Molasses enriches flavor, color of turkey

November 14, 1990

Anthony Dias and Kathryn K. Blue say this basic turkey recipe has served their family well for years; they include it in their book "Thanksgiving Dinner." The glaze flavors the skin and gives the bird a very dark mahogany color, he says. Another tip from Mr. Blue: If you're a stuffing fanatic, make two flavors and put one in the bird's neck cavity and one in the body cavity.

For this recipe, you'll need poultry skewers, a large roasting pan with a rack and a pastry brush.

Turkey with molasses glaze

Serves 12, with leftovers.

16-pound turkey, fresh or fully defrosted

salt and freshly ground pepper

stuffing (10 to 12 cups)

2 tablespoons molasses or maple syrup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. (Remove giblets from turkey.) Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Sprinkle the body cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff loosely (stuffing expands during cooking) and close the opening with metal skewers. Also stuff the neck cavity and skewer it closed.

2. Tie the turkey's legs together. Place it breast side up on a rack (we use a Teflon-coated V-shaped rack) set in a large roasting pan.

3. Place the turkey in the center of the oven and roast, basting occasionally with the pan juices.

4. (If you don't wish to use the glaze, you could let the turkey roast and continue to baste occasionally. Watch the color until it is brown enough, then tent the turkey to prevent further coloring.)

(If you wish to use the glaze, set the oven timer for 2 1/2 hours when you put the turkey in the oven. When the timer sounds, mix the molasses or maple syrup and soy sauce in a small dish. Use a pastry brush to carefully paint the entire turkey with the glaze. This method makes the bird very dark, very quickly, so when the turkey reaches desired brownness, tent it with foil, shiny side down).

5. The turkey will be done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers about 180 degrees and juices run clear; the stuffing in the cavity should measure 160 degrees, according to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. Mr. Blue's recipe recommends that the thigh meat reach at least 170 degrees. This should take between 4 1/2 and 5 hours total cooking time. When the internal temperatures are right, transfer the turkey to a carving board or platter and let it rest 20 minutes before carving. (Reserve pan juices for gravy.)

Sausage-crouton stuffing

Makes 16 cups.

This recipe, which does not contain eggs, can be prepared 1 day ahead and chilled.

1 1/4 pounds challah or other egg bread, crusts trimmed, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1 medium onion, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 cup drained canned water chestnuts, quartered

1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) toasted and coarsely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried sage

1/4 cup chicken or turkey stock (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on 2 large cookie sheets. Bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Crumble the sausage meat into a large skillet and saute over medium heat until cooked through, about 12 minutes. Add to the bread crumbs, using a slotted spoon.

In the same skillet, saute the onion and celery until transparent, about 10 minutes. Add to the bread mixture. Mix in the water chestnuts, pecans, parsley and sage. Add the stock and butter and toss to combine (the mixture will be dry). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before stuffing the turkey.

(Place the leftover stuffing in a buttered souffle dish and bake it alongside the turkey for the last hour of the turkey cooking time, basting the stuffing occasionally with pan juices. Or take about 4 cups of the stuffing, baste it with some homemade turkey or chicken stock and bake it the night before.)

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