When I moved to San Jose from Hyderabad, India in 1998, I marked my first American Thanksgiving by learning from local friends how to roast a traditional turkey. Everyone liked it, but I just thought it could be tastier.
Well, you can take the girl out of India, but you can’t take India out of the girl. I realized that the fragrant spices of my homeland would work well on roasted turkey. That next Thanksgiving, I began experimenting with ways to incorporate warm Indian spices and aromatics into a turkey recipe. That recipe evolved over the years, including a yogurt bath similar to that of tandoori chicken, a popular South Asian dish.
My local friends were pleasantly surprised how it looks the same as a traditional turkey but has much more flavor.
My recipe begins with a free-range turkey. It is brined and then put in a cooking bag with a spicy yogurt marinade and stuffed with peppers, celery, carrot, garlic, herbs and aromatics. It cooks in a hot oven rather quickly in the bag. At the end of the process, it is removed from the bag and placed back in the oven just long enough to brown the skin. The yogurt marinade keeps the bird moist and provides a scruffy dark burnish to the skin that can be glossed with butter (using a pastry brush) just before serving.
I usually serve turkey with haricots verts (French beans) flavored with garlic, fennel and cumin; mashed potatoes with garlic and cumin and a Stilton cheese sauce; roasted sweet potatoes and a red wine, such as pinot noir.
This recipe calls for a 12- to 14-pound free-range turkey.
5 quarts of water
1 cup coarse salt
4 bay leaves*
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds*
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries*
2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns*
1 tablespoon fennel seeds*
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 bottle chardonnay (if it’s not drinkable, it’s not for cooking)
*toast these ingredients in a dry hot skillet and add to the brine mixture
Tandoori Turkey Marinade
2 pounds sour cream
4 cups Greek yogurt
2½ ounces garam masala*
4 ounces sliced garlic
4 ounces chopped ginger
3 ounces Serrano pepper, minced
2 cups lemon juice
2½ ounces fenugreek
⅛ cup paprika
⅛ cup chili powder
3 ounces kosher salt
*All spices can be found at Indian markets
Filling for turkey
2 medium red onions, chopped
20 cloves peeled garlic
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 whole poblano peppers
2 cinnamon sticks
4 black cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 whole carrots, sliced
4 sprigs sage
4 sprigs thyme
4 bay leaves
1 stick unsalted butter
½ pound unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped red onion
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup Cognac
½ cup heavy cream
Instructions: Brine the turkey for 8-10 hours in the refrigerator using a brining bag or a big pot and ingredients listed above for brining. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towel. Discard brining solution.
For the marinade: Puree all marinade ingredients in blender, and pour marinade into roasting bag. Add the turkey and turn it in the bag to coat with marinade. Tie the bag, and arrange the turkey with the breast side down in a large heavy roasting pan. Refrigerate this overnight. Take the turkey out of the marinade, stuff the cavity with filling ingredients and place back into the roasting bag. Let the turkey stand in the bag at room temperature for a couple of hours.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Turn the turkey breast side up, and create steam holes in the roasting bag. Roast turkey for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.
Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and roast until the thermometer reads 160 degrees.
Be sure to insert thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. Reduce heat further to 300 degrees, and cook for 2 hours.
Take the turkey out of the oven, and cut the bag open. Be careful about steam and juices as they will be very hot. After removing the bag, put the turkey back in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees until the breast is deeply browned.
Take the turkey out of the oven and transfer it to a platter. Let it rest for half an hour. While the turkey is resting, strain the juices into a large sauce pan, and spoon the fat from the surface.
Simmer this over medium heat, until the sauce is reduced to about 4 cups. This should take about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Gravy: In a large heavy-duty sauté pan, melt the butter and sauté the onions until they are lightly browned. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook until browned. Add the cognac and wine, and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add your strained juices from the turkey that you had previously reduced into a sauce and set aside. After a couple of minutes, add the cream and cook through until warm.