I'm not making Thanksgiving dinner this year, which is pretty rare for me. Over the years, I've adjusted and perfected my turkey recipe, and I thought I'd share it. This isn't a recipe in the Julia Child sense. No measurements, or anything like that. I like to cook by feel.
Pulverize a small package of dried porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder (one that you've never used for coffee ... I keep two, one for coffee and another for herbs and dried mushrooms). Combine the mushrooms with chopped shallots, a lot of fresh rosemary (preferably organic), a few cloves of garlic and a few tablespoons of truffle oil (yes, truffle oil). Process all of these ingredients in a small food processor until it becomes a smooth paste, somewhat like the consistency of stone ground mustard. Set aside.
The Night before Thanksgiving.
Take the turkey out of the package and remove the organs in the cavity (you will use them later, so save them). Try to get a good free range turkey; they really are tastier. Wash the turkey thoroughly in cold water and pat dry. Carefully loosen the skin of the breast and begin working small amounts of the marinade underneath as far as you can, being careful not to break the skin. Using a small, sharp knife, make a series of small incisions inside the cavity of the turkey and then spread the marinade throughout. If you have any marinade left, spread it liberally around the entire surface of the turkey. At this point, you can truss the turkey if you like.
About an hour before placing the turkey in the oven, saute chopped onions, carrots and celery in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the vegetables are glistening, turn up the heat and add some good quality chicken stock and a large sprig of fresh rosemary. At this point, add all of the turkey organs you set aside the night before. Once the stock comes to a boil, add a full bottle of red wine (a nice Bordeaux with oak overtones will work well, or even a Beaujolais if you want a brighter, fruitier flavor). Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes or until reduced by about a third. At this point, you can take the sauce off the heat and discard the organs.
Roasting the Turkey.
Preheat the oven while you're making the sauce above. Place the turkey in a good quality roasting pan and arrange large pieces of autumn vegetables, lightly tossed in olive oil, all around. Generally, it's a good idea to follow the roasting instructions included with your turkey. I tend to roast mine at 400 degrees until a meat thermometer registers the proper temperature when inserted between the wing and main body of the turkey. After about an hour, or when the turkey starts to turn a golden brown, add all of the sauce to the roasting pan. At this stage, I baste the turkey every 30 minutes, using a baster with a metal syringe tip. If you think the turkey is browning too much, cover it with a sheet or two of aluminum foil. If you find that the sauce is reducing too much, don't be afraid to add another bottle of wine.
Finishing the Job.
Once the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a large carving platter. It's important to let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Remove the vegetables and place in a serving dish. Place the roasting pan over a couple of burners on the stove top and set to medium-high heat. Deglaze the pan and reduce the sauce until it achieves the thickness of a thin gravy. If you wish, you can strain the sauce before serving it alongside the turkey.
That's it. You should end up with a luxurious turkey featuring deep, complex and subtle flavors. Best of all, it will even taste better the next day. For those of you brave enough to cook the Friday after Thanksgiving, there's a delicious soup you can make from the leftovers. I'll post that recipe later in the week.