I posted this three years ago, but I’m repeating today for several reasons. It’s been just about the most popular post on this site. Second, everyone now is scrambling for “the” recipe for their turkey. Third, we tend to repeat our meal on Thanksgiving so why not repeat here the best recipes for this important American holiday.
Suzi and I are about to have our 26th Thanksgiving together. Believe me, we’ve tried a lot of things. There was that nasty goose idea where we nearly burned down the house. You think ducks have a fat problem? We’ve had turducken, deep fried turkey and even swathed a bird in puff pastry, complete with pastry cutouts of leaves and vines. It was beautiful. And it was so much work I have been informed by my wife to never, never request it again. Don’t worry about me, folks. I’ll find a way.
From all those experiences, though, here is the absolutely best and absolutely foolproof way to cook a wonderful turkey. Now, foolproof is pretty important. Not that any of you are fools, but … Thanksgiving Day can be a zoo. People coming and going. A rush of activity in the kitchen. Deadlines, missing ingredients. The chance that the Detroit Lions will actually win a football game.
Reduce your risk. Use this recipe and relish each
This secret to a great Thanksgiving turkey comes from Ogunquit, Maine. The very distinguished Arrows restaurant has received award after award. For decades they have demonstrated culinary excellence and ingenuity. Their cookbook, surprisingly named The Arrows Cookbook, is a treasure, filled with intriguing ideas.
And the very best of those ideas is their roast turkey. Brian and I, as you know, are always doing something new, something different. For years we had a new turkey idea each Thanksgiving. But for the past decade, we’ve always done our turkey this way. It was our introduction to brining and we were instant converts.
The picture you see above, of that great bird with mahogany skin, is what you achieve by following this recipe. Butter and cheesecloth and ladled stock can turn you into a foodie Michelangelo.
And the gravy. Brian is a gravy fanatic, but making it is always a bit of a chore. Both Brian and I are intimidating by it. I think the key reason is that by late afternoon on Thanksgiving we are tired. We’ve been cooking for hours, we are hungry, the smells fill the house, and now there is this one great step for mankind: gravy perfection. This gravy recipe is easy to follow, it works, and the results are wonderful. You just want to dip a spoon in and …
Two things you should know. Even if it is just two of us, we always get a humongous turkey. We love the leftovers — and yes there will be blogs on those in the coming days. And, the bigger the carcass, the more stock you can make. Use that stock through the winter for wonderful soups or broth for noodles. Homemade egg noodles with turkey broth is something that can make January warm.
And the second thing, a confession. We do cook brined turkeys always now. But we have a wonderful source for getting them already brined. In the rush of shopping and traveling, something had to give. Brine yourself if you can. Find a brined turkey source if you must.
Arrows’ Roast Turkey
Yield: Makes 8 serving
For the turkey:
- 1 fresh turkey, 15 to 20 pounds
- 1 to 2 3-pound boxes of kosher salt
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup chopped herb leaves, such as tarragon, thyme, and sage
- 16 tablespoons butter at room tempter
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 3 cups chicken stock
Two days before serving, remove the giblets and neck from the cavities of the turkey and cut off the wing tips. Reserve for stock or gravy. Put the turkey into a 5-gallon or larger bucker and add enough cold water) about 3 gallons) to cover the bird. Removed the turkey and set it aside. (This tells you how much water you need to cover the bird.) To the bucket add 1 pound salt (roughly 2 cups) for every gallon or so of water and stir to dissolve it well. Return the turkey to the bucket, put it in a cool place, and let site for at least 8 hours. An unheated garage or porch overnight works fine in cool climates; otherwise remove a shelf from the refrigerator to clear enough space.
The next day, removed the truly from brine. Dry it thoroughly with paper towns. Discard the brine. Transfer the turkey to a large bowl. Pour the olive oil over the turkey and rub the herbs over the outside and inside the turkey. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
On the day of serving, preheat the oven to 450°F.
Scrape off the marinade. Transfer the turkey to a large roasting pan fitted with a rack. Rub the outside of the turkey with 1 stick of the butter to coat the entire bird. Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over the outside and inside of the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Put the turkey into the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 325°F.
