This turkey dinner is the ultimate make-ahead meal. The turkey, gravy, and stuffing are slow-cooked simultaneously to impart rich, deep flavors and to eliminate any extensive last-minute work. The turkey breast is double-cooked: poached the day before, then seasoned and reheated slowly in a low-heat oven the day it's served. The gravy and stuffing are infused with an intensely flavorful turkey stock made from the liquid in which the breast is poached. The Vanilla Sweet Potatoes are made in the microwave.
4 quarts water
1 cup (2-inch-thick) slices carrot
1/2 cup (1-inch-thick) slices celery
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 (6-pound) whole turkey breast, skinned
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup butter or stick margarine
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
16 cups (1-inch) cubed stale bread (about 1 1/2 pounds)
To prepare stock, combine first 10 ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil; add turkey breast. Return to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until turkey breast reaches 170° (use an instant-read thermometer). Carefully remove the turkey breast from stock. Cover the turkey breast, and refrigerate. Strain stock through a colander into a large bowl; discard solids, and return stock to pot. Reduce heat, and continue to simmer stock until reduced to 2 quarts (about 1 1/2 hours). Cover and chill stock for 8 hours. Skim solidified fat from surface of stock, if necessary.
Preheat oven to 250°.
To prepare turkey, rub poached turkey breast with oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Wrap the turkey in heavy-duty plastic wrap and foil. (Double-wrapping in plastic and foil helps retain moisture when reheating.) Bake at 250° for 2 hours or until thoroughly heated.
To prepare the stuffing, melt 1/4 cup butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and diced celery; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in bread cubes and the next 7 ingredients (bread cubes through 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Stir in 2 1/2 cups turkey stock. Place in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Bake simultaneously with turkey at 250° for 1 hour and 55 minutes.
While the turkey and stuffing cook, prepare gravy. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour; reduce heat, and cook 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Gradually add reserved 5 1/2 cups turkey stock, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 3 cups (about 2 hours).
Uncover turkey; remove turkey breast halves from bone. Slice turkey, and serve with stuffing, gravy, and Vanilla Sweet Potatoes.