the