Saturday, November 22, 2008

When It's Good It Stays Good

'Twas 1999 and I was hosting another Orphans Thanksgiving - those of us whose work didn't allow us to travel for the holiday, who were too battle-scarred from incompetent airlines over past Thanksgivings, etc. In other words, my friends from softball and work and whatnot were held hostage to my cooking! MWWAAAH-ha-ha-haaaaaa!

I wanted the dinner to be very traditional. My parents are both terrific cooks and made the most wonderful Thanksgiving dinners! Granted, my Bangladeshi friend in attendance had no frame of reference for a Thanksgiving dinner, but the folks from Ohio and Chicago and St. Louis did. And whether they were missing their families or escaping them, we all deserved a warm, comfortable, friendly, fantastic dinner together. I did turkey and dessert, they brought the rest.

Wanting to share the best with my friends, I picked up the November, 1999 copy of Bon Appetit to find the perfect turkey recipe. [I'm proud to say I had come a long way from the 1993 incident of calling my Mom in a panic, asking her what this bag was doing in my turkey?!?! What kind of slipshod poultry farm was stuffing God-knows-what inside my bird, and to whom do I report them?? Never heard her laugh so hard.] Narrowing down my choices, I read the recipes to my Dad over the phone and we decided which would be best. On Thanksgiving we had the following conversation:

Dad, vastly experienced with roasting turkeys: So how's the turkey coming? It's in the oven by now, right?
Me: Yeah, but barely. I've rubbed my buttered, herb-y hands all in and over that thing. A nice dinner is the least of what it owes me.
Dad: Um, you don't have anyone over right now who heard that, do you?

That 1999 magazine is one of the very few that I've ever saved in its entirety. I was just looking through it and some things are noticeable for their absence - the words "artisinal" and "vegan", omnipresent in current foodie magazines, aren't there. Neither are website URLs - there are a few, but it's mostly 1-800 numbers for more information. There are no e-mail addresses, no mentions of organic food, and the words "New Orleans" are not followed by "rebuilding" or "lost" or "damaged" or "Katrina." Did it all change that fast?

This recipe has stood the test of 9 years time and I expect to make it for twenty more, at least. Enjoy.

Sage-Roasted Turkey With Caramelized Onions and Sage Gravy
Bon Appetit - November, 1999

1 1/2 pounds onions, sliced
3 TBSP vegetable oil

1 14- to 15-pound turkey; neck, heart, and gizzard removed [the stuff in the bag in the turkey. Ew]
2 TBSP butter, room temperature
8 large whole fresh sage leaves plus 1 1/2 teaspoons, chopped

1 cup (or more) boxed low-salt chicken broth

6 TBSP all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry white wine (or more broth if you don't keep wine around)
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Toss onions and 2 tablespoons oil in large roasting pan. Roast until onions are golden brown, stirring every 15 minutes, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Slice hand under skin of turkey breast to loosen skin. Spread butter under skin over breast meat. Arrange 4 sage leaves under skin on each side of breast.

Tuck wing tips under turkey; tie legs together loosely. Rub turkey all over with 1 TBSP oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. [I don't like to touch my salt & pepper shakers with oily, raw-turkey-juice hands. I pour the oil into a little dish, add the salt and pepper, and then do the rub]

Place turkey atop onions in pan. Roast turkey 30 minutes. Pour 1 cup broth into pan.

Tent turkey loosely with foil. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Roast turkey 2 hours. Uncover and baste regularly. Continue to roast until turkey is golden brown and thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees, about an hour longer.

Transfer to platter/cutting board. Tent loosely with foil; let stand 30 minutes.

Pour onion mixture into gravy separator, and pour off broth into large measuring cup. Add more chicken broth to onion mixture, if necessary, to measure 5 cups. Reserve 2 TBSP of fat.

Add the 2 TBSP of fat to a small skillet on medium-high heat. Add chopped sage; stir 30 seconds. Add flour; whisk until beginning to color, about 3 minutes (mixture will be dry and crumbly). Gradually whisk in onion mixture, wine, and nutmeg. Simmer until gravy thickens to desired consistency, whisking frequently, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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