11.22.10 Big Bird (The Rest is Gravy)
But most people simply can't abandon the Norman Rockwell image of that intact turkey perched on the carving board in all its golden glory. And for those of you who wish to hew to tradition (my dining companions included), I've gathered a few recipes for success. I've rarely actually been in charge of a turkey, depending as I do on the kindness of others for my Thanksgiving dinner. But some years ago I did make Martha's version with the breast draped in wine-&-butter-soaked cheesecloth, and I recall it being quite delicious. I didn't brine it first—I'm actually not sure that I've ever eaten a Thanksgiving turkey that's been brined! Not everyone is prepared to take that extra step, but I understand it makes an enormous difference. I love to eat the dark meat—and to gob mayonnaise and cranberry sauce on a leftover turkey sandwich—so dryness is not my particular bugaboo, but it looks like we're going the brining route this year.
As for the question of what sort of turkey to buy: you know the answer, and it ain't an artificially plumped up, corn-fed Butterball that's jacked up on hormones and probably been frozen for the better part of a year. PLEASE splurge on an organic bird, if not one of the harder-to-find heritage breeds that require you to pre-order months in advance. I found this site which I thought looks pretty interesting. This year, our bird is from Dickson's, where you may still be lucky enough to find one by showing up right when they open on Wednesday.
Now, for the gravy. Most people like to make stock from the neck and giblets (no liver, please, it's too strongly flavored) while the turkey roasts. Then use that with some pan drippings and flour to make a rather thick sauce. This recipe from Cooking with Drew looks like it improves upon that and makes a rich, deeply flavorful gravy. Please make your own stock! And here's my recipe again for the sherry-spiked gravy that I posted last week. Instead of the bacon, you can substitute pan drippings from your roast turkey. For another option, here's the winning recipe from Food52's gravy contest. It's actually a vegetarian gravy that nevertheless promises lots of flavor and none of the hassle of wrestling with the turkey drippings at the last minute. The runner-up was this cider-sage gravy, lightly perfumed with the sweetness of apples.
Extreme Pan Gravy
- — 8 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
- — 18 shallots peeled and halved
- — 3 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
- — 1-2 cups homemade turkey stock, chicken is also fine
- — 1/4 cup dry sherry, or to taste
- — 10 fresh sage leaves, finely minced
- — 1/4-1/2 cup light or heavy cream, optional
- — freshly ground black pepper
Mix together the onions, shallots and garlic and spread them on the bottom of your roasting pan. Place turkey on top and roast according to your recipe.
When turkey is done, remove pan from oven and place turkey, lightly covered with foil, on a platter or cutting board to rest. Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked vegetables and puree in batches in food processor, adding stock as needed to move the puree.
Place puree in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and thin with additional warm stock to desired consistency. Stir in sherry, sage and cream, if using. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, as needed.