Not for the faint of heart this recipe is decidedly high calorie. But at Thanksgiving – the only time most of us eat turkey – is there any real chance of avoiding the calories?
I specifically created this dish for Sesti Monteleccio, cheap the gamey, sweet, sudoric notes of the pancetta; the earthy, loamy and slightly minty twinge of the sage combining with the high toned arenaceous cherry of the Montalcino. The turkey (as long as it’s not over cooked) giving a sweet juiciness to the palate cleansing tannins of the Sesti.
I think Brunello makes this dish come alive. I could see Sangiovese making do, but Barolo or Barbaresco would probably be my second choice. Traditionally styled Barbera’s would fit, and “claret” Zinfandels, like Ridge Geyserville or Nalle would brighten the fruit tones.
1 – 20 lb. Turkey, defrosted if from frozen
2 lbs. Pancetta (yes two pounds), sliced
2 packages (2/3 oz) sage, chopped
4 heads garlic
3 lemons, quartered
4 onions, quartered
To taste salt
To taste black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the turkey from the fridge.
2. Using your hands work them under the turkey’s skin, beginning at the back of the breast. Work slowly so as not to tear the skin. If you do tear the skin don’t worry – this turkey is still going to taste good. Work your hands as far up the turkey breast as possible, lifting the skin slightly as you go. Rotating the turkey and do the same procedure working from the neck down, gently lifting up the skin as you go.
3. Place the sage in a bowl. Pick up one piece of pancetta and “dip” it into the sage. Quite a bit of sage should stick the piece. If it is heavily coated brush some off – you want enough sage on each piece to evenly season the bird. Lifting up the turkey’s skin move the pancetta onto the middle of the bird’s breast, again, underneath the skin. Continue with a second piece placing it slightly overlapping position on the breast. Continue until both breasts are covered with pancetta. Salt and pepper the breasts.
4. Gently open up the turkey’s cavity (remove the innards if there are any) and salt and pepper the inside of the bird. Stuff the bird with all the remaining pancetta, sage, lemons, garlic and onions. Gently rotate the bird to a roasting pan, breasts facing down.
5. Roast the turkey until the legs are golden brown. Estimate what golden brown is (probably two hours). Go with your instincts – the turkey is a very forgiving bird.
6. Using a pair of oven mitts (we here at Waterford actually only ever use pink colored dish washing gloves to complete this step, but to each their own), pull the turkey out of the oven. Rotate the turkey breast side up. Place it back in the oven.
7. Roast the turkey until the breasts are golden brown. Probably another hour and a half. Remove the turkey from the oven and check its temperature with a thermometer by inserting into the meat between the leg and thigh. If it reads 145 you are done. If lower stick the turkey back in. If higher you are definitely done – plan on making a sauce (see note just below).
8. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes at least. Carve and serve!
You don’t want to serve a turkey straight out of the oven. You need to let it rest, for a couple of reasons.
Turkeys of this magnitude will climb at least 10 degrees after being removed from the oven. Therefore, if you “oven” cook this turkey all the way to 165 degrees it will be 180 by the time it hits the table – overcooked and dry. By removing the turkey from the oven “early” you essentially finish the cooking internally, allowing the turkey’s juices to flow back into the meat – yielding a more succulent turkey.
The ultimate goal in turkey cookery is roughly 165 degrees and it really doesn’t matter how you achieve that – you don’t need to hit a bull’s eye. If you pull the turkey out, let it sit 20 minutes and it hasn’t hit 165, just put it back in the oven. If you pull the turkey out, it hits 165, and then starts to cool, put it back in the oven to warm when the guest are about to sit down at the table. The latter is my preferred method of cooking and always makes the meal that much easier. Enjoy!