Food & dining

Recipe for turkey two ways: roast breast and braised legs

Wendy Maeda/Globe staff

Serves 10

“The kitchen is not equipped for cooking 20 turkeys,” says Carolyn Johnson, chef of 80 Thoreau in Concord, who does what most chefs do, and cuts up the bird. In this recipe the breast is roasted with herb butter, and the whole legs are braised in a mustard-wine sauce on the stovetop. Johnson begins with a whole turkey and cuts it up; you can begin with a whole breast and 2 large whole legs.

1whole turkey (14 pounds)
8tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
4cloves garlic, finely chopped
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
3tablespoons vegetable oil; more if necessary
2onions, coarsely chopped
3ribs celery, coarsely chopped
3carrots, coarsely chopped
1fennel bulb with stems, coarsely chopped
½cup whole-grain mustard
2bay leaves
Extra 6 sprigs fresh thyme
Grated rind of 1 lemon
3cups white wine
6cups chicken stock

1. Set the oven to 375 degrees. Have on hand a large roasting pan.

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2. Set the bird on a cutting board breast side up, legs closest to you. Using large, strong kitchen shears and a large knife, cut up both sides of the breast, as close to the backbone as you can get, until the whole breast is off the carcass. To separate the drumstick-thigh sections from the carcass, pull the whole legs away from the body and cut through the skin and muscle with your knife to reveal the thigh joint attached to the backbone. Using force, pull the drumstick-thigh section away from the backbone, twisting slightly so the socket pops. Cut between the joint and body to separate it.

3. In a bowl, combine 6 tablespoons of the butter, garlic, parsley, sage, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Rub the butter mixture beneath the skin of the breast. Rub the outside of the skin with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with salt.

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4. Roast the breast for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees. Remove from the oven and rest in a draft-free place for 20 minutes before carving.

5. Meanwhile, sprinkle the whole legs with salt and pepper.

6. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the 3 tablespoons oil. Set the legs, skin sides down, in the pan and brown for 5 minutes or until golden. Turn and brown the other sides. Remove from the pan. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and fennel and cook, stirring often, for 12 minutes or until beginning to caramelize.

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7. Add the mustard, bay leaves, thyme, lemon rind, and wine. Stir well, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the mixture simmer steadily until the pan is almost dry (this can take 15 minutes).

8. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Let the mixture bubble steadily for 5 minutes. Return the turkey legs to the pan. The liquid should half cover the meat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and partially cover the pan. Let the turkey simmer for 1½ hours, turning the legs occasionally, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees. During cooking, if the liquid reduces too much, add more stock or water so the meat is always at least half covered.

9. Remove the legs from the pan and strain the cooking juices into a bowl. Return the juices to the pan. Bring to a boil and let them bubble steadily until reduced by . Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Cut the meat off the legs in large pieces and serve with the sauce.

Adapted from Carolyn Johnson

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