Over the years I have created dozens and dozens of Thanksgiving recipes for Bon Appetit, cover stories for Real Food, and once concocted a 15-ingredient Thanksgiving dinner feature for Newsday. Yes, 15 ingredients for the entire meal! One day I'll share that with you. But today I begin a seven-day countdown to America's finest holiday, the one we will all be sharing next week. What a lovely notion. And while today, the 3rd Thursday of November is known around the world as Beaujolais Nouveau day, and next Thursday is Thanksgiving day, it's not a bad idea, at all, to serve the former with the latter.
Thanksgiving is one holiday that begs for you to be at the table -- not in the kitchen -- so some stealth planning and creativity are required. Every dish of my colorful, flavor-packed menu can be done ahead. You'll find some new techniques; a few riffs on Thanksgiving classics -- a sweet potato-and-pear gratin, cornbread-bacon-shiitake stuffing, two-minute cranberry-apple-lemon relish (addictive!), and a creamy pumpkin cheesecake "your way."
If you have not already decided how to cook your bird, I present an idea that is not so much radically simple as it is radically delicious. It may be one of the longer recipes I've ever created, Double Crispy Roast Turkey in Apple Cider Brine with Do-Ahead Apple Cider-Tarragon Gravy, but the ultimate benefit may be that it requires less than 3 hours in the oven! My new technique of one-day brining and one-day "dry aging" in the fridge results in succulent, tender flesh and crackling, crispy turkey skin. It's a cinch to do and requires no basting. Even before your pan juices are ready, an apple cider sauce base is waiting for you, ready to amalgamate into a gorgeous turkey gravy. And an extra bonus is that the turkey rests on a bed of scallions that delicately flavors the sauce and also prevents the turkey from sticking! Here you go:
15-pound fresh turkey (not brined) 3-1/2 cups fresh apple cider (from the refrigerated case) 1 cup kosher salt 12 cups water 3 large cloves garlic 2 large bunches scallions 1/2 cup chicken broth 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 small bunch fresh tarragon
Wash turkey; remove giblets. In a very large pot, combine 2 cups apple cider, salt and water. Add 2 cloves garlic, pushed through a press. Stir until salt is dissolved. Submerge the turkey, breast side down, in brine. Add water to cover the turkey, if necessary. Cover and refrigerate 16 to 24 hours. Remove from brine and pat very dry. Place turkey on a rack on a platter (to catch drippings) and refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Trim scallions and place side by side on a large, shallow roasting pan. Place turkey on scallions. Roast 2-3/4 hours until done, tipping turkey into pan twice while roasting to remove juices. Meanwhile, put 1-1/2 cups apple cider, chicken broth, remaining garlic clove, pushed through a press, and butter in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. Dissolve cornstarch in 3 tablespoons water and whisk into saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon and set aside.
Transfer turkey to large cutting board. Pour pan juices into a large measuring cup; let rest 5 minutes and remove fat from top using a spoon. Slowly add pan juices, 1/4 cup at a time, to simmering apple cider reduction to achieve a well-balanced gravy, tasting as you go and keeping at a simmer until desired flavor is achieved. Whisking constantly, cook 5 minutes until thickened. Carve turkey and garnish with tarragon. Serve with gravy. Serves 8
Today the turkey, tomorrow the stuffing.