Zakary Pelaccio's Thanksgiving turkey encompasses all the flavors of the Hudson Valley, from local honey to the heritage birds raised in the region to the camomile that grows wild there. On top of that, his process lets you prepare large parts of it ahead of time, thanks to an ingenious parboiling of the bird in its own brine. On Thanksgiving Day, all you have to do is butter it up and roast it. (Note: Please allow 1-2 days for turkey brining and prep.)
Brine: Toast coriander and peppercorns in a dry skillet over low heat, 1–2 minutes, shaking occasionally to keep from burning. When toasted and aromatic, add to the medium stockpot.
Add 1 gallon water to the spices and set over high heat. Add celery, onions, garlic, salt, chilies, honey, and chamomile tea. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Turkey, part 1: Let's break down the turkey! First, separate the thighs from the torso. Next, separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Using kitchen shears, cut out the back, reserving it for turkey stock. Cut off wings, then remove their tips, saving the tips for stock. Leave the breasts intact on the ribcage. (You can also have your butcher do all of this.) If your turkey has come with its internal organs (heart, liver, and gizzard, usually stored in the torso) and neck, use the gizzard and neck for stock and the heart and liver for Zakary Pelaccio's Crispy Turkey Biryani. Place turkey pieces in cool brine, and leave to soak for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Stock: Put carrot, celery, garlic, and onion in a medium stockpot. Cut the turkey back and neck into smaller pieces and add to the pot, followed by the gizzard, wing tips, and tail (also known as the Pope's nose). Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam and fat solids that rise to the surface, then reduce to a low simmer. Cook uncovered and undisturbed, 2–2½ hours. Strain broth and set aside. Makes about 1 quart.
Turkey, part 2: After 24 hours, remove turkey from brine and set aside for par-boiling. Put half the brine in a large stockpot, along with an equal amount of water. (Discard the rest of the brine.) Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam and fat solids that rise to the surface. Add the turkey, and immediately turn off the heat, cover, and let rest for 45 minutes. (This can be done a day ahead: remove the turkey from the boiling liquid and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before cooking.)
Turkey, part 3: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove turkey from liquid, discard liquid, and pat turkey dry with paper towels. Place turkey into a roasting pan fitted with a metal rack. Liberally rub butter all over, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Make sure turkey parts are in the pan skin side up. Roast 45-60 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with pan drippings and checking for temperature after 30 minutes.
When turkey has roasted for 30 minutes, begin checking the internal temperature. Insert a meat thermometer (ideally, a digital one) into every piece, making sure not to touch bone. Breasts are done when the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees F, legs and thighs 175-180 degrees F. Remove pieces as soon as they're done, and let them all rest at least 30 minutes while you make the gravy.
Gravy: Pour drippings from the roasting pan into a saucepan and set aside. Place the roasting pan over medium heat; add ¼ cup of turkey stock to deglaze, using a spatula to scrape up the brown bits on the bottom. Add the contents of the roasting pan to the saucepan.Pour off and set aside nearly all the drippings, leaving ¾ cup in the saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Continue whisking until the flour is cooked; then add another ½ cup of the reserved drippings. Whisk continuously until the roux thickens to a brown paste.Slowly add in the rest of the stock, a little at a time, whisking between additions until smooth. Once all the stock has been added, bring to a low boil to make a thick, rich gravy, 2 minutes. Add salt, vinegar, and pepper to taste, then stir to combine. Makes about 1½ cups of gravy.
Assembly: Arrange thighs on a platter. Carve the breasts from the turkey, slice on a bias into three pieces, and arrange on the platter. Leave the drumsticks whole. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with gravy drizzled over or on the side. Happy Thanksgiving!
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