Trying to figure out what to make for Christmas dinner was really hard this year. My husband's helpful input was, "I don't care," leaving me with the decision. At first, I thought about roast beef. Then it was rack of lamb. I then briefly considered a roasted goose, but after seeing one at Whole Foods for $75, that was abandoned as well. (Seventy five bucks? Was it the goose that laid golden eggs for crying out loud?) Finally, I decided on a roast turkey recipe I found in Saveur. Turkey is, after all, the American standby for traditional holidays, right?
This recipe uses a turkey that's been split into eight pieces. While a whole roasted bird is a beautiful and makes a stunning presentation at the dinner table, moments later it's carved and completely annihilated. A bird that's been split up actually roasts better and more evenly; you are also able to peel back the skin a lot more easily to rub down the meat with butter and spices. And best of all, for a small family like ours, you don't have to roast an entire bird. We did only a half breast, two legs and two thighs. It was more than enough for our Christmas meal--in fact, we had it for leftovers tonight and I'll also be able to make a soup!
Roast Turkey with Root Vegetables and Gravy
12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 shallots, minced
1 12-lb turkey, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 medium potatoes, cut into 2" pieces
3 carrots, cut into 2" pieces
3 turnips, cut into 2" pieces
1 celery root, cut into 2" pieces
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2" pieces
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 sprigs each fresh thyme and rosemary
1 cup white wine or sherry
1 tbsp cornstarch
1. Heat oven to 500 degrees F. In a bowl, mix butter, parsley, cumin, paprika, and shallots; set aside. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Loosen skin; rub butter under skin. Combine root vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss. Transfer vegetables to a large roasting pan; spread to cover bottom. Arrange thyme and rosemary over vegetables. Arrange turkey over herbs and vegetables. Roast turkey for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F; roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into each turkey breast reads 150 degrees F and each leg, thigh, and wing reads 160 degrees F, about 1 hour. (Some pieces will be done before others.) Continue cooking vegetables until tender. Discard herbs; transfer vegetables to a serving platter along with turkey and tent with foil to keep warm.
2. Pour pan juices into a large measuring cup. Pour off and discard fat; transfer liquid to a 2-qt saucepan. Add wine; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into reduced liquid; return to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve gravy with turkey and vegetables.
The Verdict: Just as good as a whole roasted turkey. Probably juicier, definitely more golden brown, and the ability to lift the skin and season each piece gives the turkey a new herbal kick you don't find in a traditional bird.
Because we skipped the second breast and wings, I prepared the turkey with half the butter mixture. That means I reduced the amount of herbs I used a bit and only used one shallot. Additionally, I didn't use fresh thyme and rosemary. Instead, I used about a tablespoon of each and mixed it into the vegetables when tossing them with olive oil.
I omitted potatoes because I wanted to make sage mashed potatoes as a side (recipe follows). Feel free to use whatever root vegetables you desire. I cooked extra carrots as I always do because the whole family loves them. I also used a large turnip instead of three small ones. There are lots of vegetables in this dish, but I think that they lend a fantastic taste to the gravy.
Like most folks, roasting a turkey isn't an everyday affair. So the likelihood of making this again any time soon is slim, but only because it's a special occasion dish. But we thoroughly enjoyed it and it makes the most sense for a small family who would otherwise eat turkey until we gag to cook it in pieces instead.