Citrus-Roasted Turkey


There are certain times in an expat’s life when it is especially difficult to be away: a wedding that you can’t attend, the birth of a niece you won’t meet for months, a death in the family, or a presidential election. I was in Italy when Obama was elected for the first time, and while I did find some Americans to celebrate with, I longed to be in America for that historic moment. Yesterday was even worse. When the world seems turned upside down, the future bleak, and disappointment crushes the soul, it’s natural turn to family, food and tradition for comfort.

Fortunately this is the right season for all those things, as Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Even if I can’t go home for the holiday, I will bring the festivities to me. This year I will am making a citrus infused turkey for my traditional dinner, accompanied by Wild Turkey cocktails and many delicious side dishes. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; I love the food, the smells, the family, and I love the idea of “giving thanks.” It’s important, especially in our darkest hours, to reflect on gratitude and love. Also, it’s a great excuse to make a whole turkey and pumpkin pie!

Note: I suggest only stuffing the bird with a few aromatics (instead of the traditional bread-based stuffing) to insure quicker cook time and more uniform roasting of the turkey. I like to cook the bread-and-chestnut stuffing separately and serve it as a side dish. If you prefer a more traditional stuffed turkey, you can find the recipe here.

Another note: I highly recommend liberally salting your turkey the day before cooking it, which will greatly improve the texture and flavor of your final product. So, salt you turkey liberally (inside and out), cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator all night (or up to 36 hours) before cooking.

Citrus-roasted Turkey

  • 1 large turkey (about 5 kg/ 11 lbs)
  • 2 sticks (230 g) butter, softened to room temperature, divided
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
  • 2 sprigs of sage, plus more for decoration
  • 1 whole orange, quartered
  • 1 red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 1/3 cup (3 cl) chicken or turkey broth
  • 1 1/2 cup (3 cl) white wine


  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
  • 4 cups (1 lt) chicken or turkey broth
  • 3 tablespoons (30 g) all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 425°F/ 215°C. Stir together white wine, vegetable broth, and half of the butter in a pot over medium heat until butter melts. Keep warm.

Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan, or in a greased roasting pan. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper inside turkey (if you haven’t previously salted your turkey).

Mix remaining butter and lemon and orange zest in small bowl; season citrus butter with salt and pepper; let stand at room temperature.

Slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Rub citrus butter over breast meat under skin, then smooth skin back in place. Place the quartered orange, onion, and two sprigs of sage in the main cavity of the turkey.

Tie legs together with kitchen twine and fold wing tips under turkey. Rub remaining citrus butter over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey generously with salt and pepper.

Place turkey in preheated oven and roast 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth and wine mixture over the turkey. Roast for 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth and wine mixture over. Repeat every 30 minutes. If browning too quickly, cover turkey loosely with foil. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F. Transfer turkey to platter; let stand 30 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, make gravy: carefully pour pan juices into a measuring cup and let sit for a 1-2 minutes, or until fat separates from juices. Skim fat off of juices and set aside. Heat the reserved herb butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and add 1 Tbsp of reserved turkey fat. Whisk in flour, and  cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Slowly whisk in pan juices, then broth, and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer, whisking occasionally, until gravy thickens, about 5 minutes. Add more broth if gravy thickens too much. Serve warm.

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