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Main Course

Bacon and herb roasted turkey with smoked tomato gravy

Jason Lovell

Executive chef, The Ranch Club

8501 Ranch Club Road, Missoula

Food for thought: You'll find a version of this dish on the menu at The Ranch Club, a public restaurant located off Mullan Road. Jason likes it because the bacon not only flavors the meat and skin, but also helps the bird come from the oven with a beautiful golden hue. He suggests asking your butcher to grind some bacon for you, and offers one other hint: "I like to brine the bird overnight for seasoning and retaining of moisture." At the restaurant, you'll find the same dish prepared with Cornish hens.

What you'll need:

For the turkey brine:

1 gallon of chicken stock

1 gallon of water

1 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons chopped rosemary

2 tablespoons chopped sage

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

(include stems if you like)

2 tablespoons fennel seed

2 tablespoons mustard seed

2 tablespoons coriander seed

5 cloves of chopped garlic

8 bay leaves

1 cup sugar

1 cup maple syrup

One 16–20 pound turkey (Hutterite turkey is delicious)

For the bacon rub:

1 pound smoked bacon, ground

1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons chopped rosemary

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped sage

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

Ground peppercorns to taste

For the smoked tomato gravy:

5 smoked tomatoes (oven roasted are fine), peeled, seeded and chopped

1 medium onion, small dice

1 peeled carrot, small dice

2 ribs of celery, small dice

1 clove of garlic, minced

3 oz. all purpose flour

1 quart of low sodium chicken broth or stock

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

How to make it:

To brine the turkey, combine all the ingredients in a large saucepot—except the

turkey. Bring contents to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Put ingredients in large bowl or pot and chill. Place turkey in brine once brine is cooled completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drain, rinse and pat dry the turkey. Throw away the brine. Carefully lift skin from the flesh of the bird. Start at the neck and work your way back. You just want to loosen the skin without ripping it.

Combine bacon, 2/3 of the herb mixture, and pepper. Combine remaining herbs and butter. Rub bacon-herb mixture under skin, distributing evenly. Rub butter-herb mixture all over outside. Place the turkey in a roasting pan on a rack. Add 2 cups good chicken stock or broth to pan. Roast turkey for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce temperature to 300 and roast 3 more hours, basting every 30 minutes or so. A meat thermometer inserted into the thigh of the bird should read 165. Pull turkey from the oven, transfer to a large pan and cover loosely with foil. Let turkey rest for 30 minutes. A phenomenon called carry over cooking will bring the resting temperature to 180.

While the turkey is resting, start making the gravy. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery, and sauté until browned. Add garlic and cook for one minute longer. Add flour, stirring to combine roux. Allow to cook 3 minutes longer, stirring. Remove roux to a plate and chill. Meanwhile, bring contents of roasting pan to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the little bits (fond) stuck to the bottom of pan. Strain contents into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, add chilled roux, whisking to incorporate and reduce to simmer. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer gravy for 20 minutes or until thickened. If too thick, add a little water or stock. If too thin, allow to cook 10 minutes longer.

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