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My Thanksgiving Turkey!

November 29, 2011

Oh! The Thanksgiving holidays. By now, it has come and gone. Most of us are back to the normal routine. But it’s only Tuesday. And I am still “recovering” from a few days off work, and a lazy, food filled holiday.

Besides playing a round of golf on Saturday afternoon, I lived in about 3 spots over the course of 5 days – the kitchen, the couch, and my bedroom. It was glorious.

Mom and I have become masters of the stress free Thanksgiving. We start cooking 3 days out, and just do a little bit every day. The entire meal, in all of its gluttonous glory, comes together effortlessly. This year, before the first guests arrived, all the food was ready, the turkey was resting, and I was sitting down with a great bourbon watching the Packers-Lions game.

If you didn’t know, this was actually only our 3rd time making a turkey at home. We never had much of a Thanksgiving dinner growing up – in fact, we just ate pretty basic Indian food.

The first year, I brined the turkey and roasted it whole and it actually came out really well! Last year, I was influenced by Tom Colicchio, who says he never brines his turkey. I didn’t brine it. The turkey was good, but frankly, not as good as the brined bird, in my opinion. This year, I did something really wacky.

Given my charcutepalooza adventures, I sourced a really great, local and organic turkey from a nearby farm – Wedge Oak Farms. That baby came in at 16 lbs. I took out my butcher’s knife and broke it down – 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts, and 2 wings. I removed the meat from the legs and thighs to make a fresh turkey sausage. I used all the wings, bones, giblets, and carcass to make a great turkey stock. And then, I brined the breasts, butterflied them, and stuffed them with my homemade sausage. This roulade went into the oven and baked in about an hour and a half.

It was DELICIOUS. The meat was succulent and juicy, the sausage added great flavor, and (my favorite part) the skin was extra crispy! Not to mention, all I had to do was slice it and put it on a plate for everyone to dig into. Cleanup was a cinch. And those slices fit just perfectly on some bread for sandwiches the next day!

I mean, I may start including turkey in my regular rotation of meals, because this one is too good to only have once a year!

Dark Meat Sausage Stuffed Turkey Breast

(Recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)

1 16 lb turkey

Break down the turkey yourself, or have your butcher do it. You want to remove the wings, take the breasts off the bone and separate the tenderloins. Then, take the legs off, and debone them. Reserve the wings, bones, and carcass for turkey stock.

For the sausage:

Deboned thigh, let, and tenderloin meat, cut into small dice

1/2 cup of diced pork fat (optional) – I didn’t put this in mine because I have a lot of non-pork eaters that come over, but it will make your sausage a lot tastier and add some much needed fat to the turkey meat

1 TB fennel seeds

1 TB coriander seeds

1 TB black pepper seeds

1 TB red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 TB freshly chopped sage

1 TB freshly chopped rosemary

1/2 cup red wine

Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and season with salt. Pass through a meat grinder (or chop up in your food processor) until it is the texture of ground meat. Make sure all your ingredients are ice cold. If using a meat grinder, grind the meat into a bowl set in ice. Mix in the 1/2 cup of red wine until the meat becomes somewhat sticky. Make a small patty and cook to taste the seasoning. Adjust accordingly and keep the sausage in the fridge.

Cook the sausage in a pan over medium heat until it turns golden brown and is cooked through. Let cool, before stuffing inside the breast.

For the brine (from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home):

3 lemons, halved

6 bay leaves

2 oz flat leaf parsely

1 oz thyme

1/4 cup clover honey

1 head garlic, halved

1/4 cup black peppercorns, whole

5 oz  kosher salt

1 gallons water

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from heat and cool completely before using.

Put the turkey breasts in the brine for 12 hours (not longer or the meat will get overly mushy and too salty). Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse to get all the spices off. Pat the turkey with paper towels until it is completely dry.

Put on a plate and leave in the fridge, uncovered for another 12 hours, so the skin dries out and will become extra crisp when you roast it.

To Assemble:

The morning of the big day, I got the breast and sausage meat out. I cut the breast in half, lengthwise and opened it like a book. Cover it in plastic wrap and use a meat mallet and pound out the meat to make it even. Stuff 1/2 the sausage mixture into 1 breast, and use the rest on the other breast. Season the inside with salt and pepper. Roll the breast over the sausage and pull the skin so it covers the entire top of the roast.

Smear some room temperature butter (about 2 tablespoons) over the breast, and season with salt, pepper, and a few leaves of freshly chopped sage. Tie it up with some string to keep its shape. Let the roulade sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so it roasts evenly.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cook the turkey for about 30 minutes until it is starting to brown, and then lower the heat to 375, and cook until the internal temperature of the turkey is at 155, about 45 minutes more. Once the turkey is cooked, remove it to a cutting board and let it rest for 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy!



9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2011 11:40 AM

    Sir, you are quite the charcuterie genius! I’m so glad you aren’t vegetarian. This turkey sounds fantastic!

  2. November 29, 2011 12:21 PM

    sounds just awesome! love the idea of breaking it down + using the different parts in a bunch of different ways. + i love a good roulade – yours looks fantastic!

  3. November 30, 2011 7:00 PM


  4. November 30, 2011 9:52 PM

    Awesome photos! What camera are you using?

  5. December 1, 2011 5:38 AM

    I’m not a dark meat fan but this looks Uhhh-Mazing!

  6. December 1, 2011 2:51 PM

    This is a truly fabulous idea for turkey. May have to try this next year. ; )


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