Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey

My mother took this recipe from the New York Times in 1973 (John Hess, 11/15/1973)

Making the broth
The turkey neck and giblets
3 cups water
1 large, quartered onion
1 sliced carrot
A few parsley stems
1 bay leaf
Take the turkey neck and giblets and cook with 3 cups of water along with onion, carrot, parsley, and a bay leaf.
Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hour. (optional: add chicken or veal broth)

Making the stuffing
The turkey liver, minced
1 pound pork sausage (without casing)
1 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup very thinly sliced celery
1/2 tsp thyme
1 loaf good bread
1 cup sliced black olives
1 cup broken walnut
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup of stock broth
2 tbsp of cognac or 2-4 tbsp madeira/port
finely chopped green apple
large handful of cremini or white mushrooms, chopped

1. Toast the bread and let it partially dry, then cut into small squares (or vice versa)
2. Brown sausage and then add onion, celery and thyme
3. Combine everything else

Cooking the Turkey
»Stuff the turkey then truss with heavy needle and thread. Bring wings close to body and tie legs up and together.
»Wipe bird and rub it with softened butter. Salt and pepper all over.
»Lay bird on its side in an oven-proof platter of same size.
»Roast a 10-12 pound bird about 2 hours. Roast a 15-16 lb. bird about 3 hours. Cook at 450 degrees (F) for 30 minutes then turn down slightly. Every 15 minutes flip bird to other side and spoon fat from pan over bird. If browning too quickly, turn down to 400 degrees (F) (or 350 degrees if still cooking too fast). Give yourself 30 minutes at end to finish sauce and further cook bird if not completely done.
»Place turkey on warm platter. Remove excess fat from pan with a spoon and then add remaining stock. Simmer over high heat and reduce (but not too far). You can also add 1/4 cup red wine.

Update 11/28/09:

Having just gone through another Thanksgiving, I thought I would write down what I did differently while it was fresh in my mind.

I wanted to make my stuffing completely from scratch rather than use store-bought breakfast sausage.  The key is making this ahead of time so that the flavors have a chance to meld, so I would advise making it Thanksgiving morning.

1 pound ground pork
1 large spanish onion, diced
3/4 to 1 cup celery, diced
3 cups country bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
1 cup black olives, diced
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup white or cremini mushrooms, diced
1 granny smith green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
1 to 2 tsp fresh thyme (to taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 to 2 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup of stock broth
2 tbsp of cognac

In a large pot (I like using my big dutch oven), brown the sausage, adding the salt and thyme. Add the chopped onions and cook for a few minutes, then the celery, then everything else. Cook on medium-low heat on the stovetop for 40 minutes to an hour. Add more broth if it starts to dry out excessively and stick to the pan. Turn off the heat and let the flavors meld, and reheat prior to the meal.

I no longer stuff the turkey with the stuffing — you end up having to dry up the turkey to make sure the stuffing is fully cooked and safe.

For the turkey, we rubbed it all over with butter and liberally sprinkled it with salt and pepper, then stuffed it with onion and trussed it with kitchen twine.  We cooked it on its back for 30 minutes at 425F, and then lowered the heat down to 350F and kept on turning turkey every 30 minutes.  Remove the turkey when a meat thermometer reads 160F deep in the thigh (make sure the thermometer is not touching a bone).  Loosely cover with foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving and serving.