Alex Guarnaschelli's Whole Turkey With Pepperoni and Mozzarella Dressing and Gravy

This Thanksgiving, amp up your stuffing by taking Alex Guarnaschelli's advice of incorporating pepperoni and mozzarella into the classic celery and onion-centered dish. If you don't normally cook your stuffing outside the bird, it may be time to reconsider; the stuffing has to reach at least 165°F in order to eliminate all the bacteria, and since it cooks slower than the turkey itself, you'll likely end up with dry, overcooked meat. To keep your vegetarian family members happy, be sure to serve the bird with a heaping dose of roasted butternut squash.

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1 14-16 lb. turkey, innards removed and reserved, and the neck reserved for gravy
kosher salt
2 bunches of thyme, plus 2 Tbsp.
freshly ground white pepper
9 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large piece of cheesecloth
3 medium yellow onions, peeled, halved, and cut into thin slices
8 stalks celery, stalks trimmed of leaves and ends, washed, dried, and cut into thin slices
8 slices white sandwich bread
10 fresh sage leaves, stemmed and cut into thin strips
1 tsp dry rosemary
1 turkey heart, cut into small pieces
1 turkey gizzard, cut into small pieces
10 oz pepperoni, skin removed and cut into small cubes
1 lb loose pork breakfast sausage, broken into small pieces and cooked
1 lb mozzarella cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock, boiled and cooled
1/2 cup dry Marsala or Sherry
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp flour

For the turkey:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.


2. Place the turkey on a flat surface, season with salt and pepper on the inside and out. Add the two bunches of thyme to the cavity and tie the legs closed with a strong piece of kitchen twine or string by wrapping them around the drumsticks and pulling them closed like your tying a shoe. Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack.


3. Melt 1/2 a stick of unsalted butter and soak the cheesecloth in it. Brush any remaining butter on top of the bird and cover the breasts with the cheesecloth to prevent the top skin from burning before the rest of the bird is cooked.


4. Lower the oven to 350°F and place the roasting pan in the center of the oven. Cook for about 12 minutes per pound of turkey. After about 2 hours of cooking, remove the cheesecloth from the top of the breasts and return the turkey to the oven.


5. When the temperature of the thigh (where the meat is thickest and takes the longest time to cook) meat registers 155-160°F when tested with a thermometer, remove the bird from the oven, transfer it to a flat surface (or serving platter) and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes before carving the meat.


For the dressing:

1. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) of the unsalted butter. Add the onions and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables, over medium heat, until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the contents to a bowl. Set aside.


2. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until light brown. Alternatively, brown them in a toaster. While the bread is still hot, lightly butter both sides of each piece. Cut into 1-inch squares and transfer them to a large bowl. Toss with salt, pepper, the remaining two tablespoons of thyme, sage, and rosemary. Set aside.


3. Heat a tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet and quickly sauté the heart and gizzard pieces, 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add it to the bowl of celery and onions. Stir to blend.


4. Heat a large skillet, add another tablespoon of the butter and sauté the pepperoni pieces over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.


5. Combine the celery and onion mixture, the cooked breakfast sausage, the mozzarella and the pepperoni in the bowl containing the toasted bread. Mix to blend and add a cup of chicken stock to moisten all of the ingredients. Place the dressing into a 9 X 9 baking dish and place in the oven. Cook for 30-35 minutes.


For the gravy:

1. While the turkey cooks, place the neck and 7 cups of chicken stock in a pot and simmer gently on top of the stove. The stock should reduce by about half. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.


2. Unless the bottom of the roasting pan is burned, place it over the burners of the stove, add the mustard and Marsala to the pan and warm it over low heat.


3. Scrape the bottom to get the drippings and tasty bits off the bottom of the pan as the Marsala reduces. Strain the neck out from the stock and pour about ½ cup of the stock into a small bowl. Whisk the flour into the bowl, taking care there are no lumps. Reduce the marsala until there is almost no liquid. Add the remaining chicken stock and the flour mixture to the roasting pan. Whisk to blend. Taste for seasoning.


4. Carve the turkey and arrange on platters, transfer the gravy to a gravy boat, and serve.


**Note: Calorie count is for one serving of turkey and one serving of dressing. One serving of gravy is 32 calories.