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As part of my culinary New Year’s resolutions, I have committed to creating each month’s cover recipe from Food & Wine Magazine. Joining me once again this month is our resident wine expert Kendall Harris of Wine2Three, who provided a fun pinot noir suggestion to pair with this delightful Herb-Roasted Turkey.
Want to join in on the fun? We’d love the company! Pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Food & Wine and get cooking. Be sure to send me an email at email@example.com to let me know you made the cover recipe, and if you’re a blogger don’t forget to post a link to your post in the comments below.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (classic roast turkey, easy to prepare)
Initial Thoughts: Giddy up!
THE TEST: Throughout the year as I make each cover from Food & Wine Magazine, my mind flits over to the November issue and the predictable turkey dinner. Prior to embarking upon this monthly challenge, I had never tackled a whole turkey. Now – three years later – I have several turkey dinner notches in my belt. But despite past successes, the idea of making a full turkey dinner always makes me nervous.
Once I saw that November’s Herb-Roasted Turkey with Wild Mushroom Gravy was developed by David Tanis (New York Times columnist, award-winning cookbook author, past chef at Chez Panisse), my anticipation grew. The recipe is part of a feature article highlighting a California-style Thanksgiving feast at a Napa Valley ranch. The photos are stunning and the meal looks incredible! In fact, I’ve bookmarked each and every recipe for the future.
Preparing this turkey is dead simple, making it the perfect recipe for the holidays. In order to maximize flavour, butter seasoned with sage, thyme and garlic is rubbed inside the cavity. Additional sage and thyme are placed inside the bird before the neck flap is plugged with half an apple. The turkey is then rubbed with olive oil and placed on top of celery, onion and carrots. Honestly, this is the easiest turkey recipe I’ve tried and would be great for any home cooks suffering from turkey anxiety. You can’t go wrong. Although please ensure you have a digital meat thermometer on hand. Trust me – it makes life so much easier.
THE RESULTS: The turkey emerged from the oven smelling incredible and looking perfectly golden and crisp all over. Cue oooo’s and ahhhhhhs!
We let the meat rest for an hour, which helps to retain all of those lovely juices and frees up the oven for any side dishes that still need to be cooked. Because I knew that Mr. Spock and the kids would have split the instant I even said the word ‘mushrooms’, I decided to skip the wild mushroom gravy. But let me tell ya the drippings made fantastic gravy even without the fungus.
This recipe is one that I will be making again for Christmas Day, as it is simple to prepare and full of fantastic turkey flavour that is slightly sweetened from the roasted veg. When I do make it again, I am going to brine it for a day or two to really infuse it with maximum flavour. This recipe by Anthony Sedlak happens to be one of my all-time favourite poultry brines.
Despite my usual turkey related anxiety, this meal turned out to be amazing. And having dear friends whom we don’t get to see nearly enough gathered around the table was perfect. It was an evening of good food, great company, and waaaaay too much wine! Having everyone together in the kitchen pitching in with the preparations (whether making gravy, providing carving commentary, or reading stories and practicing demi-plié with the kids) highlighted the importance of community in our lives, and was a good reminder about the true meaning of the holidays.
This month, our resident wine expert Kendall Harris of Wine2Three had everyone abuzz with her suggested pinot noir pairing! Our guests were all pleasantly surprised by the heavy, smokiness of this particular wine. I will definitely be picking up a few more bottles for the holidays! As far as the turkey was concerned, there were a few people who would have preferred a more traditional crisp white to drink alongside the poultry but the majority of the table loved the way in which this wine brought out and deepened the contrasting flavours of the entire meal. And had I made the wild mushroom gravy, there is no doubt that the woodsy taste of the mushrooms would have paired perfectly with the pinot.
Herb-Roasted Turkey with Wild Mushroom Gravy
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Pairing wine with a Thanksgiving meal can sometimes be challenging – so many different types of food being prepared, so many different flavours, not to mention different people with different palates! A classic food-friendly wine that has become a reliable Thanksgiving recommend is Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape, so the resulting wine is a lighter bodied wine, perfect with turkey meat. Also, Pinot Noir displays wonderful berry flavours that harmonize deliciously with the cranberry sauce present at many Thanksgiving tables. Finally, because of its nice level of acidity (which makes your mouth water), it’s an excellent food wine, and won’t overwhelm the meal with big strong sweet fruit flavours (like an Australian Shiraz).
Pinot Noir is called “the heartbreak grape” because winemakers have a tendency to fall madly in love with this varietal. It can be a challenging grape to work with; for example the thin skin of the grapes make it vulnerable in the vineyard and requires more TLC than other varieties. You may also remember the character Miles waxing poetic about Pinot Noir in the movie “Sideways,” one of my favorite wine movies!
I recommend this Leyda Pinot Noir from Chile because it’s absolutely delicious and much of Chile’s grape growing is done under organic or almost organic conditions. Because of that country’s climate, the kinds of pests and mildew problems that plague winemakers around the world don’t show up on Chilean soil. This Leyda Pinot Noir also happens to be well priced, so pick-up a few bottles. At a big holiday dinner, quantity is sometimes just as important as quality!
Kendall Harris is a wine blogger who shares her adventures in the wine world as Wine2three on Twitter & Facebook. She has an Advanced Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is passionate about sharing her wine knowledge with others. “Like” her page on Facebook for fun, informative wine posts!