Roasted Heritage Turkey / Thanksgiving 2014

Teddy’s been sick this whole holiday weekend, and while it’s sad to see him confused as to why he can’t run around and play every waking hour of the day like he normally does, it’s also been insanely rewarding to feel him gently rest his head on me (or my leg) and to receive hug after sweet, lingering hug from him all day long.
The only problem with fielding that many hugs was that it didn’t leave us with a lot of time (or desire) to get too clever with our Thanksgiving spread. Not that we’ve ever veered too far from the traditional turkey-potatoes-stuffing-gravy path, but in the past, there have been pretty cranberry jelly molds, cranberry cocktails, savory bread puddings, and just about always some kind of newfangled variation on a pumpkin pie. 
But this year we didn’t even make a pie. Instead, I threw together a humble (though still delicious) apple crisp. This year, I mashed a giant pot of Yukon Gold potatoes with butter and cream and then stirred in an entire bunch of fresh chopped parsley. I also made Ina Garten’s gravy and roasted some Brussels sprouts. Unspecial highlights? Our stuffing came from a bag: Whole Food’s Organic Stuffing Mix Traditional Recipe With Chicken Flavor. And our cranberry component came from a jar—Knudsen’s, I believe. Our turkey, however, was special. 

Because of work, we haven’t been able to meet up with our east-coast-based family for Thanksgiving for a number of years now. And for all of those years, since it was usually just the two of us, we’ve always just roasted a chicken. But this year, we decided to go big. We ordered a 10-pound Heritage turkey and decided that would be the meal’s highlight. And thanks to Matt (thank you, Matt!) who made it, it definitely was. As was the turkey stock he made, which we’ve already used up in a super delicious risotto (recipe forthcoming next week) as well as a critically-acclaimed turkey noodle soup with carrots, fennel, and parsley.
As I write this, it’s raining here in Los Angeles—the first serious rain we’ve had in what feels like forever; it’s a lovely evening and a perfect end to a quiet but great Thanksgiving weekend. 
p.s. I picked up The Best American Essays 2014 a few weeks ago, and the day after Thanksgiving, I happened upon this particular essay, which I decided to read just because of its title (Thanksgiving in Mongolia). It’s one of those pieces of writing so compelling and moving that I can hardly talk about it. Instead, I’m just sending it to everyone I know. Read it when you have a slow moment.
 Roasted Heritage Turkey adapted from Martha Stewart

1 whole fresh or thawed frozen heritage turkey (about 10 pounds), neck and giblets included
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
12 thyme sprigs
6 sage sprigs
3 dried bay leaves
2-4 apple cores
2 onions, quartered
1 lemon
2 cups water, plus more if needed

Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack, and place breast side up. Bring to room temperature, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Tuck wings under turkey. Gently separate skin from breast, and rub butter under the skin on each side. Season outside of turkey generously with salt and pepper. Fill cavity with herb sprigs, bay leaves, apple cores, scored lemon, and onion; tie legs together with kitchen twine. 

Scatter apples and onion around rack. Place neck and giblets in pan. Add water to pan.

Roast turkey for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Baste with pan juices, and tent with foil. Roast, rotating pan, adding more water if pan is dry, and basting halfway through, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 150 degrees, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Let turkey stand for 30 minutes before transferring to a platter and carving. Reserve pan with contents if making gravy.


Matthew said...

I had a lovely Thanksgiving with you and Teddy. I wish it wasn't ending. A little sad that my stock is all gone. xoxo

Dani Elis said...

Sounds like you had a lovely day and the turkey looks great! I always wish we celebrated Thanks-giving here in Australia... maybe next year :) I hope Teddy feels better soon x

Mary Anne said...

DUDE. I read that essay last year when you were pregnant, and I didn't tell you about it because you were pregnant! I told everyone (else) about it. It completely leveled me. I thought about it for weeks. We need to discuss!! (I am back from AZ and as soon as this looong work day is over, I'm free to talk!!)

Janie said...

Hello. I have been reading your blog and not commenting for over a year now (sorry). Your turkey looks fabulous and I hope your baby feels much better soon. Also, I wish I had paid more attention to Mary Anne's comment and waited to read the essay until after my due date. It made me cry, but it truly is a beautiful essay. Thank you for always recommending excellent reading material and for sharing your beautiful creations.

Dani Elis said...

I just read that article and I have no idea what to say... just want to hug someone...

Amelia Morris said...

Hi Janie,
First of all, congratulations on the baby to be! When is he or she due?
I thought about putting a disclaimer up there about possibly not wanting to read this if you were pregnant, but then I thought I actually might have wanted to read it when I was pregnant... I don't know... Anyway, thank you for reading the blog and for taking the time to say hello. xoxo

Amelia Morris said...

I hear you. Big (virtual) hug coming at you. xox

ElizSeg said...

I just read the essay and am profoundly moved. It the best piece of writing I've read in a long time and I read all of the time.

I want to hug the author and thank her for being brave. Her truth spills out and is raw in a way that is almost tangible. My hope is that by sharing her experience, she also finds a peace which passes understanding.

Janie said...

Thank you Amelia! Our baby girl is due on January 15th. She is my first baby and I can not believe how far I have come emotionally or physically. :) xoxo

Amelia Morris said...

hi Mare!!

Amelia Morris said...

Teddy was born on 1/11! Yay to January babies. Wishing you all the best!!

zuzazak said...

Your pics are great btw! Like looking through a keyhole. I have a lil blog myself and this is something I struggle with...

Unknown said...

Hi hi!! This is slightly late, but... I'd love to make Turkey stock (My fam is turkeying it up for Christmas), any hints or recipes to recommend? I made veg stock on the reg, but only tried chicken stock once and found that it turned into a scary congealed mess. Now I'm ready to jump back into the deep end of the stock pot... Thanks!!

Amelia Morris said...

Hi Katilin! After being refrigerated, our stock was TOTALLY congealed--like Jello in a jar. That's just part of it. As for how to do it, Matt basically just pulls the meat off the carcass (sets aside) and then puts the carcass in the largest pot we have along with any vegetables and herbs you have on hand. He also always puts in a whole unpeeled onion. This year, he tossed in some lemon halves and peppercorns. Then he covers with water, brings to a boil and then down to a simmer. He simmers for about 4 hours, strains it and voila! STOCK! Good luck!

Unknown said...

This turkey looks simple and perfect. Thank you so much for sharing that essay. I just finished reading it (I'm in tears now) such magnificent, moving writing. Merry Christmas to you and your family!