When I operated a small Mediterranean restaurant, my staff loved this holiday special on the menu. Some even asked me to cook it for their weddings someday.
What makes this Greek? It’s all about the stuffing as well as the lemon-cinnamon-oregano flavoring. Greek-Americans often prepare stuffing with a browned meat, berry and nut. Also, the ancient autumn full moon festival, Thesmophoria, honoring Demeter, goddess of the harvest, is traced back to ancient Greece.
1 turkey, about 10 pounds
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 ounces butter
1 lemon, scrape zest from rind and quarter for squeezing
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons oregano
1 cinnamon stick
1 large yellow onion, chopped fine, plus ½ whole onion (for sealing cavity)
½ celery stalk, chopped
2 ounces butter
2 ounces olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Turkey liver and giblets, chopped
1 pound ground pork
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup raisins (California or golden seedless)
½ cup long-grain rice
½ cup white wine
1 cup chicken, turkey or vegetable stock
For roux to thicken gravy: 4 ounces butter plus 1 cup flour
2 meat thermometers
A day before roasting, rinse the thawed turkey thoroughly inside and out. Place in pan and sprinkle salt over entire bird and cavity; cover with plastic and return to refrigerator. Pre-salting is similar to dry-brining the turkey. This will allow time for the salt to draw out the meat juices. Salt is then reabsorbed into the meat and breaks down the muscle proteins, resulting in a tender and juicy seasoned turkey.
On the day of roasting, place butter in bowl and allow to soften. Add lemon zest, thyme, oregano and pepper; whip ingredients together. Above the larger cavity, separate the skin and breast; insert and spread butter mix. Squeeze quartered lemon over turkey skin. Sprinkle sides with thyme, oregano and pepper.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Gently heat butter and add onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and cinnamon. After 10 minutes add giblets and ground pork; stir while cooking another 5 minutes. Add almonds, raisins, rice, wine and stock. Stuffing mix should be placed promptly in turkey just before roasting.
Prep for roasting
Place the stuffing in both ends of the turkey; fill the neck side cavity and pull the excess skin over securing, with poultry skewers. Turn the turkey over and stuff (position legs to secure). Place half a large onion in the opening to prevent the stuffing from burning. Use a piece of cooking twine around the bird’s middle to pin the wings against the body.
Place breast side up on rack and insert two thermometers—one into the thickest part of the breast and another for the stuffing. Add 2 cups of stock and a cinnamon stick to the pan. Cover with foil poked with a few holes.
Ready for roasting
Place in the preheated oven and baste every 30 minutes. The internal temperatures of the turkey and stuffing should reach 165°F. Set oven temperature to 325°F and roast between 3 and 4 hours. Remove foil after the first hour. Transfer turkey to large platter and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
To prepare gravy, set the turkey pan over stovetop and gently heat while occasionally stirring. After 10 minutes, strain juices into a kettle. In a separate pot, heat 4 ounces butter and add a cup of flour for roux. Thicken the collected stock in the kettle with roux while whisking over medium heat.
Note: While taste-testing this recipe with friends, kombucha was considered a tasty complement and went well with this dish. I might suggest sautéed bitter greens such as turnip, beet or dandelion, to offset the sweet meat of the turkey.