My Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy Recipes

If you’re cooking for Thanksgiving, you know the drill: it’s Go Time.

My children encourage me to write down my favorite recipes, and so, here is my take on Thanksgiving turkey.

For me, brining is essential, to give a pretty bland bird some tenderness and flavor. The sugar also helps caramelize the turkey, and gives that good-lookin’ and golden-brown color. I’ve tweaked a recipe from Alton Brown.

Also, I’ve found that there’s never enough gravy, and it’s good to make that ahead of time, to relieve the time crush that happens as you hit the two-minute warning mark.

This gravy recipe may seem complicated, but it’s pretty easy. It uses homemade stock from roasted chicken wings and vegetables. The roasting gives a really good color and adds tremendous flavor. Chicken wings impart significant umami to the broth.

2 lbs. of chicken wings
4 onions, quartered with skins on for added color
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 celery ribs, in chunks
A few garlic cloves
2 cups of white wine
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Lay out chicken wings and vegetables in a large and deep roasting pan and roast for about 1 hour. Stir once halfway. You want to see dark brown. Use the broil setting at the end of you need to.

Don’t fear the burn. You are the host of this roast. You’re in charge of this heat barrage.

To a large stockpot, add the chicken wings and vegetables.

Put the empty roasting pan on a burner set to medium. Add the wine, and with a wooden spatula, scrape up all the brown bits. Add all that to the stock pot. This is a very important step, FYI.

Add all remaining ingredients and 6 quarts of water to the stock pot. Set to boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 3 hours. Add salt to taste.

Drain the stock through a sieve or cheesecloth. Chuck the solids and keep the broth.

1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of chopped shallots
1/2 cup of flour
6 quarts of homemade stock, warmed
2 tablespoons of soy sauce, for color and umami
Drippings from turkey
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add flour, and stir constantly to make a roux. Cook until flour is golden brown. Lower heat as needed to make sure the roux doesn’t burn.

Gradually whisk in stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If thick enough, don’t add all of the stock. If too thick, add water. Stir in the soy sauce.

Cover and chill. You can make this a few days before Thanksgiving.

To serve, reheat over low heat. Scrape bottom of turkey pan for the drippings and brown bits and add to the gravy.

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 quarts apple cider
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 gallon of iced water

Combine all ingredients except for iced water in a stock pot and heat until solids are dissolved. Place in refrigerator to cool.

When ready to brine, place the turkey in a large 5-gallon beverage dispenser (a big orange one from Rubbermaid is what I use). Add brine and iced water. Cover tightly and place outside in a shaded cool spot, such as a garage. Brine overnight. Turn the turkey a few times throughout the brining process.

A turkey, about 1 lb. per person (or, 1.75 lbs. per person if you like a lot of leftovers)
1 red apple sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 sage leaves
Canola oil

Heat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse. Chuck the brine. Place the turkey on an oiled roasting rack inside a roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water and heat in the microwave on high for 5 minutes. Place this mixture and the fresh herbs inside the turkey’s cavity. Truss the bird, if you want (I like this method). Coat skin with canola oil. Insert thermometer probe into thick part of the breast.

Grab a glass of wine. You’ve earned it.

Roast turkey in oven for 30 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees. Cook until its internal temperature is 165 degrees. If the breast is starting to look pretty brown, cover it with aluminum foil to keep it from drying out (I like this approach).

When done, remove bird from the oven, loosely cover with foil. Somehow, get those turkey drippings and add to the gravy (see above).

Wait at least 20 minutes before carving.


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