Cook's Illustrated (November/December 2010)
If there's one non-negotiable dish on every traditional Thanksgiving menu, it's the turkey. You can quibble about corn and squabble over sweet potatoes. But there's always gonna be turkey.
But here's the irony: lots of Thanksgiving dinner guests probably couldn't care less. When was the last time your guests said the turkey was their favorite part of the meal?
It's not because roast turkey doesn't taste good (although it's extremely easy to wind up with a dry, bland bird). It's just that, with all those tasty side dishes (and pies waiting in the wings), who cares about the turkey?
For as much as turkey is meant to be the main event of the Thanksgiving show, oftentimes it's really, well, unmemorable.
This year, though, you can forget all that. Serve this Butterflied Turkey with Cranberry-Molasses Glaze, and it's sure to be the star of your Thanksgiving table.
This recipe uses the same technique for completely different reasons. Although, instead of "spatchcocking," it refers to the method as "butterflying," which is decidedly less fun to say.
In this case, the bird is butterflied in order to make the surfaces flatter, so they'll hold the glaze better. With the oven temp set on 275 degrees, the butterflying in this case isn't meant to shorten the cook-time. (In fact, with a 3-hour initial roast, an hour of rest, and 30 more minutes of glazing at 450 degrees, this is one of the longest-cooking turkeys we've ever made.)
But this recipe uses another smart method to make the bird both glazed and have a nice, crackly skin. To achieve this, prior to roasting, you loosen the skin from the entire bird, and then brush it with baking powder before letting it sit for an hour. (According to the write-up in Cook's, it'd be even better to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, just to get the skin that much drier. But the mag also says the benefits of that probably aren't worth the hassle of prepping your turkey the night before Thanksgiving.)
Anyway, the prep and butterflying -- and the low, slow cook-time -- are completely worth it. This is probably the best Thanksgiving turkey we've ever made.
The meat was juicy and tender, with a great flavor throughout. And the glaze! The glaze was delicious. Sweet and savory and tart all at the same time, it gave the turkey a terrific taste and a gorgeously golden skin.
While the bird rested, waiting to be carved, we improvised a quick gravy by deglazing the pan with brandy, ladling out about 1/4 cup of the liquid and whisking about 2 tablespoons of flour into it, then adding the thickened liquid back into the pan with the rest of the juices. Then we stirred in a couple tablespoons of butter. The improvised gravy was fine, although, thanks to the glaze, it was decidley sweet.
But the turkey? Our guests raved. One of our friends said he couldn't remember the last time the turkey was actually a highlight of the Thanksgiving meal: "It's like the star of the plate!"
Our thoughts exactly!
Serves 10 to 12
Note: Table salt is not recommended for this recipe because it's too fine. If you have a V-rack that, when inverted, still fits into your roasting pan, place the turkey on that rather than on the onions.
1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds), giblets and neck removed and reserved for another use
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt (see note)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large onions, peeled and halved
3 cups apple cider
1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries
1/2 cup light or mild molasses
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
FOR THE TURKEY: Following illustrations on page 6, butterfly turkey. Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully separate skin from thighs and breast. Using skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on breast halves and thighs. Rub bone side of turkey evenly with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Flip turkey skin side up and rub 1 tablespoon salt evenly under skin. Tuck wings under turkey. Push legs up to rest on lower portion of breast and tie legs together with kitchen twine. Combine remaining tablespoon salt, remaining teaspoon pepper, and baking powder in small bowl. Pat skin side of turkey dry with paper towels. Sprinkle surface of turkey with baking powder mixture and rub in mixture with hands, coating skin evenly. Transfer turkey to large roasting pan, skin side up. Place 1 onion half under each breast and thigh to elevate turkey off bottom of roasting pan. Allow turkey to stand at room temperature 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Roast turkey until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 170 to 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 2½ to 3 hours. Remove roasting pan from oven and allow turkey to rest in pan for at least 30 minutes or up to 1½ hours. Thirty minutes before returning turkey to oven, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
FOR THE GLAZE: While turkey rests, bring cider, cranberries, molasses, vinegar, mustard, and ginger to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1½ cups, about 30 minutes. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer into 2-cup liquid measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids (you should have about 1¼ cups glaze). Transfer ½ cup glaze to small saucepan and set aside.
Brush turkey with one-third of glaze in measuring cup, transfer to oven, and roast 7 minutes. Brush on half of remaining glaze in measuring cup and roast additional 7 minutes. Brush on remaining glaze in measuring cup and roast until skin is evenly browned and crispy, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer turkey to cutting board and let rest 20 minutes.
While turkey rests, remove onions from roasting pan and discard. Strain liquid from pan through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator (you should have about 2 cups liquid). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan with reserved glaze, discarding any remaining fat. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter. Carve turkey and serve, passing sauce separately.
Alternative Recipe: Butterflied Turkey with Apple-Maple Glaze
Follow recipe for Butterflied Turkey with Cranberry-Molasses Glaze, substituting ½ cup dried apples for cranberries and ½ cup maple syrup for molasses.