Slow-Roast Turkey with 40 Cloves of Garlic and White Wine Pan Gravy

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The gravy broth can be done a week ahead and frozen; the garlic and turkey seasoning can be prepped a day in advance.

Slow roasting whole cloves of garlic with the turkey takes the buds from raunchy to sweet and as endearing as a babe. They scent the pan juices and mellow your gravy. I guarantee that this recipe will not clear the house or your sinuses. In fact, I think garlic, like certain chiles, has a lovely mellowing effect on gatherings. If you can, season the bird the day before. Remember that once the turkey is cooked, it needs 15 to 25 minutes of rest - this is your grace period to warm up sides, make up the pan gravy and breathe.

If you need to hold off serving, the turkey could be turned down to 275º F, but don't let the breast meat cook beyond 170º F on an instant-reading thermometer.

Cook to Cook: As for selecting a turkey, my personal preferences run something like this: The best buy for our scant dollars is a basic supermarket turkey (not self basting - you’re paying for water and salt). It will work brilliantly here. For more money I’d choose a turkey raised solely on vegetarian feed (free range or not). If your ship is coming in, I would go for a certified organic or heritage bird.

When you're ready to roast, be sure to use a large, shallow pan, not the usual deep turkey roaster, and nurture the bird with its own juices by basting often.


Ingredients

Seasoning the Turkey (do a day ahead, if possible):

  • 4 to 5 heads of garlic (yes, that's right, "heads")
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • A generous 1/2 teaspoon each whole allspice and black peppercorns, ground very fine, or 3/4 teaspoon of each spice, pre-ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/3 cup tight-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried basil
  • A generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 8 large garlic cloves (from the garlic above)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon, or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup good tasting extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 thick slices of bacon
  • 12 to 20 pound turkey (see Cook to Cook), giblets, neck and wing tips saved for the gravy
  • One recipe White Wine Pan Gravy

Roasting:
  • Coarse salt
  • About 1 bottle dry white wine (sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio)
  • 3 stalks celery with leaves
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 2 large carrots, cut in half lengthwise

Garnish:
  • 5-6 springs of pine or
  • 2 large bunches of Italian parsley or
  • 2 bundles of fresh thyme


Instructions

1. Up to a day ahead, prep the garlic. Don't break off the cloves, just set the heads, root down, on a work surface and give each head a whack with the bottom of a sturdy saucepan. You want to break up the head and partially crush the cloves so you can slip off their skins. Slip them off. Bring medium size sauce pan of water to a boil, boil the cloves 2 minutes, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to chill.

Set aside the 8 cloves needed for the turkey seasoning. If not using the garlic right away, put it in a container, loosely cover (don't seal it) and chill. The rest of the garlic will be added to the pan juices during roasting.

2. A day ahead if possible, season the turkey. Put all of the seasonings (except for the raw bacon) into a food processor with the 8 of the garlic cloves. Puree everything. Taste for a distinctive taste of lemon — add more if needed.

Then puree in the raw bacon.

Now use this mixture to season the bird under its skin by starting with the breast down at the cavity end. Gently run your fingers under the skin up to the top of the bird, and spoon in several tablespoons of seasonings.

Do the same with the thigh and leg areas as well. You will probably have a third or more of the seasonings left. Cover it up and store in the fridge.
 Put the turkey on a platter, loosely cover it and chill over night.

3. The next day, take the turkey out of the refrigerator an hour before roasting. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cluster the celery, carrot and onion in the center of a shallow roasting pan so they make a rack for the turkey. Rub the reserved seasonings over the entire turkey and into the cavity. Sprinkle the bird on all sides with salt. Set it breast down on the vegetables, slip into the oven and lower heat to 325ºF.

4. Count on roasting the turkey for about 13 to 15 minutes to the pound, or until an instant reading thermometer tucked into the breast reads 170º to 175ºF.

5. After the first 30 minutes, pour 1/3 of the wine over the bird, and baste frequently with pan juices. After another half hour, add another 1/3 of the wine.

Then baste with pan juices. When the turkey is 90 minutes from being done, add the reserved garlic with the remaining wine to the pan juices. Keep basting the bird as usual. Take care that the garlic doesn't burn -- keep it moistened with pan juices.

6. An hour before the turkey is done, take it out of the oven. Use two heatproof oven mitts to carefully turn it breast up. Continue roasting and basting with the pan juices. Once the breast reaches 170-175ºF, remove the turkey from the oven. With potholders, transfer it to a platter and rest the bird at room temperature for 20-25 minutes.

 
Make the White Wine Pan Gravy; the roasted garlic will have practically melted into the pan juices.

Set the turkey on a serving platter and garnish it with pine sprigs, thyme or bunches of Italian parsley. Carve, spoon some of the garlic cloves and gravy over the slices, and pass the rest of the gravy at the table.

Copyright 2011 by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. From A Spice Scented Thanksgiving Menu.

Prep time: 
1 1/2 - 2 hours, divided over a couple of days
Cook time: 
3 to 4 3/4 hours for a 12 to 20-pound bird that is not stuffed
Total time: 
4 1/2 - 6 3/4 hours
Yield: 
Serves 8 to 25 depending on the size of your turkey

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