Friday, April 09, 2010

Easiest. Turkey. Ever.

Okay, maybe it's not the absolute easiest turkey ever, but it's really easy. And really, really good.

My pursuit for a new turkey recipe came after talking to my sister about Easter's dinner. "Turkey?! Why not ham?" she not-quite yelled into the phone. But my sister wasn't about to get her wish: my mother had already started defrosting the turkey. It had been sitting in the fridge for two days already, so instead I went on a mission to find a turkey recipe that was more like ham. I found it on, which happens to be one of my favorite places to find recipes.

You see, I believe in moist turkey. I think everyone does from a theoretical standpoint, but it's more elusive in home cooked turkeys rather than your commercial deli slices from the grocery store. Thankfully, there's always one key ingredient in moist turkey: salt. Before this weekend I'd always added in my salt through brining the turkey using this recipe. (My gravy and stuffing are also rifts off the linked recipes on this page.)

Brining makes a delicious turkey, but it requires you to start several days in advance. It's also bulky, and a bucket full of turkey-plus-a-gallon-or-two-of-salt-water is heavy. And my favorite brined recipe can be time-consuming and labor-intensive when it's in the oven, with lots of basting involved-- not something I would have time for on a Sunday. A new recipe was most certainly in order.

And this recipe? It's great. It's easy and relatively labor free--at least as labor-free a turkey as I've ever made. One reason I like it so much is because it goes with the low and slow method of roasting, which almost guarantees you a moist bird. It meant I didn't feel like I was going to burn my bird when I left for church, the oven timed to turn off somewhere in the middle of the service. And while it also included basting, it seemed to somehow work into a Sunday morning. And my family loved it. Enough endorsement? Here's the recipe:

Brown Sugar-Cured Turkey

Bon Appétit | November 1997

recipe from

Yield: Serves 10
1 20-pound turkey
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup coarse salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground mace

2 large onions, quartered (or in sixths--more my style)

2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

Rinse turkey inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey on platter. Mix brown sugar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, allspice, cloves and mace in small bowl to blend well. Rub brown sugar mixture all over outside of turkey. Refrigerate turkey uncovered 24 hours.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 300°F. Arrange onion quarters in large roasting pan. Place turkey atop onions. Tie turkey legs together. Tuck wings under turkey. Sprinkle turkey with pepper. Cover loosely with foil.

Roast turkey 2 hours. Uncover; roast 30 minutes. Add 1 cup broth to roasting pan; baste turkey with broth. Roast turkey 1 hour, basting occasionally. Add 1 cup broth to roasting pan; continue to roast turkey until dark brown, basting with broth every 20 minutes, about 1 hour. Cover turkey loosely with foil; continue to roast until thermometer inserted into innermost part of thigh registers 180°F, about 1 hour 30 minutes longer.

Transfer turkey to platter. Tent with foil and let stand 30 minutes. Serve with Wild Mushroom and Roasted Onion Gravy.

Wild Mushroom-Shallot Gravy

Bon Appétit | November 1997

I modified this recipe from a reduction sauce to a pan gravy, since I didn't have any extra cream on hand. (The cream I did have went into homemade ice cream.)

Yield: Makes 3 cups

roast onions from the brown sugar turkey, tough pieces discarded, and cut into chunks
oil and drippings from roasting pan, separated
(You can use olive oil or butter here, if you'd rather not use the "grease" :P

12 ounces mixed wild mushrooms (such as oyster, morel and stemmed shiitake), sliced
~ 1/4 c. flour (I always use freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour. I just like what whl.wht. flour does in a gravy.)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage or 3/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
~1/2 cup dry white wine
~1/2 milk
~1 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth (you can use part of the drippings here-- just be careful for the salt.)
salt/pepper to taste

(When I make a pan gravy, my ingredient amounts are always inexact.)


Transfer 1-2 tablespoons of butter, olive oil, or grease from roasting pan to a heavy, large saucepan. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, sage, and roasted onions to saucepan; sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add in flour; make a slurry with the vegetables and flour, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add white wine; reduce until syrupy, about 6 minutes. Add stock; cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add milk; boil until mixture thickens to sauce consistency, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with turkey.

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