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Talking Turkey: Fairfield Chef Reveals Cooking Secrets For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving turkey.
Thanksgiving turkey. Photo Credit: Gabriel Garcia Marengo.
Chef Arturo Franco-Camacho of Fairfield's Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill.
Chef Arturo Franco-Camacho of Fairfield's Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill. Photo Credit: Submitted

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. --  Thanksgiving is almost here -- any idea what recipe you're going to use?

We went to Chef Arturo Franco-Camacho of Fairfield's Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill for a twist on the traditional.

His advice? If you buy a good-quality turkey, maybe even one that’s fresh and roast it right, it doesn’t need to go through the brining process. He, however, prefers a simple rubdown in seasoning butter the night before.

This oven-roasted version is turned a couple of times during its baking process which helps distribute the juices throughout the meat.

Set aside a couple of washable mitts for turning. If you need to serve more people than this recipe accommodates, opt for another turkey of similar size rather than a single behemoth bird, which is likely to be tough.

Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, bake the bread-based mixture outside the bird to lessen the chances of foodborne illness, and to give the mixture a crunchy top. This makes a fair bit of dressing.

Oven-Roasted, Red-Chile–Rubbed Turkey with Cornbread-Chorizo Dressing (Serves 8 or more, with leftovers)

  • 12-pound fresh turkey, with giblets and neck
  • 1 pound miscellaneous additional turkey or chicken necks, backs, wings or giblets
  • 1 medium onion, chunked
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • Seasoning Butter
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground, dried New Mexican red chile, mild to medium heat
  • ½ tsp crumbled dried sage
  • ½ tsp dried thyme

Gravy

  • Pan drippings
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp ground, dried New Mexican red chile, mild to medium heat
  • Remaining turkey stock
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh sage or thyme sprigs, or other fresh herbs

Turkey stock

  • With cleaver or heavy chef’s knife, chop turkey’s giblets, neck and extra turkey or chicken parts into one to two-inch pieces.
  • Place in stockpot or large saucepan and cook over high heat until they lose their raw look and begin to brown in spots.
  • Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and sweat meat 20 minutes, stirring once or twice; after about 10 minutes, add onion and celery.
  • Uncover, add 6 cups water, bring to simmer, and cook about 30 minutes.
  • Strain stock and keep it warm (stock can be made a day ahead, cooled quickly, covered, and refrigerated until needed; reheat before proceeding. You will have enough stock for the dressing, too.).

Turkey

  • Preheat oven to 425˚ F.
  • Grease rack of a roasting pan just larger than turkey.
  • Slip fingers under the turkey’s skin to loosen it all over the top and sides of the bird, being careful not to tear it.
  • Prepare seasoning butter, combining all ingredients in small bowl.
  • Rub turkey meat under the skin and on the outside with butter mixture, especially under the breast.
  • Truss turkey or tie its legs together if you wish (up to this point, turkey can be prepared a day ahead.).
  • Let turkey sit covered at room temperature about 30 minutes.
  • Place bird breast-side up on a greased rack of roasting pan.
  • Plan on a total cooking time of about 2 hours.
  • Have a sturdy spatula and tongs handy to help turn turkey. Cook turkey for 15 minutes, remove from oven, and turn it breast-side down. Cook another 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 325˚ F and continue cooking another 15 minutes.
  • Remove turkey from oven again and turn it breast-side up. Baste generously with some of the remaining stock and any accumulated pan juices.
  • Continue cooking about 1 hour more, basting with stock and pan drippings twice more at 20-minute intervals.
  • Don’t baste during last 30 minutes or so of cooking, so that skin has time to crisp. Turkey is ready when the internal temperature at joint of thigh and leg reaches 170˚ F.
  • When turkey is done, remove from roasting pan and tent loosely with foil. Let sit 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare gravy. Place roasting pan with pan drippings over stove burner.

  • Scrape any browned bits up from bottom.
  • Sprinkle in flour and chile, and whisk it with drippings.
  • Pour in remaining stock and bring mixture to boil.
  • Reduce liquid as needed to make a thin gravy. Degrease it if you wish. Add salt to taste. Spoon gravy into boat or bowl.
  • Serve turkey on platter with herb sprigs around it. Accompany with hot gravy and dressing.

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