So I did a test dinner tonight that will be a lot like what I will make on Thanksgiving Day for dinner. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about how well this recipe would go. It is one I picked up from America’s Test Kitchen on a braised turkey with gravy. The trick in this one is that you butcher the chicken so you are cooking all the parts. They also recommend brining the turkey. Now I have heard both sides of the argument on this one and I am still not sure which would be best. I know that brining does help to keep things moist, but if you are like me, you may not have the room in your refrigerator for a tub to brine a whole turkey in, so I skipped the brining process. Everything turned out really well without it so I think you can get away with not doing it.
Braised Turkey with Gravy
Salt and Pepper
1 cup sugar
1 (5-7 pound) whole bone-in turkey breast, trimmed
4 pounds turkey drumsticks and thighs, trimmed
3 onions, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry wine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
For the Turkey: Dissolve 1 cup of salt and the sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a large container. Submerge the turkey pieces in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Toss the onions,celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, porcini mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large roasting pan; arrange everything in an even layer. Brush the turkey pieces with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and season with pepper. Place the turkey pieces, skin side up, over the vegetables, leaving at least 1/4 inch between the pieces. Roast until the skin is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Pour the broth and wine around the turkey pieces (it should come about three-quarters of the way up the legs and thighs). Place a sheet of parchment paper over the turkey pieces. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil. Return the covered roasting pan to the oven and cook until the breasts register 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.
For the Gravy: Strain the vegetables and liquid from the roasting pan through a fine-mesh strainer set in a large bowl. Press the solids with the back of a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the vegetables. Transfer the liquid to a fat separator; allow it to settle for 5 minutes. Reserve 3 tablespoons of fat and measure out 3 cups of braising liquid.
Heat the reserved fat in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is a dark golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 3 cups of braising liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the gravy is thick and reduced to 2 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the gravy from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
I’ll be honest- butchering the turkey was no easy feat, even with poultry shears and a good sharp knife. If you could get it butchered before you even bring it home, that would be ideal. If not, it took me about 20 minutes to do it. I didn’t think that was too bad, considering I had never done that with a turkey before. I think the results are well worth the work that goes into it. The turkey came out done perfectly. It was very moist and the skin was nice and crispy. I took the foil off for the last 10 minutes or so to crisp up the skin and it was great. It also made carving easy since all the parts were removed already.
There’s a stuffing recipe that goes along with this recipe so you can make use of the turkey wings (thought I forgot about them, didn’t you?). This recipe is designed to make stuffing for 10-12 people, so if you have a smaller group coming, cut the recipe down appropriately. I cut in half for today since they were only 5 of us for dinner and it was the perfect amount with just a bit left over.
Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Dried Cherries and Pecans
2 pounds hearty white sandwich bread (20 to 22 slices) cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I actually used a large loaf of french bread instead, and it came out fine, so use whatever bread you like)
3 pounds turkey wings, divided at the joints
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound pork sausage
4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the baking dish
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 celery ribs, chopped fine
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 large eggs
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped fine
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower middle positions and heat the oven to 250 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in an even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the edges have dried but centers are slightly moist, 45 to 60 minutes, stirring several times during baking. (You can toast the bread up to 1 day in advance.) Transfer the cubes to a large bowl and increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Use the tip of a paring knife to poke 10 to 15 holes in each wing segment. heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the wings in a single layer and cook until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip the wings and continue to cook until golden brown on the second side, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer the wings to a medium bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the sausage; cook, breaking the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet.
Heat the butter with the rendered fat in the skillet over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the onion, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Add the thyme, sage, and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup of broth and bring to a simmer, using a wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the vegetable mixture to the bowl with the dried bread and toss to combine.
Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with butter. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, remaining 1 1/2 cups of broth, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and any accumulated juices from the wings until combined. Add the egg/broth mixture, cherries, pecans and sausage to the bread mixture and gently toss to combine; transfer to the greased baking dish. Arrange the wings on top of the stuffing, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake on the lower-middle rack until the thickest part of the wings registers 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 60 to 75 minutes. Remove the foil and transfer the wings to a dinner plate to reserve for another use. Using a fork, gently fluff the stuffing. Let it rest 5 minutes before serving.
The stuffing was great! I think putting the wings on the top was a great idea and added some turkey flavor to the stuffing. The dried cherries add just the amount of tartness to the dish and they rehydrate a bit with the broth while cooking.
I served the meal with mashed turnips and boiled potatoes, but on Thanksgiving I will be making mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. We’ll also be starting the meal off with a butternut squash soup. I’ll be posting the recipes for the butternut squash soup, sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole over the next few days if you want to check them out.
I also made a triple berry pie for dessert, which I have posted on here before. This time I used only frozen berries, but it turned out just as well if you want to try it that way.
I hope everyone has great plans for their Thanksgiving. I’ll be posting more recipes and I promise to take pictures of everything on Thursday while I am cooking (I am very bad about remembering to do that, I apologize). Until next time, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal.