Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy Recipes

November 20, 2016
Thanksgiving Recipe Turkey Gravy Pumpkin Paris

This Thanksgiving my husband and I will be hosting 7 guests in our tiny 350 square foot (33m2) apartment.

We’ll have everyone over on Saturday, since Thursday isn’t a national holiday in France. I explained a little about this in my last post about Turkey Day. By chance, I won’t be working on Thursday, so I’ve decided to split up the cooking.  On Thursday, I’ll cook one turkey, the gravy, the soup and the pumpkin pies. Plus, I’ll get the green bean casserole prepped to just put in the oven. Saturday, I’ll reheat the soup, cook one more turkey, pop the casserole in the oven, and make the fresh whipped cream. The other guests will bring the rest.


Need a “How To Guide” to host your own Thanksgiving in Paris? I’ve got you covered with my article “How to Host an American Thanksgiving in Paris.” There you’ll find lists of stores to buy ingredients and cooking tools, recipes for side dishes and desserts, and tips on managing your French guests’ culture shock of having a big family meal without a cheese plate. 😉

Read below for my turkey and gravy recipes, and click above for recipe suggestions for the sides!

I don’t like to follow one recipe, because I guess I find that boring.

I’m a big experimenter in the kitchen and I will typically read 5-10 different recipes before choosing 2 or 3 to mix together into something I think I’ll like. I don’t want to get too creative on the Big Day, so I’ve decided to write down my chosen methods in advance. This way, I can just follow the instructions on Thursday and Saturday. Quelle idée! 😉

Below our menu, you’ll find the recipes I’ll use for the holiday.

Our Thanksgiving Menu:

– Cocktail hour with munchies and champagne

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (starter) *Click the link to open a new window with my delicious recipe

– Turkey and gravy (oh, and wine to drink, of course)
– Green bean casserole (French’s Fried Onion has the recipe on the lable – my grandmother loved making this)
– Stuffing (Stovetop, because it takes 6 minutes instead of 90 minutes, though I might modify it with some of the goodies from the bottom of the turkey pan… to be determined!)
– Jellied cranberry sauce (Ocean Spray, because it’s delicious, and takes 60 seconds to prepare)
– Mashed potatoes (a guest is bringing this)
– Biscuits (a guest is bringing this)

– Blueberry pie (a guest is bringing this)
– Pumpkin pie (recipe from Libby’s pumpkin filling plus fancy crust decoration)
– Fresh maple syrup flavored whipped cream
– A surprise dessert that a guest is bringing
– Tea and coffee

What does your Thanksgiving menu look like?

Here is the turkey recipe I’ll be using:

Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

  • Servings: 4-6 (or 10??)
  • Difficulty: medium
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In an attempt to have the most tasty and moist turkey - without brining - I've mixed up several recipes and tips. The cheesecloth idea comes from a Martha Stewart recipe that has a ton of RAVING reviews. Apparently this is the go-to recipe for a lot of people. I modified the bird-prep quite a bit, but I kept the cheesecloth element exactly as described. Hopefully it will be amazing!

Cooking time depends on the size of your bird. The general rule of thumb is 13-15 minutes per pound of turkey. Always test the turkey for the right temperature. Stick the thermometer in the “armpit of the turkey leg” – in the meat between the leg and the under-breast. Once the temperature reaches at least 165 degrees F, your turkey is done. Also, if the juices run clear, you can be sure it’s done. Over cooking the turkey will dry it out and the flavor will disappear.


  • 1 fresh turkey, completely thawed if frozen and allowed to sit out at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking (giblets and neck removed from cavity and reserved for gravy)
  • salt for seasoning
  • pepper for seasoning

Stuff the bird with:

  • 1 granny smith apple, cored and peeled.
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 10 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
  • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 celery branches cut into large 2-3″ sections
  • 1/2 peeled and quartered onion

For the bottom of the pan to make the gravy more delicious:

  • 2 peeled carrots cut into large 2″ sections
  • 3 celery branches cut into large 2″ sections
  • 1 peeled and quartered onion

Cheesecloth wine-butter soak (optional):

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) melted unsalted butter
  • 750ml of a dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)

Herb butter rub (optional):

  • 6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Special Cooking Tools

instant read thermometer
cooking twine
poultry roasting rack
large roasting pan
pastry brush


  1. If turkey is not brined, rub bird inside and out with salt the night before cooking. Then rinse in the morning.
  2. Let the (completely thawed) turkey sit out at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a rack in the roasting pan.
  3. Place 2 carrots, 3 celery and 1 onion – peeled and cut in large chunks – in the bottom of the pan (this provides excellent flavor for the gravy).
  4. (Optional:) Herb-butter rub: In a bowl, mix together 6 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh thyme, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh sage leaves, 1 teaspoon of course salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. (This mixture can be prepared the night in advance and left at room temperature until the turkey is being prepared to go in the oven.) Lift the skin of the breast starting near the neck and separate the skin from the meat. Smear the mixture under the skin on the breast, thighs and upper drumsticks. Save about a tablespoon and rub the entire turkey with the remaining herb butter, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, pressing them on the skin. (NOTE: This will make the turkey look very ugly and is a frustrating task to accomplish. My culinary-trained mother says this probably has a really nice impact on the flavor, so it could be worth keeping!) [NOTE #2: If you do not use this herb butter rub, then you’ll want to simply rub the outside of the turkey with butter and sprinkle it with 1/5 teaspoons of salt and pepper.]
  5. Stuff the Turkey: Loosely fill main cavity with herb sprigs (6 rosemary, 6 thyme and 10 parsley), 1 apple (peeled, cored and quartered), 1/2 onion (quartered), and two roughly chopped celery stalks. Some of these can be placed in the neck cavity. Fold neck flap under, and secure with toothpicks. Loosely tie legs together with cooking twine to hold shape. Tuck wing tips under the bird.
  6. Place rack on lowest level in oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees (F).
  7. (Optional:) Prepare the cheesecloth soak: Mix 1 1/2 cup of melted butter with 750ml of a dry white wine (like Chardonnay) in a bowl. Fold the cheesecloth into quarters and soak it in this mixture. Lift the cheesecloth out of the mixture, and squeeze it a little, leaving it wet. Keep the four layers stacked on top of each other and cover the turkey breast. [*NOTE: the white wine adds a very particular flavor to the pan juices, and therefore the gravy. Personally, I didn’t like this flavor. You could skip this element of the recipe if you like.]
  8. Place turkey in oven. Cook for 30 minutes at 450F, then baste the turkey with juices from the bottom of the pan. (If using the cheesecloth with the butter wine mixture, use a pastry brush and baster to add more butter/wine to the cheesecloth.)
  9. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees (F). Baste again every 30 minutes, and turn the turkey pan every hour so it cooks evenly. (If there is too much juice in the pan, spoon it out and reserve them for gravy.)
  10. The cooking time varies for every oven and every turkey. The bigger the turkey, the longer it will take to cook. The general rule is 15 minutes per pound, until the inner thigh reaches 165 degrees F. In my little oven, a 10-lb turkey took 2.5 hours. A 14-lb turkey took 3 hours. After about 1.5 hours, start to check the temperature each time you baste the bird.
  11. Check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Don’t worry about the breast, focus only on the thickest part of the thigh and don’t touch a bone. Stick the thermometer deep into the crevice between the turkey leg and the under-breast. The turkey is done when the temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  12. (If following the cheesecloth concept: When the temperature of the turkey reaches 150-160 degrees F, carefully remove the cheesecloth. Baste the turkey with pan juices. Cook another 30 minutes.)
  13. When fully cooked (at 165 degrees F), remove from oven.
  14. Carefully tilt the turkey vertically to empty the juices from the cavity of the bird into the pan. Move the turkey to a cutting board, and let rest for about 1 hour before carving. Reserve the pan and its contents for the gravy. (I promise that moving the bird to a cutting board is a good idea. Otherwise the skin could dry around the wire rack, making it difficult to separate the turkey from the rack! I learned the hard way… haha)

I’ll cook two turkeys, one on the big day and one in advance to make my life a little easier. For the turkey I’ll cook in advance, after baking it, I’ll slice it and assemble it on an ovenproof serving platter, cover it with aluminum foil and put it in the fridge. On the day of the meal, I’ll take it out of the fridge two hours in advance and let it sit at room temperature for an hour. I’ll pour a 1/4-inch layer of gravy in the pan (this can be done in advance or on Turkey-Day). An hour before serving, I’ll pop this in the oven for 30 minutes to get it hot! The oven should be around 325 degrees (F). I found this idea in the New York Times.

Credit goes to this mix of sources:

– My parents
Martha Stewart’s Perfect Roast Turkey
Men’s Health Scientific Secrets of Better Turkey
Bon Appetit Magazine’s Porcini Mushroom Turkey
Martha Stewart’s Herb Roasted Turkey

*POST UPDATE: This turkey recipe is amazing! After serving it for our Thanksgiving, we discovered the taste is incredible. I would absolutely recommend it. The cooking in advance method was also a very good idea. However, it turns out the white wine adds a flavor to the gravy that I don’t particularly like. In 2017 I didn’t do the butter/wine cheesecloth, and I didn’t do the herb butter rub, and the turkey came out delicious. So… your call!

Here’s a classic gravy recipe which reminds me of the way my mom made gravy when I was a kid.

Classic Turkey Gravy

  • Servings: 5-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


    Giblet Broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion or leek, or 2 shallