The way my brother Eddie tells it, he and a college friend decided to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving one year. The day before Thanksgiving, Eddie went out and bought a 25 pound turkey, frozen, and put it in the fridge to defrost. (Can you see where this is going?) When it came time to cook the turkey, he took it out of its plastic wrapping, only to discover that the bird was still completely frozen. Rock hard. Undaunted (due either to the unchecked optimism that accompanies that time in life, or to beer addled judgement, and probably a little of both), Eddie went about cooking the turkey anyway. Heck, what’s a little frozen meat that a hot oven can’t overcome?
Into the oven it went. When it came time to eat, my brother pulled out of the oven a beautifully roasted, browned all over turkey. Success! thought my brother, hungry by now for the bird that had been roasting for several hours and filling the house with that wonderful aroma of Thanksgiving. A few friends had gathered as well, waiting for the feast to come. Then it came time to carve. Ed took out his longest, sharpest chef’s knife and aiming for the breast, cut in. Or tried to. As he tells it, he got about one inch in before the knife bumped up against rock hard, stone cold, frozen turkey.
Or maybe it was a half inch.
In any case, from what I understand they gave up and went out for Chinese.
The obvious moral of this story is to allow your bird plenty of time to defrost. A 15 pound turkey will take about 3 days in the fridge to defrost, a 25 pound turkey, about 5 days.
The less obvious moral to this story, and the point of the following recipe, is why cook a 25 pound turkey when you are only feeding 4 to 5 people? Unless you want turkey leftovers for weeks, you might be better off cooking just a part of a turkey. In this recipe, we are cooking just the turkey breast, bone-in and skin-on, and making a rich, creamy gravy with drippings from a couple turkey wings.
Roasted Garlic Gravy
- 2 turkey wings
- 2 heads garlic
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and white pepper
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 bone-in, skin-on turkey breast (with two breast halves), about 6-7 pounds
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground sage or poultry seasoning
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Chop the turkey wings into pieces with a cleaver or heavy kitchen knife (or have your butcher do this for you). Coat the wings with some olive oil and salt well. Arrange in one layer in a roasting pan.
2 Slice off the top 1/4 of the garlic heads and discard. Nestle the heads into some aluminum foil and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the garlic. Close the foil and place in the roasting pan with the turkey wings. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the garlic (do not unwrap), turn the turkey pieces and roast another 15 minutes.
3 While the turkey wings are roasting, take the turkey breast out of its package, rinse under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Let it sit out to come to room temperature.
4 When the turkey wings are ready, place them in a medium pot and cover with water. Add another cup of water to the roasting pan and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add this to the pot with the turkey wings. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour.
5 Heat the oven to 425°F. Coat the turkey breast with the vegetable oil, then sprinkle it all over with salt. Sprinkle it as well with black pepper, thyme and sage. Place the turkey breast skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pan (this will help prevent the oven from smoking). Put the turkey in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350°F and cook until the thickest part of the breast reads 155°F with a meat thermometer, about 80-90 minutes for a 6 to 7 pound breast. (Note that the internal temperature will continue to rise after you take the turkey out of the oven to rest.) To be on the safe side to keep from overcooking the turkey, check the internal temperature of the breast after one hour.
6 Make the gravy while the turkey breast is roasting. Pour the turkey broth through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pot and stir in the flour. Cook the butter flour mixture over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is the color of coffee-with-cream. Add the hot turkey broth to the butter flour mixture about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Stir in enough broth to make a thin gravy, about 2-3 cups. Squeeze all the garlic from the garlic heads into the gravy. Simmer gently while the turkey breast cooks, adding more turkey broth or water if the gravy gets too thick.
7 When the turkey breast is ready, remove it from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Finish the gravy by pouring it into a blender and puréeing until smooth. Return the gravy to the pot and add salt and pepper to taste. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter to finish.
8 To carve the turkey, cut straight down from the keel bone (the keel bone separates each half of the breast) until your knife hits the breast bone. Slice the meat off and, using short strokes with the knife, free the meat from the bone. If you want, pull off the tender underneath the breast and slice this piece separately; it tends to fall off the rest of the breast when you slice it anyway. Slice the deboned breast and serve.