Truffles were on my mind for some reason. A little research on the Internet introduced me to the concept of the Truffled Turkey. I had purchased a bottle of truffle oil marked down in a gourmet foods and spirits store some months before, turkeys were on sale with the holidays up and coming, so it seemed like the perfect time to experiment.
Whenever I attempt a totally new recipe, I like to peruse at least five recipes until I understand the basics of the dish and then choose what other elements I wish to add or subtract. If three recipes call for five eggs and one calls for one, one calls for two, then I’m probably going with five. If every recipe says oregano, cumin, and thyme, but one recipe includes a teaspoon of ground chili powder, I’m adding the chili powder. It’s not a science; it’s just how I like to work.
So let’s be official here: this recipe is not for a genuine, classic truffled turkey, because let’s face it folks, how many of us have access to truffles? No, not the powdered sugar and butter and flavoring coated with chocolate most of us recognize as a truffle, but the vaguely potato-shaped tumorous thing that grows around the roots of certain trees under the most auspicious conditions. There is an actual slice of black truffle in my bottle of truffle oil and it looks just like a scab. Delightful, no? So let’s get this party started….
The day before:
Clean the bird, remove the innards and any lingering feather remnants. Beneath a thin stream of warm running water begin to loosen the skin until you can ease your fingers and eventually your hands beneath it in every direction you possibly can without tearing it. Pat dry and set on a clean cutting board. Mix 4 ounces of softened butter with 4 ounces of mushroom pate and about a teaspoon of truffle oil with your hand. Get as much of this muck as you can beneath the skin of the bird. Season the bird sparingly inside and out with Celtic salt and freshly ground black pepper. Massage the seasoning over the turkey, which also helps to better distribute the pate beneath the skin. Set in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
If you’re using dried chanterelles in place of truffles as I did, soak them overnight in 3 ounces of warm spring water and 3 ounces of golden rum.
The next day, remove the bird from the refrigerator, but leave covered. Meanwhile, work on your stuffing.
1 lb. of hot ground sausage
1 lb. of ground veal
½ cup of minced onion
1 cup of barley, rinsed and sorted
2 minced garlic cloves
powdered bay leaf
half of your chanterelles, chopped coarsely
the liquid from the chanterelles plus 12 oz. of water
Over medium-high heat cook your sausage and veal, breaking any clumps. Drain well. Add the onion, garlic, barley, and mushrooms and stir well. Stir in the liquid from the mushrooms plus the additional water, a little at a time. Season with about 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, 1 and ½ teaspoons of parsley, a pinch of powdered bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 teaspoon of tarragon. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook about fifteen minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Set aside.
In a large, deep roasting pan put 4 julienned carrots, 2 julienned leeks, 1 ½ teaspoons of celery seed, 2 julienned turnips, 1 quart of chicken or turkey stock, about 1 ½ teaspoons of thyme, 1 teaspoon of Celtic salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, 5 minced garlic cloves, and a pinch of powdered bay leaf. Toss like a salad. Dot top with four pats of butter.
Set your turkey on a greased cookie sheet (not the completely flat kind). Use butcher’s twine to tie the neck cavity tightly closed. Push the remaining chanterelles beneath the skin and distribute as well as you can. Stuff the body cavity with the stuffing (only half the recipe would fit in mine), then tuck the tail up and cross the legs and bind them with butcher’s twine. Sprinkle the bird well with parsley, thyme, and tarragon. Secure any areas of loose skin with toothpicks to keep it from withdrawing during cooking.
Preheat your oven or grill to 400 degrees. Cook the turkey for 15 minutes with the grill lid closed. Remove the bird and set it atop the vegetables in the roasting pan, sprinkle with a tiny amount of truffle oil, and cook with the lid closed at 350 degrees until desired doneness.
How long until it’s done? I was calculating an average 20 minutes per lb., but the directions on the turkey packaging called for less including stuffing. I had already removed the pop-up timer, which isn’t a sure-fire way to test doneness anyhow, so basically, I checked the bird every hour when I went to baste it with the broth it was sitting in. When it seemed done, I set the turkey back on the cookie sheet and left it on the grill with the lid up so the bottom wouldn’t seem soggy. Presentation is half the dish! As it continued to cook, I drained the vegetables and set them aside while I made gravy.
To the juices left in the roasting pan I added three tablespoons of flour stirred well into a pint and a half of warm water after bringing the juices to a boil while scraping up the bits stuck to the bottom. Stir the flour mixture in smoothly and keep stirring as it heats up again. Try to avoid clumps of half-cooked flour in your gravy. Taste and adjust flavor with salt and pepper.
My bird was so well cooked, the limbs literally fell from it as I was attempting to manipulate it for carving. The meat came away in delicate chunks and tender shreds. The skin was a deep, dark red-brown, flavorful and crispy. I reheated the extra stuffing and served it with the meat, vegetables and gravy. The turkey proved to be very rich, full of flavor, and unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. Emma kept saying, “Mmmmm,” after every mouthful and I teased her about it, saying it sounded like she was having sex. I’ve never heard anyone say it after every single mouthful until the plate was clean. Then she got seconds. We had talked about hitting one of the only two five-star restaurants in town for Thanksgiving dinner just a few days later, but she lamented they couldn’t offer anything as good.
Why not recreate this extraordinary dish for yourself for an upcoming holiday or special event and see if you get the same results? Don't forget to remove the toothpicks and butcher's twine before serving!
Good luck and good eating!