Pancetta-Sage Turkey With Pancetta Gravy

It’s almost that time of year again… time to cook up a storm, gather up friends and family in big embraces, eat, eat and then eat some more! It’s Thanksgiving!!!! Which is incidentally also my favorite holiday. Not only is it nice to take a moment and be thankful for everything you have in your life – – whether that be loved ones, your dream job, a cute dog or even just the best book to climb into bed with at night – – eating food and celebrating life with people you care about is just about as good as it gets in my opinion.

Last year Judd and I cooked our first turkey together. It was a special moment for a lot of reasons; first off, our parents were meeting which meant the food needed to be extra tasty. Second, and more importantly, did I mention this was our first turkey! With proud smiles on our faces and puffed up chests (I am only imagining this part happened), we presented our families with this beautifully magnificent bird! I mean, look at it… it was perfect.

The skin was crispy and golden brown while the meat of the bird was moist and oozing flavor. If the idea of pulverizing butter, pancetta and herbs into a thick paste doesn’t get your goat, then this might not be the recipe for you. As if pancetta butter wasn’t delectable enough… we smeared it on and under the turkey’s skin!!! It was essentially like wrapping an entire 15 pound turkey in bacon…. mmmmm. Stuffed with fresh sage and rosemary, this little feathered friend was certainly sacrificed for a worthy cause… my belly. We topped the entire meal off with a thick gravy of turkey stock, pan drippings, sage and more pancetta. Perfect. Just Perfect.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there. And to my favorite person…. I can’t wait to cook more turkey’s with you!

Pancetta-Sage Butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Turkey
1 14- to 16-pound turkey, rinsed, patted dry inside and out; neck, heart, and gizzard reserved for Shortcut Turkey Stock
8 fresh sage sprigs
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Shortcut Turkey Stock or water

Gravy
1/2 cup diced thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon; about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups Shortcut Turkey Stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Shortcut Turkey Stock
8 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 scrubbed unpeeled carrots, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks,cut into chunks
1 rinsed unpeeled large onion, quartered
stems from 1 bunch fresh italian parsley
Reserved turkey neck, heart, and gizzard

For pancetta-sage butter
With machine running, drop garlic down feed tube of processor and chop. Add pancetta. Pulse to chop finely. Add all remaining ingredients. Pulse blending to coarse paste. Transfer to small bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

For turkey
Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 325°F. Sprinkle main turkey cavity with salt and pepper. Spread with 2 tablespoons pancetta-sage butter. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and meat of breast, thighs, and upper drumsticks to loosen skin. Spread remaining butter over thighs, drumsticks, and breast meat under skin. Fill main cavity with herb sprigs. Tie legs loosely to hold shape. Tuck wing tips under.

Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Rub turkey all over with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour 2 cups stock into pan.

Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F to 170°F, about 3 hours. Tilt turkey so juices run into pan. Transfer turkey to platter. Tent with foil; let rest at least 30 minutes (temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees). Reserve pan.

For gravy
Scrape juices and browned bits from roasting pan into large glass measuring cup. Spoon off fat. Reserve 2 tablespoons. Heat 2 tablespoons reserved fat in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; sauté 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour; whisk until golden, about 4 minutes. Whisk in 3 cups stock, wine, and degreased pan juices. Bring to boil, whisking. Cook to desired consistency, about 5 minutes. Whisk in rosemary and sage; season to taste with salt and pepper.

For shortcut turkey stock
In large saucepan, combine low-salt chicken broth, carrots, celery, onion, parsley stems, and reserved turkey neck, heart, and gizzard. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low; simmer gently until gizzard is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer neck, heart, and gizzard to plate. Strain stock into medium bowl and cool. If adding giblets to gravy, pull meat from turkey neck. Chop neck meat, heart, and gizzard. DO AHEAD: Cover stock and wrap giblets. Chill up to 3 days.

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