Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Better with Bourbon

We're having a small and low-key Thanksgiving for four this year, but I'm already pondering the menu.  One thing that will be on it for sure?  Bourbon turkey.  Years ago, I was watching Oprah, and saw Carolyne Roehm prepare a turkey this way.  I tried the recipe out (with some tweaks of my own, of course) and my family and I were immediately converted.  One year, the husband and I even drove from VT to ME with a turkey soaking in bourbon in the backseat, so true is our devotion to this recipe.  The alcohol infuses the meat, both brining and tenderizing it, and then evaporates away in the oven, leaving only its oaky, caramelized goodness behind.  The meat literally falls off of the bone.  I cannot recommend this recipe more highly.  It will rock your Thanksgiving world.

1 (16-pound) turkey (local & organic, if possible.  Ours will be from Misty Knoll Farms.)
2 yards cheesecloth
2 to 3 cups bourbon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh sage
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 liter bottle ginger ale
24 Hours in advance:
1) Soak one yard of cheesecloth in bourbon and stuff into turkey cavity.
2) Wrap the turkey with remaining cheesecloth and soak the cloth with remaining bourbon.
3) Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the turkey over 4-6 times.
On Turkey Day:
1) Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
2) Remove the cheesecloth from the outside of the turkey and stuff it into the cavity with the other cheesecloth.
3) Stuff sage leaves under the turkey skin, and rub turkey with olive oil, salt and pepper.
4) Bake at 275 degrees F. for five hours, basting frequently with ginger ale.


  1. ooooo la la! we're doing one in the oven and one on the bbq, maybe the oven turkey will undergo bourbon treatment... yum.

    i've been bamixed! thanks for the hot tips fraulein!

  2. Ummm Jane now we need the side dishes please! Just kidding, kind of.

  3. jane, would you recommend stuffing the bird instead of leaving the cheesecloth inside? i've got a stuffing lover on my hands- not me, erik.

    also, what else are you serving?



  4. we are working up our menu this evening... stay tuned!

    hale - i would recommend leaving the cheesecloth inside and making your stuffing separately in a casserole dish. by food safety standards you really don't want to grub too much on the stuff that cooks in the cavity anyway... so make the stuffing on the side, i say, and let that bourbon permeate from the inside out, baby!