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Monday, December 27, 2010

Roast Turkey with Root Vegetables and Gravy

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.

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