Turkey. The word connotes two things: a holiday roast and a deli sandwich. It’s true, most of us don’t think about roasting a turkey except on Thanksgiving, or sometimes Christmas or Easter. For Thanksgivings, I call the lovely King family at North Sea Farms weeks ahead of time to reserve my still alive “Tom.” If I wait too long, I can end up with nothing. (Believe me, it’s happened). The popularity of a roast turkey for Thanksgiving is extreme; the rest of the year? Not so much.
But why not roast a turkey this winter? Christmas dinner is on the horizon, but so are dinner parties and family events. Turkeys don’t have to be the size of infants, and the mileage you get out of the leftovers is amazing. Ah, but there’s the catch. What do you make with leftover turkey? Someone inevitably suggests turkey soup, but I’ve long met this suggestion with a wrinkled nose and a “No thank you.” Turkey soup, to me, is gamey or bland (or bland and gamey).
For the moment, let’s get back to the roast. I know how to roast a great turkey, and I’m putting my way of doing it below. I hesitate to call it a recipe, because there is no measuring or exact process. It’s lucy-goosey, for a turkey. But this meathod reliably turns out the most flavorful, juicy bird year after year. As for the unavoidable turkey soup-as-leftovers suggestion, this year I decided to let my dear friend Erin, one of my Thanksgiving guests, who is a natural wiz in the kitchen, have her way with it. During post-dinner clean up, she concocted the broth from the carcass. Between the two of us, we decided upon a theme, which turned out to be the most important part of the process. We thought about using curry, or garlic and lemon. We considered rice or potatoes. In the end, the herbs I used to roast the bird dictated an Italian-style soup.
Ladled into large pasta bowls and topped with grated cheese, the soup was heavenly. It fed six of us all over again, without that hideous taste sensation of a Thanksgiving re-dux. With pieces of butternut squash, kale, white beans and caramelized onions, the soup was thick, creamy, gentle and flavorful. And it did not contain a smidge cranberry dressing!
So go ahead—for Christmas dinner, on a bleak day in February, whenever!—roast a turkey, then make turkey soup. You’ll be glad you did.
Foolproof Roast Turkey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the innards, rinse and pat turkey dry; place it breast-up in a roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with sliced oranges and apples, 4 cloves of garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary and sage. Massage olive oil onto the whole skin of the bird. Rub with sea salt, black pepper, granulated garlic and dried sage. Spread sliced onions over and around the bird (as much or as little as you prefer). Pour one cup of good drinking quality sweet Sherry, and one cup of apple cider or apple juice into the bottom of the pan.
Cook turkey according to weight, until done. For the first hour, keep a sheet of tinfoil over the top of the bird, then remove it. Every hour, baste the turkey with the drippings in the pan. Remove turkey when done and let sit. While it rests, make gravy from the pan drippings. Do not skim fat, or the onion bits or brown bits, from the drippings. Whisk in a little flour to thicken. Carve bird and serve with gravy.
Italian Turkey Soup
Make a broth from the carcass of a roast turkey by putting the bird into a large pot, covering with water, and bringing to a boil. Turn heat down and let it simmer with pot top on, for a whole day. Remove carcass and pour broth through a fine colander. Pull remaining bits of meat off carcass (or cut up leftover turkey meat), and add back into the broth in soup pot or large Le Crueset-style dutch oven, bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low. In a pan, sauté a diced whole onion until caramelized. Add to the broth:
The caramelized onions
1 ½ cups of chopped raw kale
1 ½ cups cubed, peeled butternut squash (uncooked)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped sage
2 cups cooked white beans
½ cup white wine or Sherry
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Cook over low heat for one hour. Serve in large pasta bowls, top with grated sharp cheese, such as parmigiano-reggiano. Serve with toasted Tuscan bread and bruschetta fixings, such as pesto, roast peppers, sundried tomatoes and olive paste.