Turkey a la Carte

November 2005
Turkey a la Carte

by 4 people

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Roasting a turkey breast and legs that have been separated from the carcass makes sense for several reasons. First, it takes up less oven space, so you can bake your stuffing or other sides simultaneously. Also, the bird cooks faster than it does when roasted whole. And, finally, you have an excuse to skip the tableside carving ceremony, which Ive always found intimidating (all those people staring and judging). If you ask nicely, your butcher will separate a fresh turkey into legs and a whole breast and save you the work. Preseparated breasts and legs are available at most supermarkets around the holidays. If you buy a frozen turkey, wait until it thaws to cut the legs and the whole breast offand be sure to leave the breast on the bone.

Makes: 8 servings

Prep: 20 mins

Cook: 1 hr 30 mins

  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons softened and 6 tablespoons melted and skimmed, for basting
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (about 10 leaves)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 12- to 14-pound turkey, legs and breast separated (ask your butcher to do this) and breast left whole on the bone (discard the carcass or set aside for another use)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Mix together the softened butter, fennel seeds and sage and season with salt and pepper. Carefully slide your hands under the skin of the turkey pieces until it separates from the flesh, then spread the herb butter evenly between the meat and skin. Season the turkey pieces with salt and pepper. Place the pieces, skin side up, in a single layer in a large roasting pan outfitted with a rack. Transfer to the oven.
  2. After 15 minutes, baste the turkey with the melted butter. Continue basting every 15 minutes, until both breast and legs reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees when a thermometer is inserted in the thickest parts, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.