The goal here was a deliciously moist roasted Thanksgiving turkey with tons of autumnal flavor.
So we started with that most classic of fall beverages – apple cider. But to get the greatest flavor from it, we decided to boil it down until we had reduced 8 cups to just 4, thereby concentrating the sweet-tart flavors. That reduction is used as both a glaze for the turkey as well as to flavor the stuffing and gravy.
And therein lies an important Thanksgiving turkey lesson. It's always good to have at least one common element between the turkey and the stuffing and gravy. While the seasonings between the three items don't need to be identical (in fact, it would be boring if they were), a commonality helps tie the meal together.
While this recipe is written to cook the stuffing in a casserole dish alongside the turkey, you can cook it in the cavity of the bird if you prefer. If so, you'll need to adjust the cooking time and closely monitor the internal temperature. Stuffed birds take longer to cook. For safety, the center of the stuffing should reach an internal temperature of 165 F.
Alternatively, if you like the appearance and presentation of a stuffed bird, you can cook the stuffing separately, then stuff it on the serving platter just before bringing it to the table.
Maple-Cider Glazed Turkey with Apple-Onion Stuffing
Start to finish: 4 1/2 hours
Makes a 12- to 14-pound turkey with gravy and stuffing to serve 12
For the glaze:
2 cups maple syrup
8 cups (1/2 gallon) apple cider
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
For the turkey:
4 medium yellow onions, quartered
12- to 14-pound turkey
For the stuffing:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
3 cups chicken or turkey broth
2 eggs, beaten
16-ounce bag stuffing cubes
For the gravy:
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
5 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
To prepare the glaze, in a large saucepan over medium-high, combine maple syrup and cider. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until liquid is reduced by half. Whisk in mustard, season with salt and pepper.
Reserve 3 cups of the glaze to use with gravy and stuffing (cover and refrigerate until needed). This can be done the day before.
Heat the oven to 350 F.
In a large roasting pan, scatter onion quarters. Place turkey, breast up, on top of the onions. Pour unreserved (about 2 cups) maple cider glaze all over the turkey. Be sure to pour some in the turkey's cavity and some under the skin.
Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 160 F and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 F. During roasting, every 30 to 45 minutes baste the turkey with juices in the pan. If turkey begins to brown too much, cover pan with foil.
Allow turkey to rest in the pan for 10 minutes before moving it to a serving platter and covering it with foil. Set aside the roasting pan, leaving the drippings and onions in it.
When the turkey has an hour left to roast, make the stuffing. Coat a large casserole dish or 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the butter. Add the onions, shallots and leeks. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for another 8 to 10 minutes, allowing the vegetables to slightly caramelize.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the apples, sage, thyme, walnuts (if using), broth, eggs and 2 cups of the reserved maple cider glaze. Add the stuffing cubes and toss well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and hot.
When the turkey is resting on the platter, make the gravy. Place the roasting pan with the onions and any remaining juices on the stove top. Add the remaining 1 cup of maple cider glaze. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
In a bowl, stir together the broth and cornstarch, then add it to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until thickened. Strain the gravy through a mesh strainer, discarding the solids. Season with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the turkey and stuffing.