Heritage turkeys are breeds (such as Bourbon Red and Standard Bronze) that predate the Broad-Breasted White, the ubiquitous grocery-store turkey. The thighs and legs have rich, amazing flavor, but can be tough, so for best results, we braise legs and thighs and roast the breast.
1 heritage turkey (12 to 14 lbs.), truss removed and giblets removed (use for gravy if you like)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
5 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (not lean)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
About 1 tbsp. canola oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
1 bay leaf
3 to 4 cups reduced-sodium or homemade turkey or chicken stock
Rinse turkey, pat dry, and cut off drumsticks and thighs.
Mix salt and rosemary together in a small bowl. Sprinkle all over turkey pieces, including inside the cavity. Put all pieces in a roasting pan, slide into a large plastic bag, and loosely tie top. Chill at least 1 day and up to
Let turkey sit at room temperature 1 hour. Remove top rack of oven and preheat to 350°. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Cover breast with pancetta (keep slices in their circle shapes and overlap slightly), then sprinkle with pepper. Rub wings with a bit of canola oil and set turkey carcass with breast on a V-rack in a large roasting pan.
Roast turkey carcass until an instant-read thermometer, inserted straight down through the breast until it touches bone, registers 160°, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Tent carcass with foil after 45 minutes to keep pancetta from burning.
Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil, meanwhile, in a 12-in.-wide frying pan with at least 2-in. sides or in a wide stockpot over medium-high heat. Add turkey legs and thighs, skin side down, in a single layer and let cook undisturbed until skin is deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn over and brown 4 minutes.
Put turkey legs and thighs on a plate. Reduce heat to medium and pour off all but 1 tbsp. fat from pan. Add carrots, celery, onion, and giblets, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 7 minutes. Add bay leaf. Return legs and thighs (and juices) to pan, skin side up, and pour in enough stock to come halfway up turkey. Cover pan; reduce heat to low. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh registers 160°, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Transfer legs and thighs to a rimmed baking sheet, skin side up; cover with foil. Strain stock through a fine-meshed sieve, discarding solids, and use to make gravy.
Remove turkey from oven and let rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put top rack back in oven, increase heat to broil and broil legs and thighs until skin is crispy, 10 minutes. Transfer to a warmed serving platter.
Cut each breast half from the carcass in one piece, slicing on either side of breastbone and as close to the bone as possible. Make a horizontal cut just above wing joint to release bottom part of each breast half; then cut off wings. Transfer meat to platter.
Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving with 2 tbsp. gravy.
Heritage turkey thighs and legs have amazing flavor but can be tough. For best results, braise the legs and thighs and roast the breast. Do this for regular turkey as well, to prevent dried-out breast meat.
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This recipe is ingenious. We used a heritage turkey raised less than 10 miles from us. The only thing we changed was using locally raised pepper bacon instead on pancetta to keep it more, well, local. Do not skip the braising step! It isn't that much more work and well worth the extra bit of effort. Plus that bold step is what makes this recipe so unique. You get this incredible gravy from the braising liquid and the dark meat is incredibly tender. This will be our go-to heritage turkey recipe for many years of holidays to come.
The family LOVED this recipe. I omitted the leg removal and gravy part of the recipe for simplicity sake, and served the cooked pancetta along side the turkey as we typically remove the skin prior to cutting and serving. The turkey was flavorful and moist. Just perfect!
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