If you're tired of serving a typical turkey, try spicing up your Thanksgiving feast with one of these creative recipes.
Ghee-basted turkey with citrus and curry leaves
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 (12- to 15-pound) turkey, giblets, neck and liver removed
2 blood oranges, zested and halved (regular oranges may be substituted)
2 lemons, zested and halved
8 ounces ghee, homemade or from a jar, plus more for basting (clarified butter may be substituted), divided
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2 large onions, peeled
2 bulbs of garlic, halved
3 sprigs of curry leaves, plus additional for garnishing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1. The night before, remove giblets, neck and liver from inside the turkey. Pat turkey dry, and put back in the fridge.
2. About an hour before cooking, take turkey out of the fridge, pat dry again and let rest on counter, allowing skin to continue drying out and turkey to reach room temperature.
3. While turkey is resting, position one rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Mix zest from oranges and lemons with 4 ounces of ghee, 1 tablespoon salt and a large pinch of pepper; set aside.
4. When ready to cook, heavily salt and pepper the cavity of the turkey. Place your fingers under the skin of the breast and gently pull the skin away from the meat, being careful not to tear the skin.
5. Using your hands, rub the ghee and zest mix over the meat, under the skin.
6. Place 1 lemon, 1 orange, 1 onion and 1 bulb of garlic in the cavity of the bird, along with 2 sprigs of the curry leaves or herbs. Tuck the ends of the drumsticks under the flap of skin or the plastic or metal "hock lock," or tie them together with kitchen twine.
7. Place the remaining orange, lemon, onion, garlic and last sprig of curry leaves in the bottom of the roasting pan, distributing evenly; drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
8. Generously salt the outside of the turkey and rub with remaining ghee. Sprinkle with a large pinch of pepper and place the turkey on top of a roasting rack, breast-side up.
9. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until the skin has turned a light golden brown. Using a pastry brush, baste with ghee, turn heat down to 325 degrees, tent with foil and continue roasting, basting with the ghee every 30 to 45 minutes. About 30 minutes before turkey is done, take any remaining curry leaves or herbs and brush them with ghee and place on the turkey skin. They will crisp as the turkey finishes cooking.
10. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in meaty part of the thigh (not touching a bone) registers 165 degrees, about 3 to 3 1⁄2 hours. The bird will continue to cook outside the oven, rising to a temperature of about 180 degrees.
11. Transfer turkey to a carving board. Remove the crisped curry leaves or herbs and set aside, reserving the pan drippings for gravy. Let the turkey stand, uncovered, for at least an hour or tented with foil for up to 90 minutes before carving. Serve with gravy and crisp curry leaves or herbs. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
3 cups turkey or chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1. Once the turkey is out of the pan, remove the rack and place the pan with all the citrus, curry leaves and aromatics on burner of stove. Add stock and heat over medium heat, using a spatula to loosen any drippings stuck to the pan.
2. Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepan, using a spoon to tamp it down and release all the juices. In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and about 1⁄4 cup of the stock; whisk to combine.
3. Add the cornstarch mixture to the stock in the saucepan and whisk over medium heat until gravy thickens. Transfer to a gravy boat. Makes about 3 cups.
Grace & Grit Brined Turkey
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
One 12- to 14-pound turkey, rinsed well
Turkey brine (see below for do-ahead instructions)
1⁄2 pound herb mustard butter (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
3 shallots cut into quarters
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh sage
1. Pour chilled brine into a large stockpot or other large container. Submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove turkey from brine. Drain the turkey well and blot with paper towels so the turkey is very dry.
3. Loosen turkey skin from the breast meat using your fingers, taking care not to tear the skin. Spread the herb mustard butter liberally under the skin and in all cavities, including on top of the turkey. Season the turkey liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the bird with carrots, celery, shallots and herbs.
4. Place turkey, breast-side down, on a roasting rack set in a large roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Flip the turkey and continue to roast until the breast meat registers 160 on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 1⁄2 hours longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 20 minutes before carving.
1 gallon water
1 cup sugar
1 cup kosher salt
3 cloves garlic
4 to 5 black peppercorns
Sprig fresh thyme
Sprig fresh sage
1 bay leaf
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Let cool completely. Refrigerate until chilled.
