One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

-Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, "Pavarotti, My Own Story"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Easy, Make-Ahead Thanksgiving: 70 Minute Roast Turkey with Stuffing, Gravy and Cranberry Sauce

Click here for the Thanksgiving intro post and the rest of the recipes.

It seems incredible, but this turkey cooks in only 70 minutes in a hot oven, thanks to the butterflying technique I learned from my old friend Jacques. The bird looks very funny splayed out on the tray. When I served it, accusations of looking sexual were lobbed against the poor thing by some dirty-minded guests, but I defended my masterpiece!

Gravy and stuffing are traditionally made at the last minute. Here, a rich turkey stock is made using the bag of organs that comes inside the turkey and the backbone and wing tips obtained from the butterflying. This stock, when thickened with some cooked flour, turns into a very nice gravy. For a gluten-free gravy, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, add 3 cups of turkey stock, bring to boil, then stir in 1 tbsp of cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water. Cook until it is sufficiently thickened. The turkey stock also acts as the liquid in the stuffing.

In terms of timing: Butterfly the turkey the night before. Salt and powder it and put it back in the fridge. Use the backbone and wings to make the stock. (While the stock is cooking, you can make the mashed potatoes, the green beans, the prep for the stuffing and the cranberry sauce.) After the stock is ready, make the gravy as the last step.  On the actual day, when the turkey is cooked, there will be a lot of juices left in the roasting pan. Drizzle a few tablespoons of these into both the gravy and the stuffing to enrich them further. Keep in mind that the turkey must rest for 30 minutes after cooking.

Turkey Stock
Use all the organs except the liver, which is the flatter, redder one. Start with cold water, don't let the stock boil too hard, and use a pot that's taller than it is wide. After eating the turkey, you can repeat this recipe with the remaining carcass to make a second stock (no need for the initial browning step for this one) which can be used to make turkey soup or in any recipe that calls for chicken broth. The stock will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days and can also be frozen.

Turkey neck, heart and gizzards
Turkey backbone and wing tips
Splash of dry white wine (optional)
1 stalk celery, broken in two (optional)
1 carrot, washed but unpeeled (optional)
1 onion, washed but unpeeled, halved
2 garlic cloves, smashed but unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1 clove
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
A few peppercorns, coarsely cracked
A few whole allspice berries, coarsely cracked (optional)

1. Heat a tbsp of oil or butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the turkey parts and cook 6-7 minutes until very well browned on one side, then brown the other side as well.

2. Lower-heat to medium-low. Add a large splash of white wine and scrape off any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Let the wine cook off for a minute, then add the rest of the ingredients and 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for 1.5 - 2 hours. Lower heat if it starts to boil vigorously at any point.

3. Strain the stock into another pot or a big bowl. Let cool for 15 minutes then skim off and discard the thin layer of fat that will have accumulated at the top.

70 Minute Butterflied Roast Turkey
Make sure your turkey isn't any bigger than 12 lb or it won't cook in time. Salting and putting baking powder on the skin and letting it chill overnight makes for moist meat and a very crisp-skinned turkey, but you can skip this step if you don't have time. The turkey might look a little blotchy and red after the overnight salting. That's OK. Serves 8-9 people.

1 turkey, around 11-12 lb.
1 tsp baking powder

1. Put the turkey breast-side down on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut down first one side of the backbone and then the other. Chop off the wing tips. Reserve wing tips and backbone for stock. Open turkey like a book. Flip turkey over and press down as hard as you can on the breastbone to flatten the bird. Put it cut side down on a rack set in a roasting pan and sprinkle the baking powder and 1 tbsp salt over the skin. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours, uncovered.

2. Take turkey out of the fridge about an hour before cooking and let it come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 450F.

3. Roast turkey for 70 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the juice runs clear when turkey is pierced with a knife. Let rest for 30 minutes before carving.

This is a basic stuffing recipe. It's delicious as is but you can jazz it up with other ingredients like nuts, dried fruit, chestnuts or sauteed mushrooms. If you don't have stale bread, spread the cubed fresh bread on a baking sheet and toast in a 400F oven for 10 minutes, until a bit dried out. To save time on the day itself, the recipe can be prepared through step 3 and chilled overnight. On the day, take the stuffing out of the fridge when the turkey goes in the oven so that it has time to come to room temperature, then throw it in the oven (don't forget to lower the temperature to 375F) when the turkey comes out.

1 loaf day-old French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, halved lengthwise then diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
About 10 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 egg yolk
1-2 cups turkey or low-sodium chicken stock, depending on how moist and pasty you like your stuffing

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil or butter over medium-low heat in a skillet. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until onions are wilted and translucent. Add garlic and herbs and cook 1 more minute. Toss the bread with this mixture.

2. Beat the egg in a bowl, then beat in the stock.

3. Toss the bread with the stock mixture. Taste, salt if needed. Add more stock if stuffing seems dry. Cover with foil.

4. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Take off the foil and bake another 5 minutes.

The gravy is simply thickened turkey stock. You can add finely chopped sauteed mushrooms or a tablespoon of chopped parsley for color. Make the gravy the day ahead and simply reheat on the day on the stovetop. If it seems too thick while reheating, add a few tablespoons of the pan drippings from the roasting pan or more turkey stock.

1 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour
2-3 cups turkey stock

1. Heat the stock for a few minutes in the microwave. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the oil and flour and cook, stirring, until flour is slightly browned. This mixture shouldn't look pasty, almost crumbly. If it looks too wet, add a bit more flour. 

2. Add the heated stock and bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the flour lumps. Boil for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you like. Taste, add salt if needed. 

3. Reheat over medium-low heat right before serving.

Quick'n'Easy Jellied Cranberry Sauce
The pectin in the apple makes this sauce gel nicely.This recipe makes a sauce that is slightly sweet. Decrease the sugar by a couple of tablespoons if you like it more sour.

1 bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

1. Put everything in a pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook 15-18 minutes, until the cranberries have mostly broken down.

2. Scrape the sauce into a serving dish. Let cool, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.


  1. omg ELIF! I am sooooo hungry! This sexy bird looks great! Wonderful recipie - will use :) Anya O.

  2. This butterfly turkey is a great way to keep the Turkey juicy. Since whole turkeys tend to cook the breast too dry, and the dark meat just right, this butterfly cut makes all of the meats cook evenly and white will be just as juicy as dark.....Great way to cook any foul when you think about it.

  3. This butterfly turkey is a great way to keep the Turkey juicy. Since whole turkeys tend to cook the breast too dry, and the dark meat just right, this butterfly cut makes all of the meats cook evenly and white will be just as juicy as dark.....Great way to cook any foul when you think about it.