Thanksgiving Recipes: How to Bone and Stuff a Whole Turkey

This is post is from 2007, but I share for any of you daring enough to debone an entire turkey – Kat

For those of you who read the book, you know that it ends up with a chapter titled Thanksgiving in Paris. After nearly a year of training to bone virtually every kind of meat, I found myself with a massive turkey from my French butcher that could never possibly fit into our tiny Euro oven. So, on Mike’s advice, I took the bones out of the whole thing and stuff it. That was 2005, and I’ve continued the tradition ever since. Last year, it was for a large group of friends in Seattle. This year I took the Kat-bones-an-entire-turkey show to my in laws in Spokane.

“I don’t know, I love a roast turkey,” my mother-in-law said, clearly dubious about the whole endeavor. But it didn’t matter. I took her supermarket turkey out of its bag and went right to work on Wednesday night. First, I cut the breast away from the rest of the turkey, and scraped and cut it away from the breastbone so that it was boneless, yet left the skin intact. Then, I took the bones out of the legs, scraping the meat away from the bone and then cutting it close to the ankle. This way, the leg appears to stay intact, but the cavity was left open for stuffing. All this went into a cider-based brine overnight.

On Thanksgiving morning, I started with the breast, laying it out on the counter and covering it well with layers of plastic wrap. Then, according to the Le Cordon Bleu chefs directives for such activities, Mike took a heavy sauté pan and banged the meat thoroughly so that it was flatter and a more consistent thickness all around. I trimmed off extra bits so that it was as close to an even, squared shape as possible. I spread the wild mushroom stuffing in a layer on the inside of the breast, and then pulled it together into a bundle. From there, I trussed up one side and then wrapped it repeatedly with kitchen string to keep its shape. The legs got stuffed lightly with an apple, celery and Calvados mixture, and then trussed up along one side. At the end, where there was little skin, I sewed into two pieces of lightly smoked bacon. It all went into a 350 degree oven it went, for about an hour and 20 minutes (about 10 minutes per pound), basted every 10 minutes or so with butter and pan drippings.

In this case, I took an extra step and after the breast bundle cooled, I wrapped it into puff pastry.

Once it was all done, we assembled onto a tray. It looked sort of similar to a regular turkey. “Well, isn’t that something?” one of the guests said in quiet understatment.

Wild mushroom stuffing with cognac

3 oz. porcini mushrooms, steeped in 2 cups hot water
4 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, chopped fine1 shallot, chopped fine
4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with a bay leaf
1 lb. of mixed fresh wild mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup of white wine
¼ cup of Cognac
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt, plenty of cracked pepper
1/4 cup whipping cream

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions, shallots and thyme and cook until softened. Add the fresh mushrooms and porcini to the pan and stir until they release their liquid and brown slightly. (If they absorb too much butter and the pan gets dry, add enough olive oil to coat.) Add white wine to the pan, scraping the bottom of any browned bits. Add the Cognac and cook for a couple of moments until reduced. Add the parsley, salt and cracked pepper and stir through. Taste to assure its well seasoned. Remove tied thyme leaves. Then, add the bit of cream and stir through. Set aside until cool. Place a layer of the stuffing onto the turkey breast, roll up and truss into a tight package. Roast as you would a regular turkey, basting regularly with butter until a thermometer inserted into the meat registers 160 degrees F. Let rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

Note: I use the liquid from porcini in gravy served with the meat, adding a bit of Cognac toward the very end to further extend the flavor of the stuffing. This is a good basic gravy recipe.

Apple and celery stuffing with Calvados
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine
4 ribs of celery, chopped fine
2 Golden Delicious apples, cored, seeded chopped
4 sprigs thyme tied together
1/2 tsp nutmeg
¼ cup spiced cider
¼ cup of Calvados
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt, pepper

Melt the butter into a sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the onion, celery and shallot until slightly softened, about five minutes. Add the apple, thyme and nutmeg and continue until very soft, about eight minutes. Deglaze the pan with the cider, scraping the bottom for any brown bits. Add the Calvados and let simmer briefly until reduced. Add the chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Taste to check seasonings and set aside to cool. Carefully place half the stuffing into the cavity of one leg, extending up to the thigh area. (Careful, don’t overdo it or you won’t be able to truss up the leg.) With a trussing needle, sew up the edges of the leg tightly. This will get more difficult the further “up” the leg you go, and it may no longer be possible to truss without exposing a lot of meat. One option is to add a piece of bacon to cover the meat so that it doesn’t dry out. Place in a roasting pan atop roughly cut onions, apples and celery. Coat with butter, and then cook at 350 degrees for about one hour to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the legs. Baste every 10 minutes with fresh butter and pan drippings. Let rest for a least a few minutes before carving.

Note: To extend the flavor, I simmer onion, apples and shallots and a small amount of spiced apple cider in turkey stock for a separate gravy to go with the legs. Just before serving, I stir in a bit of Calvados.

For the brine: Soaking turkey in a brine overnight softens and seasons the meat. Make sure your turkey stays cold. I used 1 quart spiced apple cider, 1 cups kosher salt, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup whole allspice, 10 garlic cloves minced, 4 bay leaves, 4 quarts cold water. One good thing about a boned turkey? It’s easier to fit into your fridge.


Filed under Le Cordon Bleu, recipes

3 responses to “Thanksgiving Recipes: How to Bone and Stuff a Whole Turkey

  1. Pingback: The obligatory Thanksgiving round-up « Kathleen Flinn

  2. Pingback: Few Good Food Links: Unprocessed October, Healthy Thanksgiving, Reviews | Kathleen Flinn

  3. Pingback: Our first vegetarian Thanksgiving | Kathleen Flinn

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