This Braised Apple Cider Turkey gets a triple whammy of flavor from butter, herbs, citrus, and cider.
I recently asked my friends on Facebook what kind of dishes they prefer for their Thanksgiving dinners. I was curious if they liked to keep things traditional or if they liked to mix things up with new recipes every year. Unsurprisingly, nearly everyone said they prefer to stick to the classics. Well, everyone, that is, except my fellow food blogger friends. We seem to be cursed with an insatiable desire to try something new. We’re the weirdos who try to sneak grilled pineapple or pomegranate brussels sprouts onto the Thanksgiving table. Seriously, don’t put us in charge of the holiday menu plan unless you’re ready for some surprises.
I usually find myself wanting to experiment around the holidays, but there’s something beautiful and good about our loyalty to family tradition. We love green bean casserole and sweet potatoes piled with marshmallows not just because they’re delicious, but also because they’ve been shared by generations of family around the same table each year. There are memories wrapped up in those french fried onions, and sometimes memories taste better than any new and improved recipe ever could.
This year, I’m trying to stick to the classics. We’ll have sour cream and chive mashed potatoes, fluffy butterhorns, and pecan pie bars. We’ll make Stovetop stuffing (don’t judge! It’s got all the memories!), and I’m sure someone will bring a nice healthy green salad that no one will eat. Because tradition.
Of course, no classic Thanksgiving is complete without turkey. Turkey tends to be an afterthought on most spreads. It’s just another thing to drench with gravy one day and mayo, cheese, and a bun the next. But traditional should never be synonymous with boring. This Braised Apple Cider Turkey is just the right amount of classic and inventive. It’s a little different, but not so crazy it will scare away the loyalists.
Typically braising involves searing a piece of meat in high heat, then cooking it low and slow with vegetables and a flavorful liquid until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. The technique is great for tough (or boring) cuts of meat, but braising a turkey can be a bit cumbersome. A 15 lb. bird is a tad hard to maneuver! Luckily, I found another (easier) way to get the same effect. For this braised turkey, I roasted it in a blazing hot 500 degree oven until browned. Then, I turned the heat down, added plenty of broth and cider, and continued to roast for several more hours, until cooked through.
There’s something here for everyone to love. Butter and herbs rubbed under the skin keeps things classic and extra juicy, while hints of lemon, orange, and cider keep everyone interested. Then there’s the gravy. Apple cider gravy, friends. It’s a thing. A delicious, wonderful thing. This gravy made from pan drippings and apple cider is savory with a subtle sweet tang. I put a dollop of dijon mustard in mine which made the dreamiest sauce, but folks wanting something a little more standard might want to leave it off.
I’ve shared my tips for preparing turkey here, but the same principles remain the same for this recipe. Most importantly, get all your ingredients ready before you even think about opening that turkey bag! It’ll save you so much time, clean up, and unnecessary hand washings. Other than that, you’ve just got to be willing to dive in and get real up close and personal with the bird. No fear–it won’t bite. 🙂
I highly recommend Honeysuckle White’s fresh or frozen turkeys for your Thanksgiving spread. Their network of over 700 family farmers is committed to producing great turkeys raised with care. Having spent time with one of their farmers, I can tell you confidently this is a company committed to doing the right thing for their animals, farmers, and customers, so look for Honeysuckle White (or Shady Brook Farms for you East Coasters!) in your local grocery store.
So maybe now you are wondering…
What to Serve with Thanksgiving Turkey
First off, check out this easy gravy recipe from In Sock Monkey Slippers.
Creamy Mashed Potatoes (made without a ricer!) are the quintessential side dish for turkey, but I also really love these Lemon Rosemary Melting Potatoes. Of course, it never hurts to add in some Easy Mashed Sweet Potatoes as well!
For the turkey:
- 1 14-16 lb. Honeysuckle White Turkey (either fresh or thawed)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons thyme leaves
- 3 Tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves
- Zest of 1 orange + the orange itself, halved
- Zest of 1 lemon + the lemon itself, halved
- 3 garlic cloves
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 cups hard apple cider
- 1 cup apple cider
For the gravy:
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
- 2 apples, in thick slices
- 2 onions, quartered
- 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups chicken or turkey broth
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (optional)
- Salt and Pepper
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss the butter, garlic, butternut squash, apples, and onions together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Mix together the butter, thyme, rosemary, orange and lemon zest, and garlic in a bowl. Place about 1/4 cup of salt and 2 teaspoons pepper in two small bowls. Get a piece of kitchen twine ready to tie the legs together. Place all of this near the roasting pan so you won't need to get turkey juices everywhere when you're prepping.
- Remove the turkey from the bag and pull out anything in the cavity. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables and pat it dry. Cut a small slit in the skin above the cavity and gently work your hand between the skin and the breast meat. Spread the butter mixture under the skin, then rub it all over the breast, legs, thighs, and cavity of the bird. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. You probably won't need the entire 1/4 cup, but it should look like a light snow has fallen on the turkey. Follow that up with a sprinkling of pepper.
- Place the orange halves in the cavity along with a few apple and onion slices from the pan. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips under the bird to protect them.
- Place the turkey in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove the turkey from the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Pour the chicken broth, hard cider, and apple cider into the pan, scraping up any bits at the bottom. Cover the breast meat with a small strip of parchment paper. Wrap the pan in foil. Place an oven safe or probe thermometer in the breast meat then return to the oven and continue to roast for 2-2 1/2 hours or until turkey reaches about 150 degrees. At that point, remove the foil and continue to roast until the turkey reaches 161 degrees. Remove the turkey from the oven, tent with foil, and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
For the gravy:
- To make the gravy, strain the vegetables, reserving them and the liquid for another use. Skim the fat off the top of the liquid. You can use a gravy separator or place it in the fridge for a bit to make it easier.
- Place a 1/4 cup of the fat from the pan in a pot over medium heat. If you weren't able to get a full 1/4 cup of fat, add enough butter to make a 1/4 cup. Measure out a 1/2 cup of the liquid from the roasting pan and whisk it together with the cornstarch to form a slurry. Stir this into the fat in the pan, whisking until the mixture begins to thicken. Slowly stir in the broth and then the cider in a steady stream, alternating stirring and whisking. Continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes, or until the gravy is the consistency you want. If desired, whisk in mustard then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the gravy with the turkey.
This post is sponsored by the wonderful folks at Honeysuckle White Turkey. As always, all opinions are my own.