Leave it to one of our all-time favorite chefs, Travis Lett of the Venice Beach, California hotspot Gjelina, to bring a fresh approach to a Thanksgiving meal. We feature some of his crowd-pleasing side dishes, brimming with bright flavors, in this month’s issue of InStyle. (His new cookbook Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California, hits stores this month, too). Here, he offers up his favorite recipe for a juicy turkey that won’t take forever to cook in the oven. His genius trick? Butterfly the bird.
“Roasting a turkey that has been butterflied substantially decreases the cooking time in the oven and yields a more juicy, evenly-cooked result,” Lett explains. “Butterflying the bird is easy to do—use a knife or poultry shears to cut out the spine. You can ask you butcher to do this for you, but remember to ask for the spine back because it’s great to use in the pan gravy.”
Brining, he adds, is a key step in getting a well-seasoned, super moist result. “Make and chill the brine ahead of time, then sit the bird in the brine for 6 hours or overnight,” says Lett. “Remove the turkey from the brine and allow it to air dry (uncovered in the refrigerator for several hours) prior to rubbing and roasting. Here’s the step by step on how to make Lett’s delicious bird:
Butterflied, Herb-Rubbed Turkey with Red Wine Pan Gravy
One 12 lb. turkey
For the brine
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup honey
3 bay leaves
1 lemon, quartered
1 orange, quartered
1 T peppercorns
5 sprigs of thyme
5 springs marjoram
Combine all the ingredients and bring up to a slow simmer. Stir and turn off the heat. Allow liquid to cool fully before adding in the bird.
For the herb rub
1 cups kosher salt
1/4 c black pepper, cracked
1/4 c freshly chopped sage
1/4 c chopped rosemary
1/4 c picked thyme
Combine all of the ingredients, using a mortar and pestle or a food processor to combine all the flavors. Rub generously all over the skin of the turkey, Lightly season the bottom side of the bird. Rub into the flesh.
Allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before roasting. When ready, lay the turkey on a bed celery, carrots and onions that have been cut into large pieces on the bottom of a large roasting tray, along with the spine of the turkey and any other trimmings from the bird butchery. Add 1-2 inches of water and 3 cups of red wine to the bottom of the roasting pan and place the bird on top. The bird should be sitting on top of the liquid and not submerged at all. Place in the oven and roast at 400 degrees for 90 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 150 at the thickest part of the leg. Raise the temperature to 450 and continue roasting until the skin is deeply browned and crispy. If it is getting too dark, drape aluminum foil over the turkey to prevent burning. You should be maintaining an inch or so of liquid throughout the roasting so feel free to add a bit more water as you go.
As the bird roasts, make a roux by melting 6 tablespoons of butter into a pan. Once melted, whisk in, little by little, 6 tablespoons of flour, until you have a smooth and relatively thick paste. Continue to cook, stirring often until the roux becomes golden brown and smells nutty and toasted. Add in a bit more flour if the mixture gets greasy or starts to separate. Reserve.
Remove the turkey from the oven; transfer to a large cutting board or serving tray for carving. Let the bird rest for a minimum of 20 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, strain the pan liquid and drippings through a fine mesh strainer into a sauce pot and bring it to a simmer. As it starts to simmer, start to whisk in the reserved roux a tablespoon at a time, being sure to incorporate each spoonful entirely before adding more (you may not need to use all of the roux, by the way, depending on how much liquid is in the pan). As the gravy simmers, it will continue to thicken. Once the gravy is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stop adding in the roux. Taste it for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to your preference and turn off the heat. Stir through an additional tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves and 2 tablespoons of roughly chopped parsley. Transfer to a gravy boat or small bowl and serve.
For more Thanksgiving recipes, pick up the November issue of InStyle, now available on newsstands and for digital download.