Rethink Your Turkey This Thanksgiving
The unique Thanksgiving turkey is, indeed, a “rare bird,” and looking for new variations on the traditional dish often leads home chefs to approaches like treacherous deep-frying or the Rococo turkey-chicken-duck nesting doll, the Turducken.
But revamping your holiday table needn’t be a science experiment. We asked top chefs for inventive but manageable creations for whole turkeys and they’re as diverse as they are delicious: splayed on the grill, braised in a Cuban-inspired marinade, deboned and rolled Italian-style and whole, burnished with a red-wine barbecue sauce in place of gravy.
For all recipes, any size turkey can be used. Just adjust other ingredients accordingly, if necessary.
Courtesy Curtis Stone, Gwen, Los Angeles
Curtis Stone’s newest L.A. restaurant, Gwen, doubles as a butcher shop and specializes in fire-based cooking and creative charcuterie. His turkey rillettes are an easy and inspired use for leftovers. Stone grills his turkey over an applewood-burning firepit; you can toss applewood chips over coals or use a wood chip box in a gas grill.
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 14–16-pound turkey, backbone removed and flattened (ask butcher to butterfly or spatchcock)
- 5 ounces Fresno chilies (or jalapeños)
- ¾ cup Sherry vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2½ tablespoons sugar
- 3 cups turkey stock or high-quality chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, for garnish
In small skillet over medium heat, cook coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until fragrant and starting to turn color. Grind into powder in a spice or coffee grinder. Combine with paprika and 2 tablespoons salt.
Pat turkey dry. Coat with spice mixture. Place turkey on wire rack in grill-proof rimmed baking sheet (or disposable foil pan). Refrigerate, uncovered, 8–24 hours.
Heat grill for indirect cooking. (For charcoal grill, heat coals on one side of grate. For gas grill, heat one burner on medium-high. Close lid and heat to 400˚–425˚F)
To make chili vinegar, char chilies on lighted side of grill, turning often. Let cool. Scrape off most of blackened skin, but not all. Remove stems and chop coarsely (remove seeds for a milder sauce). Combine with vinegar, oil, shallots, sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. Set aside at least 1 hour. (Can be made up to 3 days ahead.)
Meanwhile, to cook turkey, place baking sheet on cool side of grill. Close grill hood and cook, turning 180˚ halfway through cooking, until turkey is dark golden and meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 160˚F, about 2 hours. Let turkey rest on cutting board for 20–40 minutes. Skim and discard fat. Reserve pan juices and any browned bits scraped from pan.
To make gravy, combine reserved pan juices and stock in saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Melt butter in separate saucepan over medium heat. Add flour. Whisking constantly, cook until it browns slightly and smells nutty. Whisk in stock mixture and cook until thick, about 3 minutes. Salt to taste.
Carve turkey, and garnish with oregano leaves. Serve with gravy and chili vinegar. Serves 12–14.
This chunky wine has full body, ample tannins and a nicely astringent mouthfeel. It shares smoky, toasted and spicy aromas with the wood-grilled turkey and charred chilies, and its bright cranberry flavors complement the bracing vinegar sauce.
Courtesy Jason Goddard, Sea Salt, Naples, Florida
You want moist turkey? With Jason Goddard’s flavorful braising method—an annual favorite at his home—the meat literally falls off the bone.
- 1½ cups peeled garlic cloves
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 3 cups sour orange juice (or 1½ cups orange, ¾ cup lemon and ¾ cup lime juice)
- 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups sweet chili sauce (preferably Mae Ploy; available at Asian groceries)
- 1 18–20-pound turkey
- 2 cups Paul Prudhomme Magic Blackening Seasoning (or other paprika-based rub)
- 8 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 sweet onions, roughly chopped
- 1 pound slab bacon, finely diced
- ½ cup peeled garlic cloves
- 6 sprigs rosemary
- 4 bay leaves
In food processor (and in batches, if necessary), blend marinade ingredients into coarse purée. In large non-metal container or leak-proof plastic bag, cover turkey in marinade (ideally, submerge). Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 450˚F. Remove turkey from marinade, and transfer to cutting board. Pour marinade into saucepan. Simmer over low heat.
Rub seasoning mix all over turkey. Set turkey breast-side up in very deep roasting or braising pan. Scatter celery, carrots, onions, bacon and garlic in roasting pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven. Add marinade, rosemary, bay leaves and rosemary and water (if necessary) so liquid reaches halfway up sides of pan. Cover with parchment paper, followed by two layers of aluminum foil, cinching foil to create airtight seal. Reduce heat to 225˚F. Cook turkey 4 hours. Using meat thermometer, check internal temperature of thigh. If temperature is least 160˚F, remove from oven. If not, raise heat to 400˚F and cook until turkey reaches 160˚F. (You can also cook uncovered at higher heat to crisp skin.) Let rest 20–40 minutes before serving.
Carve turkey. Serve with pan juices in place of gravy. Serves 16–18.
Goddard suggests this light, bright red with the snappy, spicy turkey. A blend of Frappato (70 percent) and Nero d’Avola, it has the acidity to stand up to the citrus marinade, with a succulent palate of cherry, blackberry, star anise and ground pepper that plays well with the paprika, chili sauce and smoky bacon.
Courtesy D. Brandon Walker, The Mar Vista, Los Angeles
Trade your gravy for this wine lover’s barbecue sauce, which D. Brandon Walker developed for his new restaurant, The Mar Vista. It’s almost like gravy and cranberry sauce in one, and it also makes a great dip for easy next-day meatballs.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup minced shallots
- ½ cup minced garlic
- 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
- ½ cup Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika or chipotle powder
- 1½ cups red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup apricot preserves
- ½ cup light agave syrup or light brown sugar
- 1 turkey (any size)
- Kosher salt to taste
Heat oil in large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent and sweet, about 8 minutes. Add tomato paste, mustard and paprika. Cook, stirring often, until very thick, about 5 minutes. Add red wine, chicken stock and vinegar, scraping up anything stuck to bottom of pan. Reduce mixture by half, about 15 minutes. Add apricot preserves and agave syrup. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until thick. Add salt, to taste.
Cook turkey by your desired method. During last half-hour, baste with barbecue sauce, cooking uncovered so it develops a rich color. Let turkey rest 20–40 minutes before carving. Serve with barbecue sauce on side. Serves 8–10.
Walker suggests this Beaujolais with both the main dish and leftovers. “The lush fruit and the floral notes of the Morgon help uplift any dryness of the turkey and also bring out the depth of flavor in this wonder sauce,” he says.
Courtesy Jose Guerrero, ViewHouse Eatery, Bar & Rooftop, Denver
Turkey takes to the same slow roasting that makes for moist porchetta, and a deboned bird is a great stand-in for the traditional pork roast. The vivid spice mixture (you can add minced giblets, if you’re a fan) perks up the sometimes-bland meat, and you get light and dark meat in every bite.
- 4 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2½ tablespoons coarsely ground Aleppo pepper (or stemmed and seeded Urfa, ancho or New Mexico chili peppers)
- 4 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 12-pound turkey, deboned (ask butcher to do this for you)
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
In large skillet over medium heat, stir all ingredients except turkey and salt just until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
On cutting board, lay turkey skin-side down. If necessary, trim edges and surface to create uniform shape and thickness. Mince trimmed bits of skin and meat, and add to herb mixture.
With mallet or rolling pin, lightly pound turkey to flatten evenly. Using fork, poke holes all over the surface. Season with salt, and spread herb mixture down center.
Roll turkey into tight cylinder, and tie with kitchen twine. Salt skin, and place on wire rack in baking pan. Let dry in the refrigerator from 1–24 hours.
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Cook for 1 hour, then reduce heat to 325˚F. Cook until internal temperature reaches 160˚F using meat thermometer, about 90 minutes. Let rest 20–40 minutes before slicing. Drizzle with juices from pan.
“Infinite Monkey Theorem is down the street from ViewHouse and offers a dynamic Cab Franc, uniquely crafted from their urban ‘back-alley winery,’ ” says Guerrero. “Covering the palate with subtle fruit and spice aromas, this Colorado wine offers robust acidity, which cuts perfectly through the turkey’s richness.”
- 1Grilled Turkey with Blackened Chile Vinegar
- 2Mojo-Braised Turkey
- 3Turkey with Red Wine Barbecue Sauce