I usually like my holiday turkey unadorned. I feel that if I am going to get a top-notch organic bird, I want to taste the turkey, and not the embellishments. Dry-brining adds flavor to the meat without overwhelming. This recipe, which will taste like it has been roasted without ever seeing a grill, is one of my favorites. The caramelized onion gravy always gets comments like "this is the best gravy I ever had!," and other over-the-top remarks. Serve it when you have a guest list of grownups and a fine bottle of Zinfandel to serve alongside. Keep reading for the instructions...
Smoke-Salted Roast Turkey with Honey-Chipotle Glaze
Makes 8 to 12 servings
One 14- to 16-pound fresh turkey (neck and giblets reserved for Turkey Stock)
1 oven-roasting bag for turkey
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1/3 cup smoked salt, preferably oak-smoked (see Note)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon pure ground chipotle (look for McCormick brand at your supermarket)
1 onion, chopped
12 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon pure ground chipotle
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups Turkey Stock, as needed
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon pure ground chipotle
Caramelized Onion Gravy
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 onions, chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 cups Turkey Stock, as needed
The day before roasting the turkey, pull out yellow pads of fat near the tail, cover, and refrigerate. Rinse the turkey inside and out, but do not dry. Place the turkey in an oven roasting bag for turkey.
Heat empty skillet over medium heat. Add cumin and stir until toasted, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate and let cool. Grind in electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Combine smoked salt, ground cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, and chipotle in small bowl. Sprinkle smoked salt inside and out of turkey. Close bag and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.
The next day, position rack in the lowest position of the oven and preheat to
325° F. Remove the turkey from the bag and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Pat the turkey skin dry.
Flavor Stuffing/ Mix onion, garlic, and chipotle in small bowl. Turn the turkey on its breast. Loosely fill the neck cavity with onion mixture. Using thin wooden or metal skewer, pin the turkey’s neck skin to back. Fold the turkey wing tips akimbo behind shoulders or tie to body with kitchen string. Loosely fill the body cavity with remaining onion mixture. Place the drumsticks in “hock lock” or tie together with kitchen string.
Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in the roasting pan. Rub all over with softened butter. Pour turkey stock into pan. Add the reserved turkey fat to pan. Stir together honey and chipotle in a small bowl; set aside.
Roast turkey, basting all over every 45 minutes or so with the pan juices, until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh (but not touching a bone) reads 180° F, about 3 1/2 hours. Whenever the turkey stock has evaporated into a glaze, add 1 cup more stock or water to keep the drippings from burning. During the last 30 minutes of estimated roasting time, brush the turkey twice at 10-15 minute intervals with the honey-chipotle mixture. If the turkey browns too much, tent with aluminum foil.
Tilt turkey so juices in body cavity run into pan. Transfer turkey to large serving platter and let stand for about 20 minutes before carving.
Gravy/ While turkey is roasting, heat butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until deep golden brown and very tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Pour the pan drippings into a 1-quart gravy separator. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour drippings from separator into a 2-quart glass measuring cup. Add enough stock to measure 6 cups total. Measure 9 tablespoons fat from separator.
Place roasting pan over low heat and add turkey fat. Whisk in flour, scraping up browned bits in pan. Cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk in stock mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking often, until the gravy has thickened, about 5 minutes. Strain back into large bowl. Whisk in caramelized onions. Puree with a hand-held blender or in batches in a regular blender. Reheat, if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into warmed gravy boat. Carve turkey and serve gravy alongside.
Note: There are a variety of smoked salts available at specialty food stores and well-stocked supermarkets. If the salt crystals are large (coarse sea salt or fleur de sel), pulse the salt in an electric spice grinder until they are about the size of kosher salt, then measure.