Thanksgiving the Wolfgang Way

Wolfgang Puck dug into one feast—at DC Ethiopian restaurant Etete—while talking about his Thanksgiving spread.

Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef behind the Source in DC’s Penn Quarter, lives in Los Angeles but travels about 300 days out of the year. So it’s no surprise that he’ll spend Thanksgiving away from home. He’s bringing his wife and young sons to Miami, where they’ll share a holiday spread with pastry-cookbook author Maida Heatter, art/fashion photographer Bruce Weber, and a slew of other guests.

So what’s Puck going to make? A brined, roasted turkey “for show” (and sandwiches the next day); a turkey roulade, which Puck says he’d wrap in caul fat if his wife would let him; an Austrian family recipe for braised red cabbage; mashed potatoes luxed up with white truffles; and chestnuts braised in cream. The only thing up in the air is dessert: “I want to ask Maida, but I feel bad—she’s 92!” Wherever the pumpkin pie comes from, we think the rest of the meal sounds pretty delicious. If you’re feeling ambitious, read on for the recipes.

Brined, Roasted Turkey With Pan Gravy
Serves 8

For the brine:
1 gallon water
1 pound kosher salt
½ cup cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger
12 bay leaves
3 cups honey
3 cups maple syrup

For the Turkey:
1 (10-pound) whole fresh turkey, giblets and neck removed and reserved for stock
1 stick butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 apples, cored and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 sprigs sage
2 sprigs rosemary
Olive oil for drizzling

For the Turkey Stock:

Giblets and neck from 1 turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup port wine
1 cup roughly chopped onions
½ cup roughly chopped carrots
½ cup roughly chopped celery
2 sprigs rosemary
5 peppercorns
Water to cover

For the Pan Gravy:
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onions
½ cup white wine
½ cup Madeira wine
4 cups turkey stock (see above recipe)
1 sprig thyme
2 sprigs parsley
Beurre manié (4 tablespoons room-temperature butter mashed together with 4 tablespoons flour to form a smooth paste)
Freshly ground black pepper

The day before you plan to roast the turkey, make the brine: In a stockpot, bring the water, salt, black peppercorns, cloves, ginger, and bay leaves to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir in the honey and maple syrup until well blended. Turn off the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature.

Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Immerse the turkey completely in the brine, either in the stockpot or a clean basin large enough to hold the turkey, and submerge it completely. Place a weight on top of the turkey to hold it down beneath the brine’s surface. Refrigerate and leave the turkey in the brine for at least four hours or as long as overnight.

When ready to roast the turkey, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a shallow roasting pan, place the carrots, celery, and onions for the gravy. Remove the turkey from brine.

In a mixing bowl, mash the butter together with the garlic, chopped sage, and chopped rosemary. Inserting your hands through the bird’s neck opening, gently loosen the skin from the flesh above the breast. Rub the butter mixture evenly under the skin. Insert the apples, onions, and whole sage and rosemary sprigs into the cavity of the turkey.

Place the turkey on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan, breast side up. Tuck the wings back and under the turkey. Using kitchen twine, tie the ends of the drumsticks together to make a compact shape for a more attractive presentation. Drizzle the turkey with olive oil and rub it into the skin.

Transfer the turkey to the preheated oven and roast it until the breast meat registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird (not touching bone), about 2½ hours. If the skin appears to be browning too quickly, tent the turkey with a sheet of aluminum foil.

While the turkey is roasting, prepare the turkey stock: Heat a saucepan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and heat. Add the neck and giblets and sauté until evenly browned, about seven minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the port, and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the port is almost completely evaporated, about ten minutes. Add the carrots, onions, celery, rosemary, and peppercorns. Cover with cold water by four inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for two hours, adding a little more water if necessary to keep the ingredients covered. Skim any scum that rises to the surface of the stock and discard. Strain the stock. Use immediately, or cool and refrigerate for up to four days.

When the turkey is done, transfer it to a platter and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving, tenting it with foil.

