The turkey is arguably the star of the Thanksgiving meal, and as such, strong opinions have formed about the best way to cook a turkey. I find there are two camps when it comes to talking turkey cooking. On one side are the people who think the way they prepare and cook it is the very best way, and they wouldn’t dream of changing a thing. In the other camp are those who are constantly on the hunt for a “better” way to cook the bird. These are the people who are highly critical of their own cooking and are just sure that if they’d done something different, their turkey would be better. This year, I thought I would provide my turkey and dressing recipe. Those of you in the “my-way-is-the-best-way” camp can internally scoff at my methods, and those of you who are looking for a new way can try mine and decide if they’ve finally found what they’ve been seeking all these years! 😉
Annette’s Herb Butter Turkey and Sage Dressing Recipe
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 whole turkey (about 12 pounds), thawed if frozen, rinsed and patted dry
Homemade Sage, Leek and Mushroom Stuffing(Can be made a day ahead)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the lowest position. Make herb butter: In a small bowl, mix together 4 tablespoons butter with chopped herbs; season generously with salt and pepper.
Prepare and stuff the turkey. Loosen skin: Working from the neck end, slide fingers under skin until you reach the end of the breast,** being careful not to tear the skin; rub herb butter under the skin**.
Place turkey breast side down. Fill the neck cavity with stuffing; leave room for air to circulate-do not over stuff!! Close up by folding skin over and fastening with skewers or trussing needles. Tuck wings: Turn turkey over; bend wing tips underneath the bird so they stay in place (you may have to break the bones). Loosely fill the large cavity with stuffing. Tie legs: Using cotton kitchen twine, tie legs together securely (they will overlap), so the bird retains its shape and moisture during cooking.
Lift turkey onto rack; rub with remaining tablespoon butter. Season generously with salt and pepper. Tent turkey loosely with HEAVY foil. Roast 1 hour, then baste every 30 minutes with pan liquids, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh (avoiding bone) registers 125 degrees, about 3 hours.
Remove foil; raise oven heat to 400 degrees. Continue roasting, basting occasionally, until the thigh reaches 180 degrees, 45 to 60 minutes more. Tent with foil if the bird browns too quickly; add more water if the pan becomes dry. Transfer turkey to a serving platter; cover loosely with foil, and let it rest at least 30 minutes before carving.
Homemade Sage, Leek and Mushroom Stuffing (Can be made a day ahead)
1 pound dense country white bread, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the baking dish
2 leeks, halved lengthwise
4 to 6 ounces button or wild mushrooms, sliced 1/3-inch thick
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
2 to 3 teaspoons crumbled dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken or turkey stock
2 large eggs
1/4 cup Bellisari’s Balsamic Shallot & Black Garlic Spread
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Fresh sage or thyme sprigs, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Toast the bread cubes on baking sheets for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly brown and crisp. Transfer them to a large bowl. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.
Brush the leeks and mushrooms with Bellisari’s Balsamic Shallot & Black Garlic Spread and heat over medium heat until tender. Slice the white and pale green part of the leek and add them along with the mushrooms to the croutons. Warm 6 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and stir in the celery. Sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and scrape into the bowl of croutons. Add the stock 1 cup at a time until the bread is very moist but not soupy. Cover and refrigerate the dressing until ready to use.**
Turn the oven up to 425 degrees F.
Taste and adjust the seasoning of the dressing. Whisk the eggs and baking powder together and incorporate into the dressing. Spoon the dressing into the prepared baking dish and cover. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 15 to 20 additional minutes, or until lightly browned and crusty on top.
Garnish with the fresh sage and serve the dressing/stuffing hot.
And -- there it is! It really is that simple.
(To stuff or not to stuff? I like to stuff the turkey. I personally think it improves both the turkey and the stuffing when you stuff the bird. However, I have some in my family who prefer “dressing” over “stuffing.” They like theirs a bit drier with a nice toasted top; whereas I like mine moist and deliciously flavored with the juices of the turkey. This is easily remedied! I make enough to stuff the bird and to have a pan to bake separately -- for once, it’s not difficult to please everyone.)
If you have a well-loved recipe or method for cooking turkey, please tell us in the comments. While I’m more than satisfied with the recipe I’ve shared here, I am always up for learning and trying something new. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Bellisari’s!