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Roast Turkey with Cranberry-Pecan Stuffing

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

What do we love most about Thanksgiving? Well, you don’t have to shop for presents. You don’t have to decorate the house. And you don’t have to go to the mall. But you do get to roast a turkey-one of the most delicious, overlooked birds that deserves to be cooked year-round rather than relegated to a single day.

We like to roast a big bird (about 18 to 20 pounds) because as far as we’re concerned you can’t have enough leftover turkey. (Think sandwiches, pot pies…) But you can easily halve the recipe for a smaller 8- to 10-pounder. Serve with the Holiday Orange-Cranberry Sauce, Apple Cider Jelly, Alabaster Mashed Potatoes and Turnips, Mashed Parsnips and Pears, and/or the Orange-Scented Mashed Butternut Squash, and give thanks.

NotesIf the turkey is frozen be sure to defrost it in the refrigerator. Depending on the size, it can take up to 2 days to defrost thoroughly.

“Room temperature” simply means that the bird shouldn’t come straight out of the refrigerator. You don’t want to let the bird sit around for hours; remove it from the refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting while you make the stuffing.

Serves10 to 12, with leftovers

Cooking Methodroasting

CostModerate

Total Timehalf-day

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, peanut free, soy free

Mealdinner

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturebuttery, garlicky, meaty, rich, savory

Ingredients

  • One 18-to 20-pound fresh turkey (preferably organic), at room temperature (see Notes)
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 batches Cranberry-Pecan Stuffing 
  • 1 slice white or wheat bread
  • ½ slick (¼ cup) unsalted butter
  • 10 doves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • About 1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 turkey neck, giblets, and heart (reserved from the whole bird)
  • 2 sweet yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Arrange the oven rack so the bird will fit on the middle shelf without touching the top shelf.

  2. Clean the bird and remove the neck, giblets, and heart, and set aside for the gravy. Pat the bird dry with paper towels. (The liver can be cooked separately; it is delicious lightly coated in flour and then sautéed in a hot skillet greased with 1 teaspoon of butter for about 5 to 6 minutes per side.)

  3. Use the oil to lightly grease the bottom of a large roasting pan. Season the turkey with salt and pepper, inside the cavity and outside the skin. Loosely stuff both the body and neck cavities of the turkey with the stuffing, pressing down but being careful not to overstuff the bird. Use the whole slice of bread as a “deer” to keep the stuffing inside the large body cavity; simply press the bread into the cavity as a way of keeping the stuffing inside so it won’t fall out while roasting. Carefully place the bird into the roasting pan, breast-side up. If you want to use a roasting rack simply place the bird on the rack and set it inside the pan.

  4. In a medium skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and let cook 5 minutes, until the butter has completely melted and the garlic is just beginning to turn a light golden brown. Remove from the heat.

  5. Using a spoon or a barbecue or pastry brush, brush the skin of the turkey with some of the garlic butter and scatter at least half the garlic cloves around and on top of the bird. Keep the remaining garlic and butter for later basting. Sprinkle the top of the bird with the thyme, paprika, and salt and pepper. Using a piece of kitchen string, tie the legs together to keep them from touching the sides of the roasting pan; tying the legs also makes for a “neater” looking roasted turkey. You can also tuck the wing tips behind the back of the bird, if you desire.

  6. Place the roasting pan on the middle shelf and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and loosely cover the bird with foil. Roast the turkey another 3½ to 4½ hours, about 15 to 20 minutes per pound, depending on the freshness of the bird. (Fresh turkey tends to cook much faster than those that have been frozen.) Baste the bird every hour or so with the remaining garlic and butter and baste with the liquids that have accumulated on the bottom of the roasting pan. Remove the foil for the last hour of roasting time to give the bird a golden-brown glaze.

  7. The bird should be a gorgeous golden brown; when you wiggle a drumstick, it should feel slightly loose; and when you pierce the skin directly above the wing, the juice should run clear yellow, and not pink. The stuffing should be at least 160 degrees F in the center of the turkey. Gently remove the bird from the roasting pan and place on a serving platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.

  8. While the bird is roasting, begin the gravy: Place the reserved neck, giblets, and heart in a medium saucepan (leave out the liver as it can make the stock cloudy). Add the onions, celery, carrots, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste to the pot and cover with about 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and let simmer on very low heat for about 1 to 2 hours. This will produce a light turkey stock that will be the basis of your gravy. Taste for seasoning and remove from the heat.

  9. To finish the gravy, once you’ve removed the bird, place the roasting pan over two burners set on medium heat. (If there seems to be an excessive amount of turkey fat in the bottom of the pan, remove it by tilting the juices to the side and skim it off with a spoon or baster, being careful not to remove any of the natural juices.) Use a spatula to loosen any bits clinging to the bottom of the roasting pan. Sprinkle on the flour and, using a whisk, mix the flour with the juices in the bottom of the pan. Let cook 1 minute, stirring, until the paste has come together and is beginning to turn a pale golden color. Pour a little more than half (about 4 cups) of the turkey stock through a sieve into the pan and whisk to create a smooth gravy. Let simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until slightly thickened and flavorful. Thin the gravy by adding additional stock as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep the gravy warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.

  10. . Remove the stuffing from the bird and place it in a serving bowl; cover loosely to keep warm. Carve the bird and serve it with the stuffing and hot gravy on the side.

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