When you hear someone say “holiday dinner”, most people think of a beautiful roast turkey with bread stuffing and cranberry sauce. Every year it is my delight to prepare a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and sometimes for Christmas. I’ve always done a stuffed turkey and found that the extra stuffing baked outside the turkey was always less desired by my guests. There’s always a debate about whether or not a stuffed or unstuffed turkey is better. For this recipe, I decided not to stuff the bird and I was very pleased with the results. The unstuffed turkey skin browned and crisped noticeably more evenly, and less cooking time was required. But most importantly, the turkey turned out very moist, with tender meat that just falls off the bones.
Just to make sure everybody felt welcome at my table, I made a flavorful holiday bread. Combined with side dishes with fall vegetables to satisfy everyone’s personal lists of what they eat or don’t eat, nobody felt like they were missing out on turkey stuffing. To me, that is hospitality. And that is love.
3 tbsp olive oil
Neck from a turkey, cut into 1-inch pieces
Giblets from a turkey, chopped (optional)
Sea salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 dried bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
3 fresh sage leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 cup Madeira wine
For the turkey
1 fresh turkey, 10 to 14 lbs (preferably not frozen)
1 lemon, halved
Sea salt to taste
1 medium head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh sage
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/3 cup fresh celery leaves (optional)
Make the broth: Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet (preferably stainless steel) over medium-high heat. Cook the turkey neck and giblets (if using) with a pinch of salt until browned on all sides (approx 10 minutes).
Transfer the neck and giblets to a bowl and set aside. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil and add the garlic, carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for 8 minutes or until browned and soft.
Brown the broth ingredients well to ensure that they are caramelized. This will help give a deep flavor to the finished broth.
Return the neck and giblets to the skillet and add the parsley, sage, and rosemary. Add 1 1/2 cups water, 2 cups of broth, and the Madeira wine. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, until intensely flavorful (about 2 hours). If the liquid level drops enough to expose the meats, add more broth.
Strain the broth through a fine sieve into a large bowl.
Roast the turkey: Position an oven rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 325oF. Rinse and gently pat dry the turkey. Rub the inside neck and body cavities with the cut side of half a lemon. Sprinkle with salt. Thinly slice 3 garlic cloves. Carefully slide your hands under the skin of the turkey to loosen it from the breast, but do not tear the skin. Push the garlic slices between the skin and the breast.
Mix the butter with thyme, 2 tsp salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a mixing bowl. Spread half of the butter mixture into the neck and body cavities. Put the other lemon half, 3 sprigs of sage, 3 sprigs rosemary, the celery leaves (if using), and 3/4 of the garlic cloves into the body cavity. Put the remaining fresh herb sprigs and garlic cloves into the neck cavity.
Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Some turkeys are packaged with their legs tucked through a skin flap; you can re-tuck the legs through the skin flap when roasting. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck and secure the loose skin at the neck beneath the wing tips. Set the turkey in a large roasting pan on a rack, breast side down. Rub half the remaining thyme-butter mixture over the back of the turkey and sprinkle with salt.
Roast for 1 hour.
Remove the pan from the oven and baste the turkey with the pan drippings. With silicone oven mitts or two wads of moist paper towels, flip the turkey onto its back. Spread the remaining thyme-butter mixture over the breast and legs and sprinkle with salt. Roast for another hour.
Remove the pan from the oven and baste again. Be sure to baste inside the body cavity as well. Roast for 30 minutes and baste again. Check with an instant thermometer in the thickest part of both thighs; the turkey is done when the internal thermometer reads 170oF. Alternatively, if you do not have a thermometer (I don’t have one), the turkey is done if the legs move easily when wiggled. If necessary, continue to roast turkey, basting a checking the temperature every 10 minutes. If at any time the turkey skin gets to dark before done, tent loosely with aluminum foil.
Remove the pan from the oven when the turkey is done. With silicone mitts or two wads of moist paper towels, tilt the turkey to allow the juices inside the body cavity to run back into the roasting pan. Transfer the turkey to a serving plate or cutting board and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let the turkey rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
Make the Madeira jus: Strain the reserved drippings from the roasting pan into a mixing bowl. Stir in the broth from the previous steps. Transfer to a fat separator, wait until the fat rises to the top, and slowly pour the broth into a clean saucepan. Discard the fat.
Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you desire a thicker gravy instead of a jus-type sauce, add 2 tsp all-purpose flour and whisk constantly while simmering.
Carve the turkey and serve with the Madeira jus.
To make ahead, you can prepare the Madeira broth up to 2 days ahead and store refrigerated in an air tight container. After roasting the turkey, just reheat the broth before making the Madeira jus.