Simple Art of Cooking: Thanksgiving Turkey and Trimmings My Way

Thankgiving turkey with all the trimmings.
Thankgiving turkey with all the trimmings. Photo credit:

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving has remained noncommercial and true to a certain limited goal; to give thanks and to eat!

Tradition reigns on this holiday like no other. There’s the turkey and all the trimmings, and for some, many mouths to feed. You’ve already had a head start with do-ahead dishes such as soups to freeze, and readying the ingredients for a sweet potato pie, preparation for a root vegetable roast can be set up days ahead, cranberry sauce or compotes are surely do-ahead and will keep in the refrigerator for more than a week. Then there’s the turkey.

In last week’s New York Times Wednesday’s Dining Section, Melissa Clark wrote how much ado is made of roasting a turkey and it doesn’t have to be that way. I agree and disagree. I believe that a store-bought, fresh or frozen turkey should be brined, yet it’s not necessary to brine if purchasing a locally-raised turkey, such as from Mecox Bay Dairy farm in Bridgehampton or from North Sea Farms in Southampton. I do concur that a dry rub of spices and herbs massaged over the bird or rubbed under the skin is essential. I don’t believe in stuffing the bird; an unstuffed bird cooks more quickly. Most stuffings can be completely prepared up to two days ahead before baking and serving.

For an update on a basic preparation, season the bird with shallots, rosemary and butter under the turkey’s skin, then refrigerate overnight on a rack, lightly tented to crisp the skin. Add the maple spiced glaze if you can go the extra mile. Have a happy, safe and plentiful Thanksgiving.

Allow the turkey to sit uncovered in the refrigerator overnight for a crisp skin. Add the maple syrup to the basting ingredients in the last 30 to 40 minutes of roasting.

Serves 10 to 12

1 18- to 20-pound turkey
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 large shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup applejack or Calvados
1 cup maple syrup

1. Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub bird with salt and pepper inside and out. Mix garlic, rosemary and butter to a paste. Carefully separate the skin over the breast area from the meat and spread the herb butter under and over the skin. Refrigerate, uncovered, up to 24 hours.

2. Next day, remove turkey from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before roasting. Place orange and lemon slices under the skin, spread out over the breast.

Preheat oven to 425°.

3. Place a doubled square of dampened cheesecloth over the bird and place breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan on a rack just large enough to fit the turkey. You may scatter some vegetables, such as onions, carrots and parsnips under the bird if desired. Reduce oven heat to 325° and roast for 12 minutes to the pound. If the turkey begins to brown quickly, tent the bird with foil, shiny side down, for the first hour or two of roasting.

4. Baste turkey with mixture of stock and liqueur every 20 minutes or so until 30-40 minutes before the turkey is done. Add maple syrup to the basting ingredients and continue to baste frequently until the bird is browned and the juices in the inner thigh run clear when pricked. An instant meat thermometer thrust into the thickest part (without touching the bone) should register about 160° at the breast and 165° at the thigh. Transfer turkey to a carving board and let rest for 20 to 25 minutes before carving.


Yield: 2 cups

3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup sugar
1 12-ounce bag cranberries, rinsed
Grated rind of 1 navel orange
1/2 cup golden raisins
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1. In a non-corrosive saucepan, mix wine and sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the cranberries, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until berries begin to pop. Add the orange rind, raisins and ginger. Simmer uncovered for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Prepare recipe up to one week ahead. Refrigerate, covered. Compote will thicken on standing.

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