A roast turkey in New York, Oct. 24, 2015. When cooking for a large group at Thanksgiving, cooking one showpiece turkey and a pan full of turkey parts is easier and less time consuming than trying to roast two or more full birds.
Photo: ANDREW SCRIVANI
Photo: ANDREW SCRIVANI

Thanksgiving for all tables

Feeding a big gang has its challenges. Most Thanksgiving recipes are tailored for eight to 12 guests. But what if you’re having 25?

Roasting two whole turkeys at the same time demands a giant oven. Carving said fowl is a daunting task requiring at least several helpers if you want to get the meat onto the table while it’s still hot.

Instead, try roasting one bird to use as your centerpiece for the big Norman Rockwell moment (get your phone cameras ready), while simultaneously roasting a tray of turkey parts on a separate rack underneath. The parts cook quickly, are incredibly easy to carve, and you can tailor them to your group, eliminating any fights over dark meat or white.

Think of it as the Thanksgiving analogue to the wedding-cake trick: At large affairs, there’s always one tiered cake done up for show, and several other plain sheet pans full of cake that are easy for the caterers to slice and quickly serve.

Rosemary and Citrus Turkey for a Crowd

From Melissa Clark

Time: 3 hours, plus overnight dry-brining

Yield: 20 to 24 servings

Ingredients

1 (10- to 12-pound) whole turkey

8 pounds bone-in turkey parts (see note)

4 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons black pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

6 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or minced

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Finely grated zest of 2 oranges (save the oranges for juicing)

2 bunches rosemary

1 bunch thyme

3 white onions, peeled, halved and sliced

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch coins

3 celery stalks, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 apples, cored and sliced

Dry white wine, as needed

3/4 cup melted butter or olive oil

Preparation

1. Remove giblets from inside the turkey; reserve for stock or gravy. Pat meat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper, allspice, garlic and citrus zests. Pat mixture all over turkey and turkey parts (including inside the whole turkey cavity). Stuff one bunch of rosemary in cavity of whole turkey. Strew remaining rosemary and the thyme all over turkey and turkey parts. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

2. Remove whole turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to cook it so it can come to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange oven racks so the pan with the whole turkey will fit on top rack, and the two pans with parts will fit underneath.

3. Place whole turkey (with herb branches clinging to it) on a rack in a roasting pan. Take parts out of the fridge and place the breasts in a 9-by-13-inch roasting pan. Place the legs and wings in a separate 9-by-13 roasting pan.

4. Distribute onions, carrots, celery and apples into all three pans, scattering them on the bottom of the large roasting pan under the whole turkey, and tucking them in among turkey pieces. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons wine over each pan of turkey parts and pour 1/2 cup wine in the bottom of the whole turkey pan.

5. Transfer whole turkey to the oven and roast for 1 hour (let the parts come to room temperature while the turkey starts roasting).

6. Add parts to the oven underneath the rack with the whole turkey on it, and roast for an additional 30 minutes.

7. Squeeze the juice from the two zested oranges. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees and sprinkle about a third of the orange juice into the bottom of each of the three pans.

8. Drizzle the butter or oil all over the whole turkey and the pieces. Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat registers 165 degrees, about 20 to 30 minutes more for the whole turkey, and 15 to 45 minutes longer for the parts. (Note: The turkey breasts may cook faster than the dark meat, so keep your eye on them.) If the breast of the whole turkey starts to look too brown before the bird is cooked through, cover it loosely with foil.

9. When cooked through, cover whole turkey with foil and let rest for 20 minutes while the parts finish cooking.

10. When all the turkey parts are cooked through, adjust oven temperature to broil. Broil turkey parts until skin turns golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Let parts rest for 5 minutes before carving and serving. If you want to use the drippings for gravy or stock, strain or use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables first.

Notes: You can use your favorite cuts here — all dark or all white meat depending upon what you prefer. Or use a mix. Just make sure your breasts are on the bone. You can substitute two boneless breasts for the bone-in breasts, but they will cook more quickly. Start checking after 30 minutes total cooking time, though it could take up to 50 minutes.

If you can’t buy parts, buy another whole turkey and cut it into 8 pieces. To do so, slice the turkey legs away from the body at the joint where the thigh connects to the body. Separate each thigh from the drumstick by slicing through the joints. Separate wings from the breast by cutting through the joints. Place limbless turkey, breast-side up, in front of you. Using a sharp knife or poultry shears, cut along sides of ribs to remove the entire breast. Turn breast upside down. Cut through the center of the breast bone to separate the two breasts completely. Save backbone and any other scraps for stock or gravy.

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