Herb mustard butter:
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
3 shallots, minced
2 table spoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly until ingredients are evenly distributed. Reserve half the seasoned butter and refrigerate to serve with turkey. Use remaining half to prep the turkey for cooking.
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
3 carrots, peeled and minced
3 ribs celery, minced
4 shallots, minced
1 bulb fennel, minced
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth
4 cups low-sodium canned beef broth
1 bay leaf
6 to 8 peppercorns
4 sprigs thyme
Ground black pepper
1. Melt butter over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, shallots and fennel, and cook until browned.
2. Add flour and cook until the roux is dark.
3. Add chicken broth and beef broth, and cook. Bring to a boil, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
4. Add bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme. Turn heat down and simmer until thickened, 25 to 30 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Aromatic Roast Turkey
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 (14- to 16-pound) turkey
For the brine:
3 quarts chicken broth or vegetable broth, or water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
For inside the bird:
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sage leaves
1. The day before Thanksgiving, prepare the brine: Combine stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a 5-gallon bucket and add 5 quarts cold water or, to cool it more quickly, add 10 pounds of ice.
2. Place turkey in the brine, breast-side down. If necessary, weigh down the bird so it is completely submerged: Place a metal bowl on top of it and place some heavy cans in the bowl. Refrigerate the turkey or store in a cool area overnight, or for up to 16 hours. (If you don't have enough refrigerator space or a garage or an outdoor area that is below 40 degrees, you can brine turkey in a large cooler and add ice packs to the brine. (Or buy a kosher turkey, which is pre-brined.)
3. Preheat oven to 500 degrees and move rack to lowest position. Rinse bird and pat dry. Tuck wings under the bird and place on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan.
4. Film a large skillet with canola oil. Add onion, celery, carrots and saute over medium heat until the vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Add apple, cinnamon stick, star anise and 1 cup water. Simmer for 5 minutes; add thyme and sage, then transfer mixture to the cavity of the turkey. Coat the turkey skin liberally with canola oil.
5. Roast the turkey at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and roast until the breast meat registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, the dark meat registers 170, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Cover turkey loosely with foil and let rest at least 30 minutes (and up to an hour). Remove seasonings before carving. Transfer any pan juices to gravy.
For turkey gravy:
1 turkey neck
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
8 sprigs of thyme
1 cup flour
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart beef broth
Freshly ground pepper
1. Film a large saucepan or Dutch oven with oil. Over medium heat, saute turkey neck and onion. When onion softens, add butter and thyme. When butter is melted, add flour and stir for a few minutes, making sure to integrate all the flour into the fat.
2. Add broths and whisk to combine well. Turn heat to low so gravy is at a slow simmer; cook for 45 minutes. Transfer all turkey pan juices into gravy. Before serving, fish out turkey neck and, if desired, strain gravy through a fine-mesh sieve. Adjust salt and pepper. Makes 8 cups gravy
Brined turkey with southwestern spice rub
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
2 cups kosher salt
2 gallons water
1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, rinsed, giblets and neck set aside
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a large stockpot, dissolve salt in water. Place turkey in pot and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
2. Before removing turkey from brine, make spice rub: Combine chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, black pepper, sea salt, cayenne and allspice in a bowl.
3. Remove turkey from brine and rinse well under cold running water. Thoroughly pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels.
4. Place turkey on a rimmed baking sheet. Carefully separate skin from breast meat and rub 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture onto breast meat. Rub another tablespoon of spice mixture inside cavity of turkey. Brush underside of turkey with 1 tablespoon oil and rub with half of remaining spice mixture. Brush breast of turkey with 1 tablespoon olive oil and then rub with the remaining 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture.
5. Trim tailpiece, tie legs together with kitchen twine, and tuck wings under bird. Refrigerate uncovered on baking sheet overnight.
6. Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large v-rack with heavy-duty foil, poke some holes in it with a skewer and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place turkey on rack, breast-side down, and roast for 45 minutes.
7. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Use wadded paper towels to grasp turkey on either end and turn breast-side up on rack. Continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1½ hours longer. Transfer turkey to carving board; let rest 30 minutes before carving and serving. Makes 6 to 8 generous servings.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey; giblets, neck and liver removed
2 large onions, peeled
4 stalks celery
3 sprigs each: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper
1 stick butter, melted
1. Position a rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Pat turkey dry.
2. Halve 1 onion, roughly chop the other. Halve 1 carrot, roughly chop the others. Roughly chop the celery. Place halved onion and carrot and all the herbs inside the turkey cavity with some salt and pepper. Tuck the ends of the drumsticks under the flap of skin or the plastic or metal "hock lock," or tie them together with kitchen twine.
3. Distribute the rest of the chopped vegetables in bottom of heavy roasting pan and place bird on top. Brush turkey with melted butter and season with salt and pepper.
4. Roast for 30 minutes, baste with pan juices, then turn heat down to 350 and continue roasting, basting every 30 minutes. Turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in meaty part of the thigh (not touching a bone) registers 180 degrees, about 2½ to 3½ hours.
5. Transfer turkey to a platter, reserving the pan drippings for gravy. Let the turkey stand, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes or, tented with foil, up to 90 minutes before carving. Serve with gravy.
Simple Roast Turkey and Gravy
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
1 (10-to-12 pound) turkey
1. The night before Thanksgiving, take the turkey out of its wrapping, dry it off, and, from a distance of about a foot, give it a nice sprinkling of kosher salt. Grind some pepper onto it then refrigerate it, uncovered.
2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator up to an hour before you plan to roast it. Place it on a rack in a sturdy sheet pan or shallow roasting pan (you want air to circulate around the bird as it cooks) and put it on the bottom shelf of the oven. If your oven is deep enough, put the legs facing the back of the oven.
3. Turn oven down to 300 degrees and roast for about 3 hours, until the temperature of the breast registers 150 to 160 degrees and the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 to 170 degrees. Carefully remove turkey to a carving board so you can deglaze the drippings in the roasting pan. Let turkey rest for at least 45 minutes and up to 90 minutes before carving. Makes 8 servings plus leftovers.
The secret to this gravy is using dark poultry stock (recipe below) -- stock that has been made with roasted chicken or turkey and, instead of water, a regular stock.
Pan drippings (still in roasting pan)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups dark poultry stock
Turkey giblets, trimmed of connective tissue and chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper
1. After you remove the turkey from the roasting pan, pour off the fat in the pan and discard. Then add a cup of water and put the pan back into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes, until the drippings stuck to the bottom loosen enough to be scraped into the water with a wooden spoon. Pour into a heatproof vessel and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, combine butter and flour and stir, over medium heat, until you have a richly tanned roux, 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk in the liquid from the roasting pan and the poultry stock. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes until mixture slightly thickens. Add optional giblets. Taste for salt and pepper (it may not need any). Makes 3 1/2 cups.
DARK POULTRY STOCK:
1 1/2 pounds turkey wings or thighs
1 1/2 pounds turkey gizzards and/or necks
2 pounds chicken thighs
4 quarts homemade chicken stock (or canned, low-sodium broth)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all of the items on a sheet tray and roast in the oven until nicely browned, about 1 hour or so.
2. Remove them from the sheet tray and place them in a large pot. Add the cooled chicken stock and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a strong simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 quarts, 1 to 2 hours. Strain and reserve. Makes about 2 1/4 quarts.
4 pounds chicken backs, necks, thighs and/or wings
Combine chicken with 6 quarts of water in a large pot, bring to a boil and then reduce the flame so that the liquid maintains a strong simmer (just a bit less than a boil). Cook for 3 hours, until slightly reduced, and then strain the stock. Discard the bones and chill until needed. Makes about 4 quarts.
The drippings from the aromatic turkey make a particularly tasty gravy. Hard cider is available at beer distributors and some wine stores.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 (20-pound) turkey
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
2 sprigs rosemary
6 to 8 sprigs thyme
Peel of 1 lemon
Peel of 3 clementines
½ cup brown sugar
3 (22-ounce) bottles hard cider (2 quarts)
1 to 2 cups each coarsely chopped onion, carrot and celery
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1. To brine a turkey, you'll need an extra-large resealable plastic bag (both Reynolds and Ziploc make them) and a vessel that can accommodate the bagged bird -- a large stockpot or even one of the drawers from your refrigerator. Remove neck and giblets from turkey; cut off (and reserve) yellow tail fat.
2. In a saucepan, combine 1 quart (4 cups) water with the salt, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, lemon and clementine peel and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add another quart of water to cool down contents of saucepan. Drape the plastic bag inside your chosen vessel and pour in the brining liquid, then add the hard cider and a gallon of cold water. Place turkey carefully into brine, then squeeze as much air as possible out of the plastic bag before sealing it. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
3. Position a rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from brine; drain and pat dry. Loosely fill neck and body cavities with half the chopped vegetables. Tuck the ends of the drumsticks under the flap of skin or the plastic or metal "hock lock." (If none exists, tie ends together with kitchen twine.) Place turkey on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. Smear with melted butter and sprinkle with pepper and coriander. Place remaining chopped vegetables in pan along with ½ cup water.
4. To ensure that turkey breast doesn't burn, make a "breast shield" by taking a piece of foil larger than the breast and placing it flush on the breast. Fold edges of the foil so the shield exactly conforms to the breast while leaving legs and wings exposed.
5. Roast turkey, basting after 1 hour and every 45 minutes thereafter (including area under foil), until an instant-read thermometer inserted in meaty part of the thigh (not touching a bone) registers 175 degrees, about 5 hours. During the last hour of roasting, remove and discard the foil. If the pan drippings start to scorch, add more water.
6. Transfer turkey to a platter, reserving the pan drippings for gravy. Let the turkey stand, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes (and up to 1 hour) before carving.
Dismantled turkey with thyme butter and sage
The quantities given below are for a 14-pound turkey. For a larger bird, increase accordingly.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 (14-pound) turkey, legs separated from the breast; neck, backbone and thigh bones removed and reserved for stock
1 small bunch thyme
1 small shallot
Freshly ground pepper
1 stick butter, softened and divided
1 small bunch sage
Bunches of thyme and sage
1. The night before Thanksgiving, season the breast and legs. For the breast's thyme butter: Remove thyme leaves from stems; you will need about 2 tablespoons. Grate zest from lemon; you should have about 2 tablespoons. Finely mince shallot, about 2 tablespoons. Combine thyme, zest and shallot with ¼ teaspoon salt and ? teaspoon freshly ground pepper. In a mini processor (or with a mortar and pestle) process the seasonings with 6 tablespoons of softened butter and work until fully combined. Scrape into a small bowl.
2. Starting opposite the neck end, gently pull skin away from the breast until you can fit your hand in. Spread thyme butter liberally and evenly on the breast meat. Pat the breast skin back down and then rub skin with a little more butter. (You will have some butter left over; save it for enriching the gravy.)
3. For the legs: Combine remaining 2 tablespoons butter with a good amount of salt and pepper. Remove sage leaves from stems. Starting at the thigh, gently pull skin away from each leg. Smear meat with seasoned butter. Place sage leaves flat on meat in as decorative a pattern as possible. Pat skin back down and rub with a bit more butter. With kitchen twine or foodloops (thefoodloop.com lists retailers), tie around thickest part of thigh.
4. On Thanksgiving, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place breast on a large baking sheet and place in oven. After 30 minutes, place legs on baking sheet. Unless your oven is incredibly even-heating, after 30 minutes, turn baking sheet 180 degrees. If breast starts to get too brown, put foil over it. Bake another 30 minutes and then start testing temperature of both breast and legs. The breast should come out when an instant-read thermometer placed near the breastbone registers 165 degrees. The legs are ready when the thighs are 175 degrees. A 14-pound bird should take 1¾ to 2 hours for the breast; 1¼ to 1½ hours for legs. (For a 20-pound bird: breast, 2½ to 2¾ hours; legs, 1¾ to 2 hours.)
5. Remove breast and legs from pan and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before carving. When pan is cool enough to handle, drain drippings into a heat-proof measuring cup or bowl. As they stand, the drippings will fall to bottom and the fat will rise to the top. Skim off fat and reserve both fat and drippings for gravy.
6. For presentation purposes, a reasonable approximation of a whole bird can be achieved by placing the breast on a platter and flanking it with the legs. Camouflage any gaps with bunches of herbs or grapes.
7. To carve, remove wings from breast and serve whole. Run carving knife along breastbone to remove each breast half in 1 piece. Cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. For legs, cut boneless thighs crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices; serve drumsticks whole.