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Milk Street Thanksgiving: Brown Ale Turkey and Gravy

Brown Ale Turkey and Gravy
31⁄2 hours (30 min active)
10 servings

How to roast the thanksgiving turkey has turned into an annual ordeal. The debate over brining alone is enough to make one consider going vegetarian. And of course there’s the finicky business of how to get the thigh and breast meat to cook to perfect—yet different—temperatures simultaneously. We knew we had been overthinking this for far too long. So we decided to skip the culinary gymnastics and instead perfected a tried-and-true method: basting. But better. We douse our bird twice—no need for constant babysitting—with a reduction of brown ale and fresh herbs, which combine to form a rich, malty base. We also use a secret ingredient in the baste: fish sauce. It adds savory depth that shows up in umami-rich gravy, made from pan drippings. And don’t worry, it doesn’t taste at all fishy. A foil wrap traps the moist heat needed to get succulent breast meat; it’s removed about halfway through to develop that crispy mahogany skin that we crave.

Don’t be skimpy when choosing herb sprigs. Big, leafy sprigs that are at least 4 inches long were ideal. And avoid hoppy beers, which turned unpleasantly bitter when reduced.

2 medium yellow onions (1 to 11⁄4 pounds), peeled and cut into 8 wedges each
4 large sprigs fresh thyme
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 large sprigs fresh sage
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 12-ounce bottles brown ale, such as Newcastle Brown Ale
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1⁄4 cup fish sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 12-to-14 pound turkey, neck and giblets discarded
2 stalks celery, quartered
Low-sodium turkey or chicken stock, as needed
1⁄4 cup instant flour, such as Wondra

1. Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the lower middle position. In a 12-inch skillet, combine the onions, thyme, rosemary, sage, bay, garlic and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to 2⁄3 cup, about 20 minutes.

2. Strain the mixture into a large bowl, pressing on the solids. Reserve the solids. The liquid should measure 2⁄3 cup. If not, either reduce further or add water. Return reduction to skillet, add butter, and whisk until melted. Stir in fish sauce and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper.

3. Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels and tuck the wings underneath. Spread the reserved solids and celery in a large roasting pan and place the turkey breast side up over the mixture. Pour half of the beer reduction over the turkey; use your hands to coat it evenly. Cover loosely with foil, then roast for 11⁄2 hours.

4. Remove the foil. Whisk the remaining reduction, then pour over the turkey. Roast until the breast registers 160°F and the thigh registers 175°F, 1 to 1 hour 45 minutes. If the turkey gets too dark, cover those areas with foil.

5. Transfer the turkey to a platter or carving board, letting the juices run into the pan, then tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Strain the pan drippings strainer into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids; discard the solids.

6. Skim the fat from the drippings. If you have less than 3 cups of defatted drippings, add turkey stock to measure 3 cups, then return to the roasting pan. Whisk in the flour, then set the pan on the stovetop and bring to a boil over medium. Simmer, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom, until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Season with salt
and pepper. Carve the turkey, adding any accumulated juices to the gravy, then serve with gravy.

You can watch  past episodes of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street on WSKG Passport.

For more information about WSKG Passport, please visit our  support page.

To see other recipes from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street and other shows, visit  Cooking with WSKG.