Growing up in Quebec, turkey was something we ate at Christmas. Since I met my wife Heather I have learned to appreciate the rich tradition of the thanksgiving turkey; and every year I look foward to the process of preparing it. I usually start one week before, making my own bread and the stock I will be using. In a previous posting I describe how to guarantee a moist turkey by brining it: this time I am sharing with you the stuffing and the roasting method I have been using for years. The stuffing is made with Italian Sausage and Ciabatta bread. This stuffing doesn't stop at bread, sausage and the usual lineup of aromatic vegetables; it includes Marsala wine, fresh thyme and the optional chopped turkey liver to give it deep, rich flavor.
- 14 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 loaves). Leave the bread out for 24 hours before using. I like to use slightly stale bread for stuffing. To learn to make Ciabatta click here.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 lb. bulk sweet Italian sausage (or stuffed sausage, casings removed)
- 1 turkey liver, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 5 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1-1/2 tsp. dried)
- 1 Tbs. dried sage
- 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup sweet Marsala wine
Pile the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Set a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, half of the sausage, and the chopped turkey liver (if using). Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula into 1/2- to 1-inch bits, until light brown, about 5 min. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl of cubed bread; repeat with the remaining sausage. In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery, and garlic until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 min. Stir in the thyme, sage, salt, and pepper, cook 1 min., and then add the mixture to the cubed bread. With the pan off the heat, carefully pour in the Marsala. Keep your face away from the pan as the wine will sputter. (It’s unlikely that Marsala will ignite, but if it does, just back off and let it burn for a few seconds until the alcohol has cooked off.) Set the pan over medium heat and bring the liquid to a boil, stirring to scrape up any flavorful bits in the pan. Boil for 2 min. and then add the Marsala to the bread mixture; stir until well combined. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
For the turkey:
- One 12- to 14-lb. fresh turkey ( I prefer fresh and free range if available)
- 3 Tbs. melted unsalted butter or olive oil
- 2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 2 Tbs. dried sage
- 1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 18 to 19 cups Italian Bread Stuffing
- About 1 cup Stock, preferably homemade.
Prepare and stuff the turkey:
Heat the oven to 325°F. Rinse and dry the turkey. Rub it inside and out with the butter or oil and then season with the salt, sage, pepper, and nutmeg. Loosely pack the central cavity and the hollow under the flap of skin at the top of the breast with 6 to 7 cups of the stuffing, tucking the flap under the bird. Spoon the remaining stuffing into a buttered or oiled baking dish, about 9x13 inches; cover and refrigerate.
Set the stuffed turkey in a large roasting pan, tucking the wings under the bird. (If your roasting pan has a rack, you can use it, but it’s not essential.) Set the turkey in the oven to roast.
After 3 hours of roasting:
Remove the extra stuffing from the fridge and douse it with about 1 cup of stock. Cover the dish with greased aluminum foil and bake with the turkey for 1 hour, uncovering the dish for the last 15 minutes to brown the top. The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 165°F and the juices from the thigh run clear, about 4 hours in all (18 to 20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird). If the skin browns too much before the turkey is done, cover the bird loosely with foil. If the turkey fails to brown evenly or sufficiently, use a pastry brush to paint the skin with some of the brown juices in the roasting pan. Remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest in the pan for 5 min., and then carefully transfer it to a platter. Tent loosely with foil and let it rest while you make the gravy.