By Julia Moskin and Melissa Clark, The New York Times
We’ve broken Thanksgiving dinner down to its essential elements. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and potatoes, of course. But no less necessary, if slightly less obvious, is something orange (yams, squash or even mac and cheese). A green and snappy vegetable. And pie — at least two.
In each category, we give you our preferred recipe, a standout of its kind. But we offer alternatives, too. If your family demands creamed onions or parsnip soup as a first course, have at it. Mix and match. Those dishes make the table yours; these are the essentials that make it Thanksgiving.
For all the attention we lavish on Thanksgiving turkeys, the truth is more work does not necessarily yield a better bird. That’s why I swear by no brining, no stuffing, no trussing and no basting. Instead of a messy wet brine, I use a dry rub (well, technically a dry brine) — a salt and pepper massage that locks in moisture and seasons the flesh. No stuffing or trussing allows the bird to cook more quickly, with the white and dark meat finishing closer to the same time. And if you oil but don’t baste your turkey, you’ll get crisp skin without constantly opening the oven.
3 1/2 hours, plus 1 to 3 days’ standing
10 to 12 servings
- 1 turkey
(10 to 12 pounds)
Using a bigger bird?
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 lemon, zested and quartered
- 1 bunch fresh thyme or rosemary
- 1 bunch fresh sage
- 12 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 bottle hard apple cider (12 ounces)
- Dry white wine, as needed
- 2 onions, peeled and quartered
- 3 bay leaves
- Olive oil or melted butter, as needed
- Remove any giblets from the cavity and reserve for stock or gravy. Pat turkey and turkey neck dry with paper towel; rub turkey all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt per pound of turkey, the pepper and the lemon zest, including the neck. Transfer to a 2-gallon (or larger) resealable plastic bag. Tuck herbs and 6 garlic cloves inside bag. Seal and refrigerate on a small rimmed baking sheet (or wrapped in another bag) for at least 1 day and up to 3 days, turning the bird over every day (or after 12 hours if brining for only 1 day).
- Remove turkey from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, uncovered, back on the baking sheet. Return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry out the skin (this helps crisp it).
- When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add the cider and enough wine to fill the pan to a 1/4-inch depth. Add half the onions, the remaining 6 garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Stuff remaining onions and the lemon quarters into the turkey cavity. Brush turkey skin generously with oil or melted butter.
- Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer pan to oven and roast 30 minutes. Cover breast with aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reaches 165 degrees, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
This popular recipe from our archives gives you an especially tender and juicy bird — if you can forgo the Norman Rockwell carving moment.
For more tips, tricks, techniques and recipes, click here. VFP