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Holiday favorites: Bird and gravy

Okay, whose turkey ends up looking like this?

A holiday bird, glazed to golden goodness with a combination of sweet barbecue sauce, coffee and cumin. (Butterball via Associated Press)

Images of ultra-perfect Thanksgiving turkeys tend to surface at this time of year. Personally, I'm over it. In fact, when I started revisiting recipes for this assignment, the birds that had been torn asunder, cooked in parts or otherwise limited to breast meat were among my favorites.

And at the other end of the spectrum, there was the Davidovas Family's Vegetarian Turkey Loaf. I give it points for not attempting to look fowl. But just so you know, I'm sticking with the real thing, recommendation-wise.

Get ready to take out the backbone for our 2009 turkey. (Renee Comet for The Washington Post)

The turkey recipe I've made most at home over the years is from a "Best of Gourmet" compendium (1987), in which the breast is deboned and filled with a hazelnut and sausage stuffing. Truth is, the turkey recipe I tend to like the best is the most recent one I've tested. This year, that means an updated version of Julia Child's and Jacques Pepin's deconstructed turkey and stuffed deboned turkey legs, from their "Cooking at Home" series on PBS from the late 1990s. (Well, now I've gone and given away a clue about our upcoming Thanksgiving editions. You'll just have to wait.)

Speaking of 1987, local cookbook author Lisa Yockelson delivered this to Food section readers: a Butter-Roasted Chestnut-and-Thyme-Stuffed Turkey. She sure knows how to devise a good-sounding recipe name, at the least. Wonder whether she still makes it?

Whichever one suits your fancy this year, turkey's a good thing to make, and a great ingredient to have for sandwiches, soup or even a post-Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict, in which small shaped mounds of leftover stuffing provide a base for poached eggs and leftover gravy (as one chef recently sent me to test as a quick recipe). Brine if you have the time and inclination (but not for a kosher bird). It does make a difference. Baste for good-tasting, crisped skin. Just make a pact with me -- honor system -- that you won't stress about how the turkey looks. Just like your mama told you: It's what inside that counts.

Turkey breast
Easy Roast Turkey Breast. The name says it all. Brining is optional.

A salted dough crust does good things to a turkey breast. (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

Salt-Encrusted Turkey Breast. A very old method of encasing the breast meat in a salt crust provides a foolproof way to keep the meat moist. No brining is needed.

Chipotle-Rubbed Turkey Breast. A nice way to introduce a little spice into an otherwise beige meal.

Stuffed Turkey Breast With Achiote, Poblano Chili Peppers and Feta Cheese. Even more unusual flavor, with a different and pretty presentation.

Whole turkey, more or less
Herb-Crusted Roast (Butterflied) Turkey. With a good pair of kitchen shears in hand, you can spatchcock your way to a bird that's evenly cooked. Remember this slide show, in which food stylist and writer Lisa Cherkasky gave step-by-step directions?

Roast Turkey With Mushrooms, Chestnuts and Gravy. "Bon Appetit, Y'all" author Virginia Willis treated us to this Southern-style bird last year.

Maple-Glazed Roast Turkey with Riesling Gravy. The sweetness of the syrup and the wine complement each other nicely, and the glaze can be made an hour ahead.

Fig Gravy. If you love figs, you must try this.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy. A happy concept, no? Just add drippings.

Madeira Gravy. The fortified wine provides great flavor, and it's made with less of the defatted drippings.

Turkey Jus With Sherry. No flour is used, so this could be your answer to a guest with gluten-free issues.

-- Bonnie Benwick

P.S. If you really want to give it a go -- we didn't -- here's a link to that perfect-looking Butterball glazed turkey recipe.

By The Food Section  |  November 12, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Thanksgiving  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Thanksgiving, gravy, holiday favorites, turkey  
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Next: I Spice: Nigella (the seeds)


oh here we go again, the annual nonsense. Take your turkey apart, roast it upside down, soak it in before cooking ... Look, the beauty of a good turkey is you can just shove that mofo in the oven, and a few hours later, it's good! Sure, tent with foil, baste a little, whatever. But it doesn't need to be rocket science.

Posted by: Sam888 | November 13, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Why have "just a turkey" when you can have a Turducken? The will ship one to you, with your choice of stuffings between the Turkey, Duck and Chicken. That's good eatin!

Posted by: nipperdo | November 14, 2009 6:02 AM | Report abuse

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