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Alex Guarnaschelli's Cheat Sheet for How to Cook the Perfect Turkey

The New York Iron Chef makes the upcoming holiday season a little easier.

While it might be hard to believe, it's already November and time to start planning for that big holiday feast at the end of the month. In this episode of Savvy, New York City-based chef Butter Restaurant Alex Guarnaschelli shares all the tips she brings to the table each year. Watch above and check out these tips in the recipe below.

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Serves 12 to 14



8 to 10 tablespoons (1 to 1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, as needed
3 medium yellow onions (about 1 1/4 pounds total), halved and thinly sliced
8 celery stalks, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and white pepper
8 slices white sandwich bread
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
10 fresh sage leaves, cut into thin strips (1 tablespoon)
teaspoon dried rosemary
1 turkey heart (if available), cut into small pieces
1 turkey liver (if available), cut into small pieces
1 pound bulk spicy pork breakfast sausage (or regular sausage mixed with 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
10 ounces pepperoni (not sliced), casing removed, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 pound whole-milk mozzarella, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 to 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Turkey & Gravy:

1 (14- to 16-pound) turkey, giblets and neck removed and reserved
Kosher salt and white pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Turkey neck (if available)
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and white pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dry Marsala or sherry
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Cranberry Sauce (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Make the stuffing: In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl. Wipe the pan clean.

Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on 2 baking sheets and toast on both sides until light brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, brown them in a toaster.) While the bread is still hot, lightly butter both sides of each piece using 4 to 6 tablespoons of the butter. Cut into 1/2-inch squares and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with salt, pepper, the thyme, sage, and rosemary.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over high heat. Quickly saute the heart and gizzard pieces for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add them to the bowl of celery and onions. Stir to blend. Use the same pan to cook the pork sausage. Set a large skillet over medium heat, crumble in the sausage meat, and allow it to cook over medium heat until brown and fully cooked, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the sausage and any cooking juices to the bowl with the onion mixture.

Wipe the skillet clean and set it over high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add the pepperoni pieces and cook, stirring, over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.

Add the pepperoni, onion mixture, and mozzarella to the bowl containing the toasted bread. Mix to blend and add just enough chicken broth to moisten all of the ingredients.

Stuff the bird: Put the turkey on a flat surface, season generously with salt and pepper inside and out, and stuff the cavity with the stuffing. Wrap any remaining stuffing in foil, making a package like a large envelope, and refrigerate. Tie the turkey’s legs closed with a strong piece of kitchen twine or string by wrapping them around and around the drumsticks and pulling them closed like you’re tying a shoe. Transfer the turkey breast side up to a roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack.

Roast the bird: Soak a large double-layered piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the turkey in the butter and cover the breasts with the cheesecloth to prevent the top skin from burning before it is cooked. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and put the roasting pan in the oven. Roast, basting periodically, for about 12 minutes per pound of turkey, or 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes for a 14- to 16-pound bird.

After the turkey has been in the oven for about 2 hours, remove the roasting pan from the oven, remove the cheesecloth from the top of the breasts, and return the turkey to the oven. Add the foil package of stuffing to the oven, too, and let it heat up for about 45 minutes.

Start the gravy: Meanwhile, about 30 minutes before the turkey is done, combine the neck and broth in a saucepan and simmer gently on top of the stove as the turkey finishes cooking. The broth should reduce by about half. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Test the bird: The temperature of the thigh (where the meat is thickest and takes the longest time to cook) should register 155° to 160°F. As a precaution, take the temperature of the stuffing as well. It should register a similar temperature to the meat. If the bird is fully cooked and the stuffing a little lower, you can remove the stuffing from the cavity and cook it more while you carve the turkey and make the gravy. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer to a cutting board or serving platter, and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Make the gravy: If the bottom of the roasting pan is burned, wipe away the burned bits. Remove any excess grease. Put the roasting pan over the burners of the stove over low heat, add the mustard and Marsala to the pan and scrape the bottom to get the drippings and tasty bits as the Marsala simmers and reduces. Pull the neck out of the hot broth and pour about 1/2 cup into a small bowl. Whisk the flour into the bowl, taking care there are no lumps. Once the Marsala has almost completely evaporated, about 8 to 12 minutes, pour the hot broth and the flour mixture into the roasting pan. Whisk to blend. Taste for seasoning. Reduce until the mixture thickens to a gravy consistency, 30 to 35 minutes.

Serve the bird: Remove the stuffing from the turkey and combine with the foil package of stuffing in a large serving bowl. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy on top or on the side.


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