My Turkey Recipe (Port Wine Basted Stuffed Roasted Turkey)
Okay, a friend asked me for my turkey recipe, so here we go. It originated in the New Basics Cookbook by Rosso and Lukins, but it’s evolved sufficiently that I don’t feel like I’m breaking copyright law by putting it up here.
If you aren’t planning on stuffing a bird, this stuffing can omit the sausage and be a pretty yummy vegetarian Thanksgiving dish (use vegetable broth instead of chicken, of course!) On the other hand…the sausage makes it really good.
So here we go (ingredients are in bold):
Brown 1-2 sweet Italian sausage links (or whatever kind you like), casings removed, in your largest skillet. (Alternatively: use a between half a pound and a pound bulk sausage.) Break up and stir till just cooked through. Drain off fat. The sausage can be omitted if you wish; just increase celery and onion by maybe 1/2 cup each.
It should also be noted: the ingredients below are listed with a lot of leeway! That’s because it just doesn’t much matter how much of each thing you like–if you like a lot of bread, go to the high side of bread. If you love celery but not onion as much, do that. If you want sausage but don’t want quite the caloric addition that putting the full pound in there will cause, use less and break it up into smaller piece, and maybe increase the herbs a little. Play with it–it’s totally up to you! (And if you’re like us, go high on everything so you have enough leftovers to munch on for a few days. Also note, even the not-in-bird stuffing won’t keep as long in the fridge if it contains sausage…)
Add to the pan and saute till soft:
- 3-4 cups chopped celery (about 1.5 celery hearts worth)
- 2-3 cups chopped onion (2 large onions)
Remove from heat; stir in:
- 1 tsp dried or 1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp dried or 1 tbs fresh chopped sage leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- a few good shakes or grinds black pepper
In a big bowl, combine:
- 5-7 cups stale bread, cubed
- 1/2-1 cup dried cranberries (or raisins or other dried fruit)
- 2 small or 1 large apple, chopped. (Only peel if you really feel like it! I usually save some of what I cut up for the pie the night before, chop it up smaller, and dump it in the stuffing.)
Add skillet contents (veggies, herbs, sausage if using) to bread mixture; mix it up.
Add 1/2 cup each tawny port wine and chicken (or veggie) stock; mix well again.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
(I usually have about a 12-14 lb bird; I always accidentally overstuff it. This year my bird is bigger, so I’ll have less out-of-bird stuffing by this recipe.)
Rinse your turkey well, inside and out; don’t forget to take the bag of giblets out of the interior, if that’s where they are. Pat dry. Roll up your sleeves and stuff the big cavity with stuffing, and skewer it shut. Do the same with the neck side. Don’t overstuff, and don’t forget where you put your skewers. (It’s one thing to find the bay leaf someone forgot to take out of the stew; it’s quite another to bite into a 3 inch steel pin.) Put any extra stuffing in a casserole pan and heat it separately; broiling the last few minutes with the cover off will give it a nice crusty top.
(By the way, don’t stuff the turkey until right before you’re ready to roast it. You want it to go into the oven full of pretty hot stuffing.)
Place turkey in roasting pan, either up on the roasting rack that’s the part of the pan that’s totally hard to store all year but which you totally want for those 5 hours each year, or if you don’t have one, lay a bed of veggie pieces (carrots, onions, celery) that it can sit on while it roasts.
Pour 3-4 cups hot water into the pan.
Rub the skin with butter, if you wish. Then drizzle a little port over it.
Roast turkey for the appropriate amount of time for its weight; mine this year (it’s a 15 pounder) will go a good 4 1/2-5 hours. After the first 3 hours or so, start basting with a little port wine every 15-20 minutes or so. If it seems like the breast is cooking too fast, you might want to cover the breast with aluminum foil for an hour or so in the middle.
Use whatever methods you normally use to make sure the bird is cooked all the way through–meat thermometer in the thigh joint, cutting a little to make sure juices run clear and not pink, whatever works–just make sure it works.
When it’s cooked, remove turkey from the oven to a platter, and let it rest for a good half hour; it will continue cooking within during this time, and this will hold the juices in better. (This is when I raise the oven temp to 400, put the sweet potatoes back into the oven to reheat, and bake the biscuits or rolls.)
My grandmother made the best gravy, I thought. It was always just kind of Her Thing. This gravy isn’t hers, I admit, but it’s super-good.
Mix 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water into a slurry, and stir till smooth. Whisk into pan juices and bring to a boil; simmer for a few minutes; if you don’t have enough pan juices, you can add some stock until you have the amount you want. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This recipe makes a very strong gravy–if you want something milder that you’d pour all over your potatoes and meat, you’ll want to add stock or water, or its flavor will overpower everything. Between the port and the roasted turkey bits, this is a seriously brunette gravy; I like it this way, with just a small amount drizzled onto my food for intensity of flavor, but definitely be aware!
(You’ll notice I skipped the whole “how to deal with the pan juices” part…its messy and frustrating to me, deglazing the pan, and somehow separating the juice from the fat since I don’t have one of those high-tech separators that lets you pour off the juices without mixing in the oily part. My gravy is always way oiler than it should be.)
So…that’s what I do on Thanksgiving. The year I used ruby port instead of tawny, the bird was incredibly gorgeous, this amazing sort of glowy red color, but I didn’t like the flavor as much. But the wine itself, whatever color, gives this amazing richness to the flavor of the whole feast…
There you go. (Now I’m hungry. Only 4 more days…)
(UPDATE: I went in again to alter this recipe a little based on what actually happened on feastday. This was by far the best turkey/stuffing go-round ever…there will not be an issue with stuffing going bad this year, it’s all I can do to not keep going in and pilfering it.)