For the Turkey
Please do not brine a heritage turkey. Most aficionados agree that the currently popular seasoning technique takes away from, or even masks, the superb natural flavor of the meat. I think the absolute best way to cook a heritage turkey is on a rotisserie, a common grill attachment these days. Preparing the turkey “done to a turn” lets the flavorful juices continually bathe the inside of the bird while the skin gets crackling crisp. Start preparing the turkey the night before, or at least four hours ahead of when you plan to eat. People love to see food roasting on a spit, so try to arrange the roasting time so that you can show off the turning turkey to arriving guests. You’ll bake the dressing separate from the turkey, in the oven, toward the end of the turkey’s roasting time. Make the herb-scented jus, a light gravy, from the pan drippings while the turkey rests before being carved.
Make Red Chile Sage Butter by combining all ingredients in a food processor and blending them into a uniform paste. Season turkey up to the night before you plan to roast it. Slip fingers under turkey’s skin to loosen it, being careful not to tear it. Rub turkey
generously inside and out with red chile–sage butter, especially under breast skin.
Truss turkey. Cut 10-foot-long piece of kitchen twine. Set turkey breast-side up on work surface. Starting with middle of piece of string, wrap it around ends of both legs, then crisscross string back and forth around turkey up to neck end. Pay special attention to wing areas—you want the wings flush against turkey’s body. Make sure turkey is lassoed snugly. When rest of string is wrapped around bird, tie string ends together.
With cleaver or heavy chef’s knife, chop turkey’s giblets and neck, and extra turkey or chicken parts, into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Place in stockpot or large saucepan and cook over high heat until pieces lose their raw look and begin to brown in spots. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and sweat meat 20 minutes, stirring once
or twice; after about 10 minutes, add onion and celery. Uncover, add 6 cups water, bring to simmer, and cook about
30 minutes. Strain stock and keep it warm. (Stock can be made two days before Thanksgiving, cooled quickly, covered, and refrigerated until needed. Reheat stock before proceeding.)
Make croutons for dressing. Preheat oven
to 325˚ F. Toast bread cubes on baking sheets for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly brown and crisp. Dump into large bowl.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Fry chorizo in it until it begins to brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in leeks, celery, mushrooms, and sauté until vegetables are very soft (about 7 minutes). Add sage, thyme, salt, pepper, and scrape into bowl of croutons. Add stock 1 cup at a time, until bread is very moist but not soupy. You’ll probably use 2½ to 3 cups of stock. Reserve remaining stock for basting turkey. Cover and refrigerate dressing and stock until ready to proceed the following day.
Thanksgiving Day Preparations
Let turkey sit covered at room temperature 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove spit from rotisserie and fire up grill. Heat grill with lid closed. Use set rotisserie temperature, if your grill functions that way, or bring heat to medium-high.
Slide one rotisserie prong to far end of spit, facing toward center. Next, slide on turkey, neck end first, running spit through cavity. Secure neck end to prong. Try to lodge prong ends evenly in neck area to help balance bird’s weight. Slide on second prong, facing toward the turkey, and attach it to turkey’s legs.
Position turkey in center of spit and tighten prong bolts especially well—with pliers, if necessary—so that turkey can’t torque itself while turning. If your rotisserie has a counterweight that fits on the spit, secure that in place, generally angled outward from turkey’s back side. Attach spit to motor.
Place a shallow drip pan under turkey to catch drippings. (If your rotisserie sits directly over fire, keep pan as small as possible to avoid blocking much heat.) Turn
on power. Watch turkey rotate a few times to be sure it clears drip pan.
Close grill cover (unless manufacturer’s instructions say otherwise). Cook until an instant-read thermometer stuck in thickest part of breast reads 160° F. This should take 18 to 20 minutes per pound, or about 3 hours. Baste turkey three or four times at 45-minute intervals, with pan drippings if you have them; if not, with turkey stock. Don’t baste during last 30 minutes of cooking, so that skin has a chance to crisp. Avoid opening grill other than to baste, or cooking time can substantially increase. When done, turn off heat and rotisserie motor. Let turkey sit on spit with grill cover closed for 10 to 15 minutes.
While turkey is roasting, finish dressing. Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Butter 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Taste and adjust seasoning if you wish. Whisk eggs and
baking powder together and mix into dressing. Spoon dressing into baking dish, cover, and bake 25 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes more, until lightly browned and crusty on top.
With heatproof mitts, remove spit from grill. Unscrew counterweight and prong bolts, and slide off turkey and prongs. Rest turkey on large cutting board. Pull off prongs and snip off twine. Tent turkey with foil and let sit about 10 minutes more.
Meanwhile, prepare jus. Pour and scrape pan drippings and browned bits from foil pan under turkey into saucepan. Warm over medium heat. Whisk flour into drippings. Whisk in remaining stock and bring to boil. Reduce liquid as needed to make thin gravy. Degrease if you wish, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in gravy boat or bowl.
Arrange turkey on platter with herb sprigs around it. Accompany with hot jus and dressing. Carve and serve.