Slow Food for Thought...

“Defending the earth means safeguarding biodiversity, the landscape and farming. Those who haven’t seen the importance of farming haven’t understood anything!”
Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heritage Turkey Recipe

We've received quite a few inquiries about how to prepare heritage turkeys. If you're still in need of culinary guidance for your heritage bird, Linda and Fred Griffith offer this recipe.

Roasted Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing & Zinfandel Gravy
Adapted from Nuts by Linda and Fred Griffith, published by St. Martin’s Press, 2003.

While this method was developed for the kosher turkey we always used, it works magnificently for the heritage birds we roasted this Thanksgiving. They were totally delicious and very moist. Calculate roasting time by multiplying 9 minutes times the weight of the unstuffed bird. Remove it from the oven when an instant read thermometer inserted into the meaty part breast reads 155 degrees F. Use a thermometer that has a cable and monitor that stays outside the oven. Place turkey on a heated platter and let it rest 20 minutes, in a warm place while you deglaze the pan and finish your gravy, before you carve.Serves 12 to 14 people

Stuffing
3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts.
3 pounds challah or another egg bread, torn into chunks
4 large eggs, beaten
4 slices smoked bacon, diced (optional)
11/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup chopped shallots
¾ cup finely chopped celery
3 large, tart apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
3 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 dried chile, crumbled
½ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Zinfandel Gravy
1 set turkey giblets and neck
2 pounds chicken backs
3 1/2 quarts water2 carrots, scrubbed
2 large yellow onions, studded with 1 clove each
1 bay leaf
4 branches Italian parsley
6 black peppercorns, bruised
½ cup vegetable oil
⅔ cup unbleached flour
2 cups dry red wine, preferably (red) Zinfandel
1 18 to 24 pound heritage turkey
Olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
3 carrots, scrubbed and broken in half
3 medium-sized onions, quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The day before, prepare chestnuts and stuffing: Place bread in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak at least 1 hour. Drain well, pressing out as much water as possible. Return bread mixture to bowl and blend in eggs and chestnuts.

Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, until bacon begins to crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to cutting board and chop into small pieces. Add to bowl with bread and chestnuts. Add ½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter to bacon fat and melt over medium heat. Add shallots, celery and apples; sauté, stirring often, until celery is somewhat tender. Add garlic, chile and herbs; stir until garlic has wilted, about 2 minutes. Pour mixture over bread and chestnuts and blend thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt remaining butter in skillet over low heat. Add prepared stuffing to skillet and stir constantly until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

To begin gravy: The day before, combine giblets, chicken backs and water in a 6-quart soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer briskly for 30 minutes, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Add carrots, onions, herbs, and peppercorns and continue to simmer covered, for 2 hours. Remove giblets, slice and set aside. Strain stock and measure; there should be 10 cups of stock. If there is more, uncover and continue simmering until it is reduced. Discard remaining solids. Reserve and reheat just before finishing gravy.

To finish gravy: In a very large cast-iron skillet heat oil, add flour and whisk over medium heat until flour is very dark brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and carefully whisk in wine. Whisk thoroughly until mixture is smooth and well-blended. Then whisk in 1 cup of stock. Slowly, over 1 1/2 hours, add the remaining stock, always cooking mixture over lowest heat possible and whisking frequently.

When all of the stock is incorporated, add sliced giblets and set aside until the turkey is roasted and pan drippings are ready to add to this gravy.

To prepare turkey:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Just before time to put turkey into oven, pat turkey dry. Lightly season cavities and stuff with dressing. Skewer and lace (with string) cavities shut. Bake remaining stuffing in a well-buttered casserole.

Rub bird with some olive oil and lightly season with only pepper and garlic powder if you are using a kosher turkey. Truss turkey, if you like, and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Place onions and carrots in roasting pan, too.

Roast turkey for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F and baste with some of the chicken stock. Turn roasting pan (only cover turkey with some foil if the turkey is getting too brown.) Baste turkey at least three times more, rotating the pan at least once again.Insert instant read thermometer into fleshy part of breast; when it reads 155 degrees F remove turkey from oven and place bird on a heated platter in a warm place for 20 minutes. Do not cover bird during this time or it will steam.

While bird is resting, degrease drippings that remain in the roasting pan; discard onion and carrots. Add prepared gravy and cook over medium-high heat, stirring vigorously until all of the crisp particles adhering to the roasting pan have been loosened and gravy has come to a boil.
Carefully scoop stuffing from the turkey cavities and place in a heated serving bowl. Carve turkey and place on heated serving platter. Serve with gravy on the side.

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