Thanksgiving Turkey

We’ve made the traditional meal a little lighter and a little crispier. Besides sausage, celery, and onions, the stuffing is flavored with toasted hazelnuts and dried Michigan cherries. We’ve left out the butter, and moistened the stuffing instead with tawny port and seasoned broth. The turkey is cooked on a bed of vegetables, which flavor the pan juices for the gravy—and we’ve added less flour than usual to the gravy. It’s all new and delicious.

16 portions (with leftovers)

Ingredients

Stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups chopped celery with leaves
  • 2 cups Chopped onions
  • 1 pound bulk country pork sausage, broken into small chunks
  • 2 tart apples, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped
  • 1 cup dried pitted cherries*
  • 6 cups stale bread cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried sage leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup tawny port
  • 1 cup Berta’s Chicken Stock or canned broth, well seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 fresh turkey (18 to 20 pounds), with its giblets
  • 3 ribs celery, halved crosswise
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and quartered
  • cups water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup tawny port
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Prepare the stuffing: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the celery and onions over low heat until softened but not browned, 10 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook, breaking up the sausage with a spoon, until it is cooked through and lightly browned, 10 minutes. Add the sausage to the vegetables in the bowl.
  3. Stir the apples, hazelnuts, and cherries into the sausage mixture. Add the bread cubes, and toss lightly. Sprinkle with the salt, thyme, sage, and pepper. Toss lightly again. Add the port and stock, and toss until well blended.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  5. Rinse the turkey well and pat it dry. Stuff the cavity loosely with about 7 cups of the stuffing. Skewer or sew the opening shut. Stuff the neck area with about 3 cups of stuffing. Secure the neck skin flap under the turkey. (Put any remaining stuffing in an ovenproof casserole and set it aside.)
  6. Arrange a bed of the celery, onion, and carrot pieces in a large roasting pan. Gently place the turkey on the vegetables, and arrange the neck and gizzard alongside. Pour 3 cups water into the pan.
  7. Roast the turkey for 4 hours, brushing it well with melted butter once an hour. After it has cooked for 4 hours, pour or brush ¼ cup of the port over the turkey. Bake 15 minutes. Repeat basting with port and baking three more times, until the turkey has cooked a total of 5 hours. (If you have reserved some extra stuffing in a casserole, stir in a bit of the pan juices and put it in the oven during the last hour, loosely covered. Bake for 45 minutes.)
  8. Transfer the turkey to a heated platter, cover it loosely, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  9. While the turkey is resting, strain the pan juices into a saucepan. You should have 4 cups (add broth or water if necessary). Heat to a simmer.
  10. Stir the flour and remaining ½ cup water together in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk this into the pan juices, and heat to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, pour into a sauceboat, and serve along with the turkey.

*Available in the dried fruit section of top-quality supermarkets or in specialty food shops.
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