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Brown Sugar-Cured Turkey with Apple-Bourbon Gravy

Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Paige Hicks

Hands-on time 35 mins
Total time 10 hrs, 30 mins

Serves 16 (serving size: 4 ounces turkey and 2 tablespoons sauce)

From the Kitchen of…Hunter Lewis, Cooking Light Editor "On the front end, I infuse flavor by rubbing a cut-up turkey and curing it overnight. A deconstructed bird doesn't need as long to roast as a whole bird. That gets me valuable oven time for casseroles and ensures the white and dark meat, which all cook at different rates, is roasted to perfection."


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (12-pound) turkey, cut into 8 pieces (drumsticks, thighs, etc.), back and neck reserved
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 6 unpeeled shallots
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into (3-inch) pieces
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Nutrition Information

  • calories 318
  • fat 14.6 g
  • satfat 3.3 g
  • monofat 8.4 g
  • polyfat 2 g
  • protein 5 g
  • carbohydrate 20 g
  • fiber 1 g
  • cholesterol 55 mg
  • iron 1 mg
  • sodium 343 mg
  • calcium 53 mg

How to Make It

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Rub turkey evenly with brown sugar mixture. Place on a rack set in a roasting or baking pan, and refrigerate overnight.

  2. Preheat oven to 375°. Set racks at even intervals in oven.

  3. Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, shallots, celery, and apples in a large roasting pan. Arrange drumsticks and thighs (skin side up) over apples. Place breasts and wings (skin side up) on a rack set in a jelly-roll pan. Place roasting pan on bottom rack of oven and jelly-roll pan on top rack. Roast at 375° for 30 minutes. Rotate pans; brush turkey with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast an additional 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thigh registers 160°. Remove turkey-apple mixture from oven. Baste breasts and wings with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°. Remove from oven. Cover loosely with foil.

  4. Chop turkey neck and back bones. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bones; cook 8 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Add bourbon; cook 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add stock and flour; cook 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Strain liquid through a fine-mesh strainer; discard solids.

  5. Peel roasted shallots; discard papery skins. Place half of 1 apple, 1 1/2 celery stalks, 3 shallots, and bourbon mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Process until smooth. Blend in butter, parsley, vinegar, and pepper. (Serve the remaining roasted vegetables with the turkey, or discard.)

  6. Carve turkey; discard skin. Serve with gravy.

Cook's Notes

MyRecipes is working with Let's Move!, the Partnership for a Healthier America, and USDA's MyPlate to give anyone looking for healthier options access to a trove of recipes that will help them create healthy, tasty plates. For more information about creating a healthy plate, visit