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Welcome to Thanksgiving Week on A Newsletter! Today we’re covering the classics: Turkey and Gravy. You know them, you (might) love them, you (might) think they’re overrated, but this version is the best I’ve had or made. It’s simple, easy, and wonderful. This turkey gives and gives, providing juicy meat, caramelized skin, a fantastic side dish in the form of tangy-roasted shallots, delicious gravy made from the pan drippings, and many quarts of stock to keep in your freezer for future winter colds (and use for the stuffing/gravy). This bird is a provider and we are thankful!
In general, my take on turkey is that it should never steal the show flavor-wise, and that’s by design. There’s so much going on at the table already! Let the bird be quiet, let it whisper to you, let it be pleasantly juicy and delightfully tender, chilling in the background while you get all worked up over the tangy mashed potatoes. After my years-long soul searching journey debating the merits of brining, spatchcocking, smoking, buttermilk-ing, flavoring, smoking, etc I have landed on the simplest and least imaginative version which is: I season it with kosher salt, lots of black pepper and a little bit of brown sugar (for golden brown skin) for 24 hours, roast it on a sheet pan alongside shallots that get crispy, jammy, et al (which we later douse in vinegar and serve alongside), just like a giant chicken. It takes about 3.5–4 hours, depending on the size of your bird (I wouldn’t exceed 17 pounds!), and it’s pretty damn good.
If you want to spatchcock, spatchcock. If you want to add additional ingredients like grated garlic, crushed fennel seed, red pepper flakes, rosemary, or sage— please, be my guest, I support you! But as I mentioned, nothing wrong with a perfect, basically seasoned bird to support (rather than compete) with the other things on the table.
But wait, there’s more! For the gravy, it’s really doing a lot here, and blessings for being able to create it with or without pan drippings (i.e. if you’re skipping the whole turkey this year and just doing breasts or somesuch). It’s a tangy (TY Grey Poupon), savory (TY soy sauce), rich (TY turkey) gravy that’s delicious enough to drink with a spoon, and honestly, I do (good soup).
And the stock! Sorry to say: It’s my favorite part of this whole song and dance. I want a freezer full of stock and to feel like I’ve already gotten things done the day before Thanksgiving (dry-brined the turkey, made the stock). I want tangy, schmaltzy shallots that get are jammy in the middle and crispy on the edges from roasting alongside the turkey and taking a little vinegar bath. And you know what, I’ll be getting AND giving (to myself and my family) all of that in just one short week.
Have turkey/gravy-specific questions? Ask away below!
Very Good Turkey with Tangy Roasted Shallots and Excellent Gravy
Click here for a printable PDF.
This is a recipe for the most basic version of a well-seasoned turkey, which is sometimes all you want. Know that if you’re looking for a little more, some things that would be a great addition to include are listed below (Chopped rosemary or thyme! Crushed fennel seed or red pepper flakes! Finely grated garlic or lemon zest!).
While I don’t recommend going above a 16-pound turkey, you can always adjust the seasoning to accommodate a larger bird by doubling the dry brine. As for the time, you’ll need to increase the time in the oven by up to an hour, depending on how large the bird.
FOR THE TURKEY
12-16 lb turkey
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup light brown sugar
3–4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper*
OPTIONAL ADDITIONS: ½ cup finely chopped rosemary or thyme, ¼ cup crushed fennel seed or red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons finely grated garlic or lemon zest
1 bunch oregano, marjoram and/or thyme
2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
2 pounds shallots or small red onions, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, peeled if you like
Olive oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
FOR THE GRAVY
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup all purpose flour or 3 tablespoons Wondra flour
4 cups liquid (pan drippings + turkey stock)
1–2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari, plus more
A few sprigs of thyme (optional)
FOR THE TURKEY:
1. Combine the kosher salt, brown sugar, and cracked pepper, along with any other seasonings you’d like to add in a small bowl.
2. Place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a wire rack. Remove the giblets (the bagged heart, kidneys and liver, and the neck) from the cavity. Using paper towels, pat the turkey dry on all sides. Very tenderly rub the brine all over the turkey, making sure to distribute the seasoning evenly to all the bits and parts, inside and out, but don’t worry about getting under the skin.
3. Refrigerate the turkey, uncovered, for at least 12 and up to 48 hours.
4. Remove the turkey from the fridge and transfer it to a clean baking sheet (or rinse the one it was on). Let sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 325°.
6. Stuff the turkey cavity with any celery leaves, quartered onions, a halved head of garlic, leek tops, parsley stems, oregano and thyme you have lying around. Rest the turkey on top of some oregano or thyme if you have any to spare and a halved head of garlic. Scatter the shallots around the turkey. Drizzle everything with olive oil and season the shallots with a little salt and pepper. Truss the turkey’s legs with some cooking twine if you’d like.
7. Transfer the turkey to the oven and roast, rotating the sheet pan and basting the turkey once or twice, for 3 ½ –4 hours, or until the turkey is deeply golden brown and the internal temperature is 165 degrees (a few degrees shy of 165 is OK, it will come to temp as it rests). Remove from the oven and let rest for at least an hour before carving.
8. Transfer the shallots to a serving bowl and drizzle with vinegar.
FOR THE GRAVY:
1. In a small pot, heat the butter over medium heat. When it’s melted, but before it begins to brown, add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the roux sizzles, thickens, and turns golden, about 3 minutes (it will look thin, not thick).
2. Add the liquid a little at a time, whisking constantly to incorporate completely between additions (it’ll look a little wonky and clumpy at first, which is fine—it’ll all come together!), whisking until all the liquid is incorporated. Bring to a simmer, then add dijon and soy sauce to taste—it should be tangy, salty and deeply meaty. Add a few sprigs of thyme if using and simmer until the gravy reaches your desired thickness, adding more stock if it’s thicker than you’d like.
NOTE: *I do not expect anyone to hand grind ¼ cup black pepper using their peppermill, UNLESS, you’re using The Unicorn (not sponsored!), in which case it’s pretty easy. Or, you know, take turns grinding? A dedicated coffee grinder you use for spices or mortar and pestle will also do the job.
makes about 4 quarts
The roasted turkey wings give this stock an incredible richness and flavor, and make for good snacking after they simmer. You can also make *more stock* with the leftover turkey carcass after you’ve carved it, if you’d like. You follow the same basic method (throw it in a stockpot, season with salt, let it simmer for hours with any vegetable scraps you have lying around, and voila). That’s right! We’re giving you stock options (I don’t really know what stock options are if that wasn’t obvious)!
3 pounds turkey wings
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
Turkey liver and neck
2 large or 3 medium carrots, chopped
2 large unpeeled onions, or a mix of onions and shallots, chopped
½ bunch celery, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the turkey wings on a sheet pan. Drizzle with neutral oil or olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast, flipping once halfway through, for about 40 minutes.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add turkey neck and liver and cook, flipping once, until golden on both sides, about 6-8 minutes. Add carrots, onions, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Add roasted turkey wings.
4. Pour a little water onto the sheet pan you roasted the turkey wings on. Using a fish spatula or wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits and add that to the stock, too.
5. Cover with 16 cups of water. Season with more salt and simmer gently until stock is reduced and very flavorful, about 3–3 ½ hours. Taste and adjust seasonings.
6. Using tongs, remove the wings and set aside in a bowl for snacking on later. Then, ladle the vegetables and remaining turkey parts into a sieve or colander set over a large bowl. Let them sit for a minute or two so any remaining liquid drains into the bowl, then carefully pour the rest of the stock through the sieve. Transfer to quart containers and refrigerate or freeze.
Thank you for reading and see you back here tomorrow for APPLE TART.
Any recs on adapting this for turkey parts? I found a breast and legs but couldn't find a whole turkey. Any advice would be lovely! ☺️