Meanwhile, prepare the pan gravy: Tilt the roasting pan and, with a large basting spoon, skim as much fat as possible off the juices. Place the pan on two burners on top of the stove, set to medium heat. Add the white wine and Madeira to the pan and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Continue boiling until the liquid has reduced by three quarters, seven to ten minutes. Add the turkey stock, thyme, and parsley. Bring to a boil and strain into a saucepan. Bring back to a boil, skim, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Whisk in the beurre manié until well incorporated and continue to cook until the gravy has thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted Turkey Two Ways: Slow-Braised Stuffed Leg Roulade and Whole Roasted Breast

Slow-Braised Stuffed Leg Roulade
Serves 12

Note: Start preparing the turkey breast once you have placed the legs in the oven.

2 turkey legs
1 cup Wild Mushroom Stuffing (recipe follows)
½ cup olive oil
1 cup organic chicken stock
2 carrots peeled and sliced in 1-inch sections
3 stalks celery, sliced in 1-inch sections
2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
2 sprigs rosemary
2 cups pomegranate juice

Butcher string
Wooden skewers

With a sharp knife, separate the two legs from the rest of the turkey and cut off the backbone. Reserve breast for roasting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Debone the turkey legs without cutting into the skin. Remove the silver skin and all the tendons. With skin side down, cover with plastic wrap and pound out evenly. Season inside with salt and pepper.

Spread the mushroom stuffing evenly across the middle sections. Roll the legs into tight cylinders. Tie with butcher’s string and close ends with skewers. Season outside with salt and pepper. Over the stove, heat a roasting pan and add the olive oil. Sear the meat until golden brown.

Remove the legs from the roasting pan. Add the carrots, celery, and onion and cook until brown. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add the turkey legs. Cover with foil and slowly braise the legs for about two hours or until the internal temperature is 130 degrees.

Remove the foil and place the roasting pan in the oven, roasting to get color on the meat, until the internal temperature is 140 degrees.

Remove legs and set aside on a platter. Cover with foil until ready to slice.

Add two cups of pomegranate juice to the braising liquid. Simmer for ten minutes over the stove. Purée the sauce through a food mill (the carrots, onions, and celery will thicken it). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the sauce sit for about 30 minutes, and with a small ladle remove excess fat. Remove string and skewers from the turkey legs. Slice into half-inch portions.

Whole Roasted Breast

1 whole double turkey breast
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Mix the butter, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Using your hands, carefully separate the turkey skin from the breast meat. Spread the rosemary butter evenly between the skin and meat. Season the turkey breast with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil.

Place the breast in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. If your oven is large enough, you can roast the turkey breast in the same oven while you braise the legs—the steam from the braising liquid keeps the breast moist.

Roast until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Baste every 15 minutes with the pan drippings.

When the breast is done, cover with foil and let rest in a warm place until you’re ready to carve.

Braised Cabbage
Serves 12

¼ cup peanut oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced
1 cup brown sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced
½ cup red-wine vinegar
2 cups red wine
2 cups orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon dried ginger
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 pounds red cabbage cut into thin strips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a heavy casserole pan over medium-high heat. Add the peanut oil. Sauté the red onion until translucent. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and cook for about five minutes until it starts to caramelize. Add the sliced apples and deglaze the pan with the red-wine vinegar. Bring to a boil. Add the red wine, orange juice, cinnamon, ginger, and salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes.

Add the red cabbage and continue to cook for about ten minutes on top of the stove. Cover the cabbage with foil and set in the oven for about 45 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Braised Chestnuts
Serves 6

2 pounds chestnuts
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup port
Thyme to taste
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Heat a heavy saucepan. Add the oil, butter, and chopped onion. When the onions turn slightly brown, deglaze with the pan with port. Add the thyme, chestnuts, chicken stock, and a little salt and pepper. Cover and cook until chestnuts are tender and the chestnuts have absorbed most of the liquid.

Serve chestnuts whole or pass through a food mill to make a chestnut purée.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.