Two-Stage Roast Turkey with Southwestern Honey-Pepper Rub

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This new recipe includes a technique I've been using for years: roasting the turkey in two stages. I do this because of the Big Turkey Problem: while you're waiting for the turkey's dark meat to cook (which takes longer), the white breast meat dries out. My solution: cook the bird until the breast is still juicy, remove the bird from the oven, and carve off the two sides of the breast. Put the bird back in the oven -and while the dark meat's finishing, serve a white-meat first course. Twenty minutes later, you can serve a dark-meat second course. And you get to drink two wines with this main course: I always like to serve a white wine with the white-meat course and a red wine with the dark-meat course. By the way: the honey-pepper rub burnishes the big bird beautifully.

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 (14 pound) turkey, well chilled
Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Prepare the rub: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Pour butter into a large mixing bowl. Add pepper, cumin, oregano (pulverizing it with your fingers), chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, clove, and salt, mixing well. Drizzle in the honey and blend well.

3. Rub mixture all over the cold turkey—both on and under the skin, as evenly as possible. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan in the lower portion of the oven, legs toward the back. Roast until the turkey starts to turn golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and roast the turkey for about 1 1/2 hours, basting with the pan juices every 20 minutes or so. (The white meat is done when a quick-read thermometer reaches 150 degrees.)

4. Remove turkey from oven and (at table, if desired), remove the large breast fillet from each side of the turkey. Let the fillets rest a few minutes before carving into slices. Serve white meat with Cilantro-Poblano Cream Sauce.

5. Meanwhile, return the rest of the bird to the 325-degree oven. Cook until the dark meat reaches 175 degrees, about 20 minutes more. Remove, let rest a few minutes, and serve the dark meat with Smoky Chipotle-Mushroom Gravy.

Adapted from It's All American Food by David Rosengarten (Little, Brown 2003).

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At least 12 servings
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