Some traditions are hard to improve upon, and our Thanksgiving Day turkey with dressing happens to be one of those things. Why mess with a really good thing?
Connecticut Country House Roasted Turkey
One turkey; brand and size of your liking (we here at Country House prefer a fresh, organic bird if at all possible; just order a few days ahead of time from your butcher)
¼ cup of olive oil
Ample kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bag of croutons
½ large onion
2 sticks washed celery
6-8 leaves fresh sage
1 stick of sweet (unsalted) butter
½ cup milk
¾ pound of loose sausage
6-8 slices of thick cut, smoked bacon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Take the shrink-wrap off of the turkey in the kitchen sink. Find and reserve the turkey neck and giblet for later. Rinse the turkey very well with cool water, both outside and inside both the neck and abdomen cavities. Place the turkey inside an oiled roasting pan. Place a 1” rack inside the roasting pan first, this helps the bird cook more evenly. Using your hands, massage the olive oil well all over the outside of the turkey. If you have a helper, rotate the bird as the other person liberally salts and peppers the outside.
For the stuffing, cook the sausage in a non-stick pan, breaking it up into small pieced as it browns, then reserve. Place the stick of butter in a large frying pan on low heat. Finely chop the onion, celery and sage leaves, then add to pan with butter. Cook them on medium/low heat for about 5 minutes until soft but not browned. In a large bowl, dump the croutons (we use the bag that says it will stuff a 15-18lb. turkey). Drizzle the onion mixture, sausage, and milk evenly over the croutons. Using your hands (make sure the other ingredients have cooled sufficiently), thoroughly mix the stuffing well.
Leaving the turkey in the roasting pan, stuff the neck portion of the bird first. Don’t be shy, push the stuffing vigorously into the cavity, then use cut down wooden skewers to secure the skin flap over the stuffing. Flip the bird over and repeat with the large body cavity; I find that pushing with a closed fist is very efficient at getting the most stuffing in the turkey. Don’t worry if stuffing/sausage falls into the roasting pan, it will enhance the gravy. When done stuffing, drape the bacon over the bird evenly, situate your turkey on the roasting rack; in the middle of the roasting pan…and in she goes!!
General rule of thumb for turkey is 15 minutes per pound. In the first hour or so the bacon is rendering it’s fat; so no basting is really not needed. After that, baste with your basting liquid (see gravy) every ½ hour or so. If you see that the breast or drum sticks are browning too early, you may cover them with tin foil to slow the cooking.
Some ovens cook faster than others, so check the bird at least an hour before the time estimated for the turkey to be done. Thermometer placed in the breast, looking for 165-170; in the thickest part of the thigh, 175-180 degrees.
Once done, place the turkey on a large cutting board with a “moat” on the borders to catch the juice that will run out. Remove the stuffing right away and place tin foil on top to stay warm. Cover the turkey with tin foil as well and let rest at least 15 minutes. Take this time to bask in the glow of admiration of your hungry guests, who are busy “nibbling”.
Enjoy your turkey!
Photography by Darryl Arbesman