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Thanksgiving turkey with a special Italian stuffing

Thanksgiving turkey with a special Italian stuffing

If you haven't yet decided how to cook your Thanksgiving turkey try this fabulous Italian stuffing from ex-pat American food and wine writer Brian St Pierre.

"If you want to do Thanksgiving a little differently, why not look to Italy? Italians took to turkey as no other Europeans did, probably because they saw the bird the way that artists see blank spaces, as something to project their imaginations onto. You see it on menus of even the most exalted restaurants, sliced and stuffed with a spicy filling as involtini, or poached lightly in flavored olive oil, or roasted and stuffed with chestnuts in the autumn, or braised in wine to a juicy tenderness year-round.

To Italians, the idea that anyone would eat such a magnificent food only twice a year, and - even worse - to prepare it pretty much the same way each time, with the same side dishes, seems like absurd self-denial."

Roast turkey stuffed with pancetta and herbs
Serves 12

1 turkey, 10 to12 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 cups loosely packed cubed sourdough bread without crusts, soaked in 1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons medium-sweet Marsala wine
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Rinse and dry the turkey, rub the inside with salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium large skillet and sauté the onion and half the garlic for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the pork and sausage meat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring well, until it loses its raw pink color. Remove from heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, herbs, pine nuts, Parmesan, and Marsala. Add the meat and mix well. Set this stuffing aside. In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, pancetta, and remaining garlic. Mix well. Loosen the skin of the turkey across the breast, beginning at the back of the bird, by inserting a finger under the skin and running it back and forth side to side, then forward. Insert the rosemary-pancetta mixture under the skin and massage it around forward fairly evenly across the breast meat (it will provide an aromatic, delicious self-baste). Stuff the turkey and skewer the cavity closed.

Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan and brush or rub the skin liberally with olive oil, then rub with salt and pepper. Roast, basting occasionally with more olive oil and pan juices, for about 3 hours (figuring 18 minutes to the pound) until juices run clear when skin is pricked. Remove from the oven, let rest for 20 minutes loosely covered with foil, and carve.Serve with simple veg, such as caramelized mushrooms and a couple of shallots tossed with lightly steamed green beans and parsley

Brian’s wine suggestion: a lightish red such as Valpolicella, Nerello Mascalese (from Mt. Etna), Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Planeta's is nice); outside Italy, very good Beaujolais, New World Pinot Noir under 14% alcohol. (On a festive day, wine's the accompanist, not the star.)

Brian St Pierre is the restaurant critic of Decanter magazine and the author of The Winelover Cooks Italian. You can also read his writing at foodandwineinlondon.com and stpierre on wine

Image © msheldrake - Fotolia.com

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