Roast Turkey with Two Dressings

November 11, 2012
By Holly Jennings

This posting includes clear instructions for roasting a fine turkey for your Thanksgiving table, courtesy of David Leite. What it’s really about, though, is the stuffing. Because that is what everyone really wants, isn’t it?

Now that I’ve lured you in with the word stuffing, a word that always elicits anticipation among my family members and is the side dish that, no matter how much extra is made, always, sadly, seems to be depleted first, I should say that, technically, what follows are recipes for dressings, in that the turkey isn’t stuffed with them.

From Leite’s cookbook The New Portuguese Table, I’ve learned that the only thing better than one dressing is two. Growing up in Massachusetts, his Portuguese family served roast turkey with a bread-based dressing and a potato-based dressing. Both of which I fell in love with.

If you like sopping-up bread, and other down-home comfort foods, you will love Leite’s highly seasoned, slight spicy, bread-based dressing. Think of the bread that barely contains a sauced meatball sandwich and soaks up the meat juices and tomato-y goodness of the sauce or, as another example, the bun that has become wonderfully soggy with the flavors of generously sauced pulled pork, and you get the idea.

If these two dressings represented Northern and Southern Italian cuisine, the bread-based dressing would be the Southern cousin, the potato dressing the Northern. The latter, bound with milk and egg yolks and enriched with the turkey liver is very flavorful and, being a quieter, more subtle side, is the ideal complement to turkey. But I wouldn’t want to do without either. Going back and forth from one dressing to the next is fun: a bite of spicy, acidic tomatey boldness, then a bite of subtle, creamy, richness.

Having grown up eating these two dressings at Thanksgiving, I can see why David Leite developed an appreciation for flavors ranging from hearty, spicy, and rustic to more subdued, rich, and elegant, all of which are represented in his book.

Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys at Highfields Farm

Leite recommends (in fact, he insists upon) buying a kosher turkey to mimic his grandmother Costa’s ritual salting of the turkey prior to roasting it. She believed it pulled out impurities. I, however, wanted to buy a turkey from Highfields Farm, a local farm in Randolph, Vermont, run by Julie Iffland and Chris Recchia. Julie raises Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys, a very old hybrid whose origins can be traced to the Colonial era. By the early years of the twentieth-century the Broad Breasted Bronze had become the commercial variety of choice. Julie prefers to raise the Broad Breasted Bronze because she feels it has more wild turkey traits remaining than the Broad Breasted White. By the 1960s the latter breed had replaced the Broad Breasted Bronze in the commercial turkey industry because it has a cleaner looking carcass—whatever that means. As you can see from my photo, the Broad Breasted Bronze makes a pretty stately Thanksgiving turkey. And in lieu of buying a kosher turkey, I brined mine. It was moist, tender, and flavorful.

Roast Turkey with Two Dressings
peru assado com dois recheios

Serves 8

For the turkey

One 12- to 14-pound kosher turkey, liver reserved for the dressing
1 small orange, cut into wedges
1 small lemon, cut into wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Turkish bay leaves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons sweet paprika

For the potato dressing

1½ pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1‑inch cubes kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more if needed
¾ pound ground sweet Italian pork sausage
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced reserved turkey liver, chopped
2 large egg yolks, beaten
½ cup whole milk, plus more if needed
Healthy pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Grandma Costa’s bread dressing (recipe follows)

1. Position a rack in the bottom of the oven and crank up the heat to 425°F.

2. Remove any pin feathers from the turkey and pat the bird dry with paper towels. Rub the cavity with a wedge of orange and of lemon, season well with salt and pepper, and stuff with the remaining wedges and the bay leaves. Tuck the wing tips under the bird and tie the legs together. Mix together the melted butter, paprika, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and brush about half of it over the turkey. Place the bird breast side down on a V-rack set in a roasting pan.

3. Slip the turkey into the oven, pour 2 cups of water into the pan, and roast for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 350°F, flip the bird breast side up, and brush with some of the remaining butter-paprika mixture.

4. Continue roasting and brushing the turkey every 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F, 1½ to 2 hours more. Tent the bird with foil if browning too quickly.

Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and let stand, tented, for 20 minutes. Although it’s not the custom in Portugal, you can make gravy (see Variação).

5. Meanwhile, plonk the potatoes into a large pot of cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, return half to the pot, and mash well. Set the rest aside and keep warm.

6. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the foaming subsides. Crumble in the ground sausage and cook, breaking up the clumps, until well browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the sausage into the pot with the mashed potatoes. Lower the heat to medium and, if the skillet is dry, add a bit more butter. Drop in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 12 minutes. Scrape in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chopped reserved liver and sauté until browned, about 3 minutes. Scoop the mixture into the pot with the mashed potatoes.

7. Whisk the yolks and milk into the potatoes until smooth; if the dressing is too thick, whisk in more milk. Place the pot over medium heat and stir to cook the yolks, about 3 minutes. Fold in the reserved potatoes, sprinkle in the nutmeg and parsley, and season well with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

8. To serve, plate the turkey, scoop the dressings into decorative bowls, and take everything to the table pronto.

Variação Y To make gravy, spoon the fat from the roasting pan. Set the pan over two burners and pour in enough homemade chicken stock or store-bought low sodium broth to the pan juices to equal 3 cups. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping the bottom to loosen any browned bits. Blend together ¼ cup softened unsalted butter and ¼ cup all-purpose flour in a small bowl to form a smooth paste. Scoop the paste into the stock, whisking constantly, until the gravy thickens and no floury taste remains, 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grandma Costa’s Dressing
migas da minha vovó costa

Leite doesn’t limit this dressing, his favorite of the two as a child, to just Thanksgiving. He also suggests serving it alongside beef, pork, or roasted chicken. The potato dressing, on the other hand, is necessarily limited to Thanksgiving by virtue of the turkey liver utilized in its making. (Or is it? I’d like to try the potato dressing with chicken livers, just to be able to enjoy it throughout the winter months.)

Serves 6 to 8

¼ pound thick-sliced slab bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch pieces
1 pound chourico, linguica, or dry-cured smoked Spanish chorizo, roughly chopped
Olive oil, if needed
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
⅔ cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons amped-up red pepper paste (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons double-concentrate tomato paste
12 cups ¾ inch cubes of day-old rustic bread
About 2 cups homemade beef stock plus 1 cup water, or 3 cups store-bought low-sodium broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, until the fat has rendered and the meaty bits are crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels. Pour off all but a thin film of fat from the pot into a cup and reserve. Bump up the heat to medium-high, add the chourico, and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat, adding it to the bacon fat. If the pan is dry, add 2 tablespoons of oil.

2. Lower the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook until soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute more. Splash in the wine, add the red pepper paste and tomato paste, scrape up any stuck-on bits, then let burble for a few minutes to cook the mixture.

3. Turn the heat to low, add the bread and the reserved bacon and chourico fats, and pour in just enough of the stock-water combination, beating well with a spoon, to make the mixture moist. If you use all the liquid and the pot is still dry, add water as necessary. Fold in the bacon and chourico and continue beating to lighten the mixture. Take a taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Scoop the dressing into a bowl and speckle with the parsley.

Amped-Up Red Pepper Paste
Massa de pimentão forte

David Leite says this delicious paste is a classic Portuguese staple. It certainly is in his book, where it turns up periodically and most memorably in his recipe for the deservedly famous Portuguese dish Alentejan-Style Pork with Clams. If you love highly seasoned condiments packed with flavor, you might find yourself licking the spoon you’ve dunked into this paste, as others might lick cookie dough batter off a spoon. (I know, because that’s what I found myself doing.)

Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
¼ cup dry red wine
8 to 10 garlic cloves, to taste
2 Turkish bay leaves, well crumbled
1 tablespoon double-concentrate tomato paste
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
7 sprigs fresh cilantro
5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
A few dashes of piri-piri sauce (see Note), or to taste
¼ cup olive oil

1. Dump both types of paprika, the wine, garlic, bay leaves, tomato paste, lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, salt, and pepper, and piri-piri sauce into a food processor or mini chop and pulse until the garlic and herbs are minced. Scrape down any chunky bits from the sides of the bowl.

2. While the motor is running, pour in the olive oil and continue whirring until the paste is slick and homogeneous, 1 to 2 minutes. Use the mixture immediately, or spoon it into a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. The paste will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.

Note: Piri-piri sauce can be purchased at Portuguese or specialty markets (check out Amaral’s or Sickles Market), or can be made at home. David Leite includes a recipe for piri-piri sauce in his cookbook The New Portuguese Table.

(Recipe ingredients and instructions reprinted with the permission of Clarkson Potter. Recipe introductions and the note about piri-piri sauce were written by Holly Jennings.)


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