Sick of hearing about brines and frying and smoking? Had your fill of sage and thyme and rosemary?
Has even the novelty of rubbing a can of cranberry sauce under the skin of the Thanksgiving turkey lost its magic for you this year?
We wanted something. different. But not so different as to disturb. Thanksgiving, after all, is a holiday of tradition.
So, when we searched the spice cabinet for new and inventive ways to flavor the bird, we considered combinations that struck that perfect balance between comforting and challenging. And that is how we came to roast a turkey rubbed inside and out with a blend of crushed black pepper and vanilla bean paste.
Vanilla doesn't need to be sweet. And its aromatic, almost exotic side blends so nicely with the rich, creamy and heavy flavors and dishes so common to the Thanksgiving table.
Vanilla bean paste can be found alongside the vanilla extract at most grocers. It also can be ordered from baking-supply companies. If desired, the turkey can be seasoned the day before to save time and allow the flavors to penetrate deeper into the meat.
VANILLA-BLACK PEPPER TURKEY WITH CASHEW-FIG STUFFING
Start to finish: 3 to 3-1/2 hours (30 minutes active)
For the turkey:
12- to 14-pound turkey
8-ounce jar vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the stuffing:
10 ounces dried figs (about 1-1/2 cups), stems removed, quartered
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 loaf challah bread or brioche, cubed and lightly toasted
1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
Zest of 1/2 orange
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups chicken or turkey broth
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Place the turkey on a rack set in a roasting pan. Use your hands to gently loosen the skin of the turkey.
Rub the vanilla bean paste under the skin, making sure to get some on all parts of the bird. Also rub some on the inside of the cavity.
In a small bowl, mix together the black pepper and salt. Rub liberally over the skin of the bird and sprinkle some inside the cavity.
Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 F and the breast reaches 160 F, about 2-1/2 to 3 hours. If the turkey begins to brown too much, tent it with foil.
About an hour before the turkey is done cooking, prepare the stuffing.
In a microwave safe dish, or a small saucepan over medium-high, cover the figs with water and heat to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until soft and well-browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the cardamom and thyme, then saute for another minute.
Drain the figs. In a large casserole dish, combine the onion mixture with the bread cubes, cashews and drained figs.
In a medium bowl, combine the orange zest, eggs, salt, pepper, vanilla and broth. Pour this over the bread mixture and toss to coat.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
When the turkey is done cooking, allow it to rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then move to a serving platter. Serve with the stuffing.
Nutrition facts per serving: 755 calories; 268 calories from fat (35% of total calories); 30 g. fat (9 g. saturated; 0 g. trans fats); 245 mg. cholesterol; 55 g. carbohydrate; 65 g. protein; 4 g. fiber; 1,145 mg. sodium.