Steve felt sorry for the little 10-pound turkey, spotting it lodged awkwardly in the bottom of the Foxhollow Farm Store frozen meat case the week after Thanksgiving. As it sat there through December, Steve began to wonder if the bird had died in vain—and possibly, what Gourmandistan could do with a turkey.
We’ve never been big fans of America’s almost-national bird, suffering through bland braised turkey breasts and, in Michelle’s case, a bad experience with brining early in the free-range but pre-heritage breed craze. But, Steve saw that Gourmandistan patron saint Alice Waters recommended salt and pepper storage over brining—so the little turkey was given a good powdering, wrapped in plastic and put away to finish thawing.
Michelle decided that if one was going to roast a turkey, one should probably go ahead and have Thanksgiving accompaniments, including maple-roasted Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and a labor-intensive stuffing adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at at Lucques. The stuffing was quite delicious, with toasted fennel seeds and chestnuts combining to give the taste and texture of Italian sausage without the grease. (We substituted country ham for the pancetta, added celery and omitted the fresh fennel, which we didn’t have on hand.)
Roasting the turkey was a bit more complicated than roasting a chicken. It took two hours, and required flipping the bird a couple of times and reducing the oven from an initial 400° to 350° at the first turn. But it was worth it—the meat tender and moist and the skin so nicely browned it should have been in that Norman Rockwell painting. Along with the stuffing and sprouts, it may have been the best Gourmandistan Thanksgiving ever—even if it was January, and even if Michelle forgot to make cranberry sauce.
(adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food)
Generously season a (preferably free-range heritage breed) turkey with salt and pepper, inside and out, preferably 2-3 days ahead of cooking. Bring bird to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400°. Rub turkey with softened butter. Put turkey in a heavy roasting pan on a bed of fresh rosemary branches, breast side up.
Total roasting time will be about 12 minutes per pound. After about 1/3 of the total cooking time, lower heat to 350° and turn turkey over. Keep that way for the middle 1/3 of roasting, then flip it back to breast-side-up for the final 1/3. Baste a couple of times during final 1/3 of roasting, if you want (we neglected to do so yet it turned out fine).
Remove from oven and let rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Make gravy with pan juices.