It’s a dry-brined alternative from Rick Rodgers, author of “Thanksgiving 101,” which calls for a turkey-size oven bag , and that’s it. No sloshing, no dripping, no bags of ice to keep the whole thing cold in a cooler. Just slide the turkey into your fridge overnight, rinse it in the morning, and you’re good to go.
And, in case you need it, there’s also a recipe from Rodgers for a port gravy, made with homemade turkey stock (store-bought stock will do in a pinch) and an Italian-style stuffing made with pancetta, fennel and chestnuts.
This dry-brined roast turkey will yield about 7 cups of gravy. If you decide not to stuff the bird, Rodgers recommends adding chopped vegetables and herbs to the cavity for flavoring (1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery rib and 1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus a blend of 1 teaspoon each dried rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme and celery salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1 bay leaf, crumbled.)
Dry-Brined Roast Turkey with Port Gravy
Makes 18 servings
For Dry Brine:
6 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
1 1/4 teaspoons crumbled dried rosemary
1 1/4 teaspoons dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves, well crumbled
1 16-pound fresh turkey
2 1/2 quarts homemade turkey broth, as needed
Stuffing (recipe follows)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more if needed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup tawny port wine
The day before roasting the turkey, mix the salt, thyme, sage, rosemary, marjoram, pepper and bay leaves in a small bowl. Reserve the turkey neck and giblets; pull out the yellow pads of fat near the tail and reserve them too. Rinse the turkey inside and out, but do not pat dry. Place the turkey in a turkey-sized oven roasting bag. Sprinkle the dry brine inside and out of the bird, coating it evenly. Close the bag and refrigerate for 12 to 18 hours.
Position a rack in the lowest position of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Remove the turkey from the bag and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Pat the turkey skin dry. Turn the turkey on its breast. Loosely fill the neck cavity with stuffing (or the vegetables). Place any remaining stuffing in a lightly buttered casserole, cover and refrigerate to bake as a side dish. Place the drumsticks in the hock lock or tie together with kitchen string.
Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Rub all over with the softened butter. Season with the salt and pepper. Tightly cover the breast area with aluminum foil. Pour 2 cups of turkey stock into the bottom of the pan.
Roast the turkey, basting all over every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan (lifting the foil to reach the breast area) until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 180 degrees and stuffing is at least 160 degrees (about 4 hours). Whenever the drippings evaporate, add broth to moisten them (about 1 1/2 cups at a time). Remove the foil during the last hour to allow the skin to brown.
Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter and let it stand for at least 20 minutes before carving. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake the stuffing (see recipe below).
Meanwhile, pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a heatproof glass bowl or measuring cup. Let stand 5 minutes; then skim off and reserve the clear yellow fat that rises to the top. Measure 9 tablespoon of the cup fat, adding melted butter, if needed. Add enough turkey broth to the skimmed drippings to make 6 cups total.
Place the roasting pan over 2 stove burners on low heat and add the turkey fat. Whisk in the flour, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the port, and then the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, whisking often, until the gravy has thickened and no trace of raw flour flavor remains, about 5 minutes. Strain into a 2-quart measuring cup, then pour into a warmed gravy boat. Carve the turkey and serve the gravy alongside.
“Here’s a stuffing with a Mediterranean accent,” Rodgers writes. “Use bread with a tight crumb — it will absorb the stock better than an open-textured loaf.” Shelled chestnuts are available at Trader Joe’s.
Italian-style Stuffing with Pancetta, Fennel and Chestnuts
Makes 12 to 16 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound pancetta, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch dice
2 small heads fennel, cut into 1/2 -inch dice
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14- to 16-ounce jar vacuum-packed chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1 pound day-old, crusty Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups hot Homemade Turkey Stock (or canned low-sodium chicken broth, as needed)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until the pancetta is crisp and browned, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl, leaving the fat in the pan.
Add the fennel and onion to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chestnuts and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the pancetta.
Add the bread cubes, Parmesan and rosemary to the bowl. Stir in enough stock to moisten the bread. Season with the salt and pepper. Use immediately as a turkey stuffing. (Spread leftover stuffing in a buttered shallow and cover with aluminum foil. Refrigerate until ready to bake as a side dish. When ready to bake, moisten stuffing with an additional 2/3 cup stock. Bake, covered, in preheated 350 degree oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.)