“My favorite Thanksgiving food is turkey,” says Lidia Bastianich, owner of Lidia’s Pittsburgh in the Strip District, chef and author, who gives the bird an Italian accent by glazing it with balsamic vinegar. She says she has finally perfected the two-stage, wet-then-dry turkey roasting procedure to produce moist and flavorful meat with a crispy, caramelized exterior and a rich pan sauce.
“But, of course, our mahogany, balsamic-glazed turkey comes after a huge Italian antipasto buffet, followed by soup with anolini, small round raviolis stuffed with Grana Padano. Along with the turkey is also a table full of vegetable side dishes including sweet potatoes, a mean sausage and mushroom stuffing, cranberry citrus chutney and desserts such as apple pie, pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies,” she says.
Every year, Ms. Bastianich says she is mostly thankful to God for her beautiful family and that they are all healthy. “This year I have special thanks to give, as I was blessed to cook for Pope Francis during his visit to New York,” she says.
Roast Turkey and Pan Sauce With a Reduced Balsamic Glaze
1 12- to 14-pound turkey, including neck and giblets
2 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
For roasting pan
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 large onions, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
¾ pound celery, rinsed and cut in 2-inch chunks
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, if needed
4 to 6 cups vegetable broth
For balsamic glaze
2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves, branch of fresh rosemary or sprig of fresh thyme, optional
Prepare turkey: Arrange a rack low in the oven so turkey will fit in easily. The foil tent should be an inch or 2 higher than the turkey itself. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey; save. Remove and discard any lumps of fat from the cavities. Rinse bird inside and out, and also giblets, with cool running water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Set turkey on its back, wings folded under and breast up, on rack in roasting pan with neck and giblets in the pan bottom. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of kosher salt inside the main turkey cavity and remaining 1½ tablespoons over the outside of the bird. Pour olive oil on turkey, a little bit at a time, and coat the entire skin, including the back.
Toss vegetables and seasonings (except salt) in large bowl with ¼ cup olive oil. If using salted broth, don't add salt. If using unsalted stock, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Put 1 or 2 handfuls mixed vegetables (and one of the rosemary branches) loosely into the cavity of turkey. Spread all the rest in one layer in pan bottom, all around the turkey. Push vegetable pieces under the rack, if your pan is small, so they will cook in the stock.
Move pan close to oven and pour broth into roasting pan on the side, without wetting the turkey. Depending on pan size, you'll need 4 to 6 cups of stock to fill the bottom about ⅓-inch deep. Add more stock (or water) if necessary.
Tear two long sheets of aluminum foil. Cover one side of pan with the first sheet, arching it well above the turkey. Crimp foil against the pan’s rim so it stays in place without touching the bird. Cover rest of the pan and turkey with the second sheet of foil (or more if needed), overlapping the sheets by several inches. Press bottom of the foil tightly against the sides of pan, all around, sealing the tent completely. Carefully place covered pan on oven rack. Push it well to the back of the oven for maximum heat and let turkey roast undisturbed for 2 hours.
Open oven, pull roasting pan to front, and lift off foil sheets. Pan juices should be bubbly, and the steaming turkey will be mostly pale. Baste turkey with pan juices and return to oven. Roast turkey uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour, basting occasionally, until thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh reaches 165 degrees If breast is getting too dark, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil.
While turkey is roasting, make glaze. Pour balsamic vinegar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and place over moderate heat. Stir in honey, drop in bay leaves and optional cloves or herbs, and bring to a low boil. Adjust heat to a steady simmer and allow vinegar to reduce slowly to ⅓ of original volume, about 30 minutes. It should be the consistency of molasses, thick but still spreadable. Pour syrup through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Discard bay leaves and seasonings.
Start sauce: Lift turkey out of pan and onto a baking sheet. Cover turkey loosely with foil and keep in a warm place while you make the sauce. Keep oven at 375 degrees. Remove turkey neck and giblets (not the liver) from pan and put into the saucepan. With a potato masher, crush the cooked vegetables in the roasting juices, breaking them up into little bits. Place sieve on saucepan and pour everything out of the roaster into the sieve. Press vegetables and other solids against sieve with a spoon to release their liquid, and then discard what's left. You should have 1 to 2 quarts of pan juices. Set saucepan over high heat, bring juices to a boil and let them reduce, uncovered.
Finish turkey: Brush glaze all over the bird in smooth, even coat. Return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the glazed skin is crisp, shiny and deeply colored. Let it rest in a warm place, tented with foil, if you wish.
Finish sauce: Pour into the boiling sauce any turkey juices that accumulated in the baking sheet. When sauce has reduced almost by half, taste for salt and add a bit more if you like. Remove turkey neck and giblets and bring back to a simmer. Strain it once again, this time through a fine-meshed sieve into a measuring cup or other narrow container. Let it rest for a minute, then spoon off the fat layer that's accumulated on top. If too thin, thicken sauce with bread crumbs.
To serve: For formal occasions, present the whole turkey and carve it at the table. For most family dinners, cut bird up in the kitchen as follows: cut the wings off, slice the breast meat, then remove the legs at the joint and slice the leg and thigh meat from the bones for dark meat lovers. Arrange pieces on serving platter. Pour any juices left in the pan or on cutting board over meat, and then top all the pieces with a cup or more of the finished sauce.
Serves 12 or more.