In a large sauce pan melt the remaining 1 stick of butter over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and let the butter cool. Put a quadruple layer of cheesecloth, about a foot square, into the pan and coat it with butter. In another saucepan, warm the chicken stock over medium-low heat.
After the turkey has roasted for about 1 to 1 ½ hours and skin is turning golden brown, lay the butter-soaked cheese cloth over the turkey breast to keep it moist. Ladle about 1 cup of the chick stock over the breast. Continue to baste the turkey with the warm stock every hour. Roast the turkey for about 3 hours total until a kitchen thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 175°F. Remove the turkey from the oven and discard the cheesecloth. Transfer the turkey to a platter, cover with foil and allow to rest of 1 hour before serving.
For the gravy:
- Fat and drippings from the roasted turkey
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups enriched stock or chicken stock
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
While the roast turkey is resting, pour the drippings from the roasting pan through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Wait about 5 minutes while the fat rises to the surface, then use a spoon or ladle to remove the fat. Reserve separated 1/4cup of the fat and all the pan juices. Discard the remaining fat.
Combine ¼ cup fat and the butter in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted. Whisk in the flour and increase the heat to medium. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is slightly brown and has a nutty smell, about 3 minutes
Slowly pour the stock into the flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Stir in the reserve pan juice and bring the gravy to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking frequently so a not to scorch the gravy. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the gravy through a fine sieve into another pot. Serve at once or cover and keep warm on the back of the stove for up to 2 hours.
Source: The Arrows Cookbook
“They want a green vegetable,” Suzen said to me.
“God, not green beans. Please, I can’t do it.”
We were discussing our hosts’ requests for what to bring on Thanksgiving. This year we’ve opted to share the holiday with lovely friends. There will be wine, noise, shared cooking, and wine. Good wine.
“I’m researching,” I said.
“Go right ahead,” Suzen gave me my freedom.
Look, I like green beans. But if I see one more roasted green bean with slivered almonds, I am going to pick it up and stab someone in the eye.
Green? What do I really like that is green — aside from tomatillos? Well, mint but you can’t eat mint all by itself. Ah, but mint and peas? No, that would be springtime. Still, peas.
One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is The New Thanksgiving Table from Diane Morgan. I’ve actually scanned several of her recipes into my “database” to have with me anywhere my laptop and I travel. And here, here is where I found Cracked Pepper and Butter Peas with Parmesan.
We are taking this to our friends on Thursday, and you, too, may be very interested in this recipe. Why? That’s easy. This recipe is easy.
Have you ever made a Thanksgiving dinner where, by the time you sat down, you were too exhausted to eat it? Oh, last year? Me, too.
For holidays, you can go so far out on so many recipes at once, that by mealtime you are toasted. Look, some things need attention. The turkey, the stuffing, and god knows that gravy. But you don’t have to kill yourself over each and every dish. You need some simple yet wonderful things. This recipe is one of them. Now, to be sure, this calls for preparation just before you eat, but it is so simple that won’t be a chore.
Oh, this recipe with its Parmesan on top is sort of a halfway journey to Italy. So, you can extend the recipe if you want. No, not pearl onions. Please, think out of the box. How about some really good roasted mushrooms, some diced up marinated artichoke hearts or even some white anchovy? This basic recipe is wonderful and you’re free to do whatever else you want. Just be sure to take care of yourself, too, and take the time to enjoy the meal.
And lastly, yes, this recipe calls for frozen peas. Normally, I squawk about using frozen food but peas are special. Unlike most vegetables, you can freeze them without losing that wonderful distinctive flavor.
Cracked Pepper and Butter Peas with Parmesan
Yield: serves 8 to 10
- 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 3 cups frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Kosher or sea salt
- Coarsely ground black peppercorns
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano.
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock and 2 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the peas and cook for 1 to 2 minutes just until the peas turn bright green. Remove from the heat, drain all the liquid, and transfer to a warm serving bowl. Toss the peas with the butter, season with salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper. Scatter the Parmesan over the top and serve immediately.
Source: The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan