Monday, November 21, 2011

My Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Thanksgiving is almost here. It’s perhaps my favorite holiday these days, as it’s all about the food, family, and (thanks to the Cowboys playing) football. But of course it all starts with the guest of honor, the turkey.

We have a big family, so when I have Thanksgiving at my house, I always cook at least two, and sometimes three turkeys. The first year I hosted Thanksgiving, I only cooked one turkey, and after the meal it was almost all gone. And what’s Thanksgiving without leftovers! Doing multiple turkeys means there will be plenty for folks to nibble on later in the day, and to take home as well for those next day turkey sandwiches.

I’ve been known to fire up the smoker and smoke a whole turkey on T-day, and I also am a fan of fried turkey, so one of those usually makes an appearance as well. But I never fail to do an oven-roasted turkey as well, and that’s the recipe we’ll be discussing today. I simply love the flavor of an oven-roasted bird, and the aroma it sends wafting though the house is to die for! Also, with its beautiful, crisp, brown skin, it makes a perfect centerpiece on the table.

The recipe that I follow for my roast turkey is one with a simple herb butter application that really crisps the skin and makes the bird look beautiful and taste great. I’ve also thrown in my wife’s stuffing and gravy recipes, since no bird is complete without those two items.

Roast Turkey with Herb Butter

1 large turkey, thawed, giblets and neck reserved for gravy
1 stick butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 ½ tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Rinse turkey inside and out, pat dry. Place on rack in roasting pan. Sprinkle cavities with salt and pepper. If not stuffing turkey, place rosemary and sage sprigs in main cavity. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing loosely into main cavity.

(And of course by spoon, I mean, you can use your hands, like my wife does here)

For the herb butter, melt the stick of butter in a saucepan. Mix in the chopped rosemary, sage, orange zest, pepper and salt.

Brush herb butter on over turkey.

Tuck wing tips under turkey, tie legs together to hold shape.

Roast Turkey one hour. Baste with pan juices. Continued roasting turkey until thermometer inserted in thigh registers 180F, basting every 20 minutes, about 2 ½ hours more if unstuffed, or about 3 ¼ hours longer if stuffed.

After the turkey is finished, place on a platter, garnish with rosemary sprigs or what have you, and admire. Then eat. Don’t forget to make the Gravy. Stuffing recipe can be found here.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!


Turkey Gravy

Turkey Gravy

4 parts chicken broth
1 part turkey pan drippings
1 part giblet/neck stock
½ part flour
Salt and pepper to taste

While your turkey is roasting, simmer the neck and giblets in water to make giblet stock. (You can add a little chopped onion, carrot and celery, as well as some garlic, to the pot for extra flavor) After your turkey is finished roasting, heat the pan drippings in a frying pan until hot. Sprinkle or sift flour into the pan and brown. Add the chicken broth and giblet stock and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Salt and pepper to taste.

Thanksgiving Stuffing

I’m no master of stuffing, and in fact, I’ve always left the preparation of it to my sisters or my wife, except back in the bachelor days when I’d simply prepare a small amount to go in the bird itself. But my family is crazy about stuffing, or ‘dressing,’ as they call it, because we always grew up as a family that cooked the stuffing in a separate pan instead of in the bird. (I stuff the bird now, because I’m a traditionalist, but we always make a pan or two of ‘dressing’ so there’s plenty to go around)

I wanted to include a stuffing recipe here to go along with my turkey, but since I don’t have must experience with the dish, I’ve had to defer to my wife, who has presented me with her Grandmother’s stuffing recipe, which I’ve transcribed for you below.


1 loaf dry bread (I usually bake a French or Italian loaf a few days earlier, and let it stale up)
2 eggs, beaten
½ stick butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large celery sticks, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper
Water or giblet stock

Cut the bread in cubes and place in a large bowl. Pour the beaten eggs over the bread and mix. Melt the butter and fry the onion and celery until soft but not brown. Add the sage, stir and cook for a minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the water or giblet stock and let boil for a couple minutes. Then pour this liquid over the bread and mix up good. Add the mixture to the turkey cavity, or if desired, add it to a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 350F.