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Add surprise flavors to Thanksgiving turkey |
Food & Drink

Add surprise flavors to Thanksgiving turkey

Barbecue Spiced Turkey
Barbecue Spiced Turkey
A whole turkey is cut up into manageable pieces, rubbed with plenty of spices, then braised until tender. The method allows for easy transport and reheating.
A 20-lb. dry-brined turkey was rubbed with salt and placed in a refrigerator for 2 days before being roasted at 450 degrees, then at 350 degrees, at 10 minutes per pound.
A 20-lb. dry-brined turkey was rubbed with salt and placed in a refrigerator for 2 days before being roasted at 450 degrees, than at 350 degrees, at 10 minutes per pound Oct. 30, 2014. (Roberto Rodriguez/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Barbecue-Spiced Turkey

It occurred to us recently that many of the same flavors we crave on grilled meats during the summer also would be superb on roasted turkey at Thanksgiving. So, we decided to see what would happen if we created a spice rub for our Turkey Day bird using the same ingredients we often reach for in a barbecue rub. The result was wonderful. Even better was the gravy we got from the bottom of the roasting pan.

From Alison Ladman of the Associated Press.

Start to finish: 3 hours (30 minutes active)

4 large yellow onions, quartered

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

12 teaspoon cayenne, optional, more or less to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons ( 12 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds)

12 cup dry white wine

2 cups turkey, chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 12 tablespoons instant flour, such as Wondra

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Scatter the onions over the bottom of a roasting pan and fit a roasting rack over them.

In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, paprika, thyme, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of black pepper. Mix well, then add the butter and mash together to form a smooth paste.

Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry all over. Smear the spiced-butter mixture all over the turkey, being sure to get it under the skin as well as in the cavity. Place the turkey on the rack in the prepared pan. Roast for 2 to 2 12 hours, covering the turkey with foil if the skin begins to darken too much. By the end of roasting, the temperature of the breast should reach 160 degrees and the thigh should reach 170 degrees.

Move the turkey to a serving platter and cover it first with a layer of foil, then with several layers of clean kitchen towels to keep it warm.

Remove the rack from the pan and use a slotted spoon to lift the onions out and transfer them to a blender.

Place the roasting pan over medium heat on the stovetop and add the wine. Bring to a simmer and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Whisk in the stock, tomato paste and vinegar. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking and heating until the gravy thickens.

Carefully pour the gravy from the pan into the blender with the onions. Puree until it is smooth. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt and black pepper, if needed. Serve with the turkey.

Makes a 12- to 14-pound turkey with gravy.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 18 servings): 380 calories (130 calories from fat), 15 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 195 millgrams cholesterol, 51 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 390 milligrams sodium

Braised Turkey With Moroccan Spices

Most butchers will cut the turkey up for you. Za’atar, a blend of sumac, thyme, oregano, sesame and other seasonings, is available in the spice section of most large supermarkets, Whole Foods and online from

From Jeanmarie Brownson of the Chicago Tribune.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 2 hours

1 turkey (13 to 15 pounds)


2 tablespoons za’atar seasoning blend

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon turmeric

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons garlic powder

12 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

14 teaspoon cayenne, optional

2 or 3 carrots, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 large bulb fresh fennel, stalks and fronds removed, bulb diced

1 small leek, split, rinsed, diced

6 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons salt

Cornstarch, if needed for gravy

Remove the giblets and neck packets from the cavity of the turkey. Rinse the turkey well and pat it dry. Cut the turkey in portions like you would a chicken: First remove the legs and cut them apart into drumsticks and thighs. Then, cut off the wings. Use kitchen shears to cut out the back bone. Use a large knife or kitchen shears to carefully split the turkey breast down the middle into two halves.

Put the giblets (not the liver), neck, wings and backbone into a large pot. Add cold water to cover by 2 inches, usually 3 quarts. Simmer, adding water if needed, for 2 to 3 hours. Strain it into a bowl, discarding the solids. Refrigerate the broth for up to 3 days. You should have about 6 cups.

Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. Rub the mixture on all sides of the turkey breast halves, thighs and drumsticks set on a baking sheet in a single layer. The rubbed turkey can be refrigerated, loosely covered, for up to several days.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the carrots, onion, fennel, leek and garlic in the bottom of a large metal baking pan. Nestle the turkey parts into the vegetables in a single uncrowded layer. Sprinkle everything with salt.

Put the pan in the oven. Carefully pour 3 to 4 cups of the turkey broth into the pan, taking care not to pour it over the rubbed turkey; you don’t want to wash off the rub. The broth should come halfway up the sides of the meat. Cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in the breast and the juices run clear, for about 1 hour. Use tongs to remove the breasts to a cutting board. Continue cooking the thighs and legs, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Arrange all the turkey pieces on a platter or cutting board. Let the turkey rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. Skim off and discard any fat from the pan juices. The juices can be thickened to make a gravy, using a cornstarch slurry (a tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water). Serve the vegetables with the sliced turkey.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (for 14 servings): 417 calories, 13 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 239 milligrams cholesterol, 65 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 500 milligrams sodium

Dry-Brined Turkey

A dry brine is just another way of saying the turkey was rubbed all over with salt before resting in the refrigerator for two days. The salt draws a large quantity of juice out of the turkey, which leaves the finished turkey remarkably moist and succulent, with plenty of drippings for gravy.

The drippings are mixed with wine in the pan as the bird is cooking, so the turkey accepts some extra flavor from the steaming wine. More flavor is added from the inside, with onions, apples, thyme and black peppercorns stuffed into the cavity. The finished turkey tastes delicious.

Adapted from Kim Severson, via The New York Times.

1 turkey (12 to 16 pounds)

3 to 4 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

10 fresh thyme sprigs

12 bunch fresh flatleaf parsley

2 small onions, halved, divided

2 small apples, cored and halved, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups water or white wine, divided

Two days before serving, rinse the turkey and pat it dry. Rub all over the turkey with the salt, slipping salt under the skin where possible and rubbing some into the cavities; use about 1 tablespoon per every 4 pounds of bird. Put the bird in a large plastic bag and refrigerate. On the second night, turn the turkey over.

One hour before cooking, remove the turkey from the bag and pat it dry. Put it in a roasting pan and allow it to warm a bit.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle half of the pepper into the main cavity of the turkey and add the thyme, parsley, half the onions and half the apples. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Put the remaining apples and onions in the neck opening, and tuck the neck skin under the bird.

Rub the butter under the breast skin and over the thigh meat. Sprinkle the bird with the remaining pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Cover the breast of the bird and the wing tips with foil. Add 1 12 cups of the water (or white wine) to the roasting pan and roast the bird for 2 hours or so, depending on the size; figure on 10 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird. Remove the foil from the breast in the last half-hour so it browns.

When the turkey has roasted for 2 hours, begin to test for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer (digital is best) into two different places in the thigh, making sure not to touch bone; it should be about 165 degrees.

When it is done, tip the turkey so the interior juices run into the pan. Remove the turkey to a rimmed baking sheet or a serving platter, cover it with foil and then a damp kitchen towel, and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the fat and drippings from the pan into a measuring cup. Add the remaining 12 cup water (or wine) to the pan, stirring to deglaze it, and pour that into the same measuring cup. The fat and drippings can then be used to make gravy.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 16): 449 calories, 16 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 261 milligrams cholesterol, 69 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 1,604 grams sodium

Bourbon-Brined Turkey With Apple Bourbon Pan Gravy

Don’t bother trussing the turkey; the legs will cook more evenly if they are not trussed close to the body. The broth in the bottom of the pan lends moisture to the turkey. Baste the turkey every 20 to 30 minutes for moister breast meat. Skip the basting if you crave crispy skin.

From Jeanmarie Brownson of the Chicago Tribune.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Brine time: 4 hours or overnight

Cook time: 3 hours

For the turkey:

1 turkey (13 to 15 pounds)


1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar

12 cup coarse salt, plus more for seasoning

12 cup bourbon

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped

2 large apples, quartered, cored, roughly chopped

Several sprigs each of (all fresh) sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary

Olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

For the pan gravy:

13 cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons bourbon or 14 cup dry red wine

Gravy darkener, optional

Fresh herb sprigs for garnish

Remove the giblets and neck packets from the cavity of the turkey. Rinse the turkey well.

Have ready a large food-safe plastic bucket or container. Put 2 cups of very hot water, the brown sugar and the salt into the container. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Stir in 2 cups of cold water, 12 cup of bourbon and the red pepper. Put the turkey in the brine. Add enough cool water to completely immerse the turkey. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Remove the turkey from brine. Discard the brine. Refrigerate the turkey for up to 2 days.

For broth, put the giblets (not the liver) and neck into a deep saucepan. Add cold water to cover by 2 inches, usually 1 12 quarts. Simmer, adding water if needed, for about 2 hours. Strain into a bowl, discarding the solids. Refrigerate the broth for up to 3 days. You should have about 4 cups broth.

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Put some of the onion and apple pieces in the turkey’s neck cavity; use wooden picks to secure the skin over the cavity. Tuck the wings behind the back. Put the remaining onion and apple pieces into the body cavity. Add the herb sprigs. Use wooden picks to pull the skin closed over the body cavity, but don’t stress if it’s not completely covered.

Put the turkey into a large roasting pan, breast side up. Rub all sides with olive oil; sprinkle generously with coarse salt and pepper. Gently pour 2 cups of the turkey broth into the pan. Roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting the turkey, basting every 30 minutes or so with the pan juices and turning the pan occasionally for even browning, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers about 160 degrees, for 2 to 2 12 hours longer. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees; roast to brown the skin more deeply, for about 10 minutes.

Remove the turkey to a cutting board; tent it with foil. Let it stand for about 15 minutes or so; the temperature will rise 10 more degrees. I think the turkey is deliciously juicy at 165 to 170 degrees — no more.

Meanwhile, set the roasting pan with the brothy juices directly over the burner. Ladle off and discard any excess fat. Heat the pan juices to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch in 12 cup of the remaining turkey broth. Whisk some of the dissolved cornstarch into the simmering pan juices until boiling and thickened as desired (you may not need all the cornstarch mixture). Add more broth if needed to adjust consistency. Off the heat, add the bourbon or wine; season with salt and pepper. If desired, stir in a spoonful of gravy darkener for a richer color. You should have a generous 3 cups.

Use a spoon to remove the cooked onion and apple pieces from the turkey cavities to a cutting board. (Discard the herb sprigs.) Cut the onion and apple pieces into small dice. Stir it into the pan gravy. Serve the carved turkey with apple bourbon pan gravy. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (for 14 servings): 507 calories, 17 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 276 milligrams cholesterol, 74 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams dietary fiber, 579 milligrams sodium

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