Ever wonder why the turkey breast is always dry at Thanksgiving? It’s geometry–that’s the problem. The breast is closest to the heat of the oven and has less fat, so it cooks faster and dries out more quickly. The legs and thighs in a whole bird are surrounded by connective tissue and carcass, so they cook by conduction and not direct heat, taking longer. To get the dark meat done to temperature, the white meat is overcooked and dried out. This why I choose to roast a turkey in parts. Of course,you give up the flourish of carving the bird at the table, but in the end its about fellowship of family, expressing gratefulness, and eating a well-prepared meal. It’s not about the carving.Cooking a turkey this way allows the turkey to cook faster. You can also cook more quantity if you need to. Plus, you can take the carcass and boil it into stock at the same time the bird is in the oven.

The Turkey

  • 1 whole turkey, 10-15 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large stalks celery, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium stock
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (I like Bell’s brand, see note) divided
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh sage
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) cut into chunks

Using a sharp knife, separate the wings, breasts, and leg quarters (like you would do to a chicken). A sharp knife really helps here because a turkey has more connective tissue than a chicken. Put the turkey pieces in a pan (I like to use a disposable pan to avoid cross-contamination). Season both sides of each piece with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning.

Mix onions, celery, and carrots together. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Add ½ cup of the stock to the pan over the vegetables. Season the vegetables with a little salt, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of poultry seasoning.

Take the butter chunks and insert between the meat and the skin of each piece, leaving a few chunks to put on top of the skin of each piece. Arrange the leg quarters and wing pieces around the pan, on top of the vegetables. Leave room for the breasts in the pan, but put them aside for now. You won’t put the breasts in the oven at the beginning of cooking.

Cover the pan of dark meat turkey loosely with foil and place in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour. Remove the foil and turn the leg and wing sections over. Lay the breast pieces meat side down in the pan. Replace the foil and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour or until the deepest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees and the breast reads 150 on a thermometer.

Remove the foil and turnover the breast pieces so the skin side is up. Turn the oven to broil and put the pan back in the oven on the lowest rack until the skin of the turkey is golden brown. Remove the turkey from the oven, recover with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes, basting every five minutes or so with pan juices. Put the vegetables from the pan into a blender and turn the blender on medium high. Slowly add about half of liquid from the pan into the blender until pureed.Pour into a sauce pot and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and reduce until thick. Add remaining liquid as needed to maintain desired consistency. Use as gravy over the turkey.

Thanksgiving Gravy

  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 4 tablespoons More Than Gourmet brand Glace de Volaille roasted turkey stock
  • ½ cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1 can beef consume
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 1 drop of thyme essential oil
  • 1 drop of black pepper essential oil
  • 2 drops of sage essential oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a 2 quart sauce pot, bring stock, glace, and evaporated milk to boil. In separate container with a lid (like a mason jar with a sealable lid or shakerball mixer), mix together consome and arrowroot and shake vigorously for 1 minute until smooth and frothy. While broth mixture is at a full boil, slowly whisk in the arrowroot mixture. Bring to boil for 3 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened. If too thick for your preference you can thin it out with a little more broth, stock or water. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.The “More Than Gourmet” brand does not contain any added salt, so you will need to season accordingly.

Arrowroot

Arrowroot is a tropical plant.One-year old roots are dug up and soaked in hot water. The soaking removes the bitter fibrous covering. The root gets mashed up to separate the edible starch. The starch dries out and becomes the arrowroot powder. Arrowroot powder is gluten-free, paleo-friendly, and vegan!

Arrowroot can be used in place of cornstarch, especially for those with corn allergies. Each has slightly different effects on a dish. Cornstarch comes from a grain and has a higher content of protein and fat, which means it needs a higher temperature for thickening. On the other hand,arrowroot has less protein and fat, so thickening happens faster and at a lower temperature.Arrowroot has a more neutral flavor also. I tend to use cornstarch when I want thickening at the beginning of cooking, such as with a stew or dairy sauces. I use arrowroot when thickening towards the end of the cooking process, such a with acids, vinegars, or lemon juice

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Written by Chef John O'Neil

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