Each year, loyal customers of Palio D’Asti (http://www.paliodasti.com) flock to the downtown dining destination on Thanksgiving Day to partake of Chef Dan Scherotter’s family-style three-course feast.
It includes multiple appetizers, seven side dishes “like Nonna used to make,” a trio of pies, organic chocolates, and of course entrees, including his incredibly succulent and flavorful turkey.
For those who come to dine at the Michelin-recognized “comfortable dining” restaurant, the cost is $59 per person and kids under 10 pay their age. But for those who prefer to try their hand at a home-cooked version, a little cooking skill and the ability to follow a recipe is all that’s needed.
“If you’ve ever eaten turkey, you’re probably familiar with ‘uneven cooking syndrome’: if the breasts are juicy, the legs and thighs aren’t done, and if the dark meat is done, the white meat is cardboard. If that isn’t bad enough, roasting the whole bird doesn’t give you what you need for the most important part: the gravy,” says Chef Dan Scherotter.
“So what I do is braise the legs, thighs and wings—like osso buco—until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender. This part can be done up to 2–3 days beforehand, which is a big stress reliever. Separately, on the Big Day I roast the breasts off the bone—like prime rib—until it’s medium and still juicy. The whole recipe requires a little more effort, but it saves a lot of time, guesswork and fiddling at the last minute.”
“SEPARATED” TURKEY WITH BOURBON-GIN GRAVY
4 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Yellow onions, chopped coarsely
1 Large carrot, chopped coarsely
1 Head of celery, chopped coarsely
1 Bunch of fresh sage
1 Stick unsalted butter
½ cup All-purpose flour
1 lb Bacon, cut into pieces
1 cup plus one shot each of bourbon and gin
2 cups dry white wine or vermouth
Coarse grained kosher salt and black pepper to taste
COOKING THE TURKEY AND GRAVY—3 PARTS
Separate the turkey into parts (instructions below) or ask the butcher to do it. Place chopped onion, carrot, several stalks of celery and two bay leaves in a 1–2 gallon stockpot.
Add turkey bones and cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 4 hours, then strain.
Heat your largest frying pan until it’s very hot. Add enough oil to sear. Salt the legs, thighs and wings and brown over a medium-high flame in batches until golden on both sides—five minutes or so. Place the browned meat in a casserole-sized baking dish.
Discard the pan oil and add the bacon. Brown and render its fat; put all remaining vegetables and garlic in to the bacon fat to brown, scrapping the bottom of the pan. Add sage leaves and stir.
When the vegetables start to brown and caramelize, carefully pour in a cup of bourbon mixed with a cup of gin. This will light on fire so stand back. Let it light and reduce a bit. When the flame dies and the alcohol is all burned off, add the wine or vermouth and the remaining bay leaves.
Salt to taste, and pour over the legs, thighs and wings. Pour the strained turkey stock over that until the legs and thighs are just covered with liquid. Salt to taste.
Cover the casserole tightly with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 2–2½ hours, until falling-off-the-bone tender. When it’s done, pull it out and uncover. You can do this part up to 3 days ahead of time. It will keep just fine in the liquid.
For the gravy, place some of the already strained braising liquid into a straight-sided cast iron or nonstick sauce pan. To make the roux, melt the butter slowly and add the sifted flour. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon until tan colored. Be careful not to burn any part.
After the mixture is lump-free and has the consistency of thick batter, put it into a slow (350-degree) oven for 5–10 minutes. Stir in braising liquid, a little at a time, until it’s the consistency you like, and adjust for salt.
Add one more shot each of gin and bourbon and let simmer for at least 20–30 minutes, until the flour taste is gone and the alcohol has evaporated.
The breasts should be cooked the same day as the meal, as the breasts take only 30–45 minutes.
Tie them up in rings with butcher’s twine to be more or less log-like with nearly even thickness from end to end to guarantee even cooking. Oil, salt and pepper the skin very liberally. Put breasts on a roasting rack in a hot oven (500 degrees).
Roast until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees or, when you stick an ice pick into the center of the end, the juice that comes out runs clear-pink. (A classic rule of restaurant cooking is that you can always cook it more…)
Remove the breasts from the oven and let rest 15 minutes before slicing, or the juices will run everywhere. While the breasts are resting, warm the separated braised dark meat by heating it in the liquid. When ready, remove the string from the breasts and slice in nice, even round slices. Sprinkle a little coarse kosher salt onto the meat for display.
SEPARATING THE TURKEY
Using a sharp boning knife, face the turkey toward you, breasts up. Cut straight down the middle of the bird along either side of the breast bone to separate the breasts one at a time by allowing the tip of the knife to slide parallel to the bone while peeling the breast away.
Follow the bone, and try not to leave any meat on the carcass. Use long, slow swipes to separate the two breast halves and continue until each breast is off. Between the breast and the leg, there is skin attached. Cut it, leaving as much skin on the breast as possible, then put the breasts in the refrigerator.
The wings separate at the joint. It’s better to pop them out of their sockets than cut them out—but either way works just fine. Cut the wings into three segments each and put aside.
To separate the legs and the thighs, point the bird away from you, so you’re facing the cavity. Slide the knife between the thighs and the body. Put your palms on both knees and spread them hard, pushing them down into the table. This should pop both thighs right out of their sockets. If it doesn’t, put your hand beneath the thigh, feel the socket with your middle finger, push and bend it back till it pops out.
Use the knife to separate the thigh from the back bone. Separate the drumsticks from the thighs and put them, along with the wings, in the refrigerator, covered.
Take what’s left of the carcass and hack it up until it will fit in a small stockpot (1 to 2 gallons) to make the stock noted previously.
Celebrating 21 years of authentic, seasonal Italian cuisine with a Slow Foods approach, Palio features classic and contemporary Italian regional fare as well as special holiday menus combined with exceptional white tablecloth service.