Tacchino alla melagrana

Roast Turkey Glazed with Pomegranate and Orange

This is a Renaissance-inspired recipe from the Veneto, known in the local dialect as paeta al malgarano. If you are not in the mood to roast a turkey, you might try the pomegranate sauce with duck, as its rich meat and skin are wonderful with this tart-sweet mixture. Cornish hens, poussins, or even a large roasting chicken would work as well. Garnish the plate with a sprinkling of ruby red pomegranate seeds if they are in season, and serve with saffron-tinged risotto and sautéed spinach, for the joy of color, or Braised Radicchio with Balsamic Vinegar or Slow-Roasted Onions with Aged Balsamic Vinegar.

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey, 8 to 10 pounds
  • Juice of 4 pomegranates (about 1 cup), reduced to ½ cup over high heat, or ½ cup pomegranate molasses (see note)
  • 1 cup fresh regular orange or blood orange juice
  • ½ cup honey, or to taste
  • 2 cups chicken stock, reduced to 1 cup over high heat
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse the turkey and pat dry. Place on a rack in a roasting pan.

In a small bowl, combine the reduced pomegranate juice or pomegranate molasses, orange juice, and ½ cup honey. Taste and adjust with more honey if more sweetness is desired. You should have about 2 cups. Measure out 1 cup and set aside for finishing the sauce. Use the remaining cup for basting the bird.

Roast the turkey, basting every 20 minutes with the pomegranate mixture, until the juices run clear when you pierce a thigh joint with a skewer or an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh away from bone registers 165°F, about 2½ hours. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

While the turkey is resting, make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the reserved pomegranate mixture, the reduced stock, and orange zest over low heat and simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Carve the turkey and arrange on a platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat, and garnish with the pomegranate seeds, if desired. Serve at once.

Wine

A Merlot or Valpolicella from the Veneto is a superb match for the bird. Look for Valpolicella producers such as Bussola, Allegrini, Corte Sant’Alda, and Tenuta di Sant’Antonio. If you prefer an Amarone, try one from Allegrini, Bussola, or Quintarelli. You might even try a Barbera, a Dolcetto, or a ripe fruity Zinfandel.

Variations

You can substitute 2 ducks (5 pounds each), 6 Cornish hens or poussins, or a large roasting chicken (6 to 7 pounds) for the turkey. The ducks and large chicken will roast in about 1½ to 2 hours, and the Cornish hens and poussins will be ready in about 1 hour. Baste them all often with the pomegranate-orange mixture, and carve the ducks and chickens into serving pieces. Cut the whole smaller birds in half lengthwise to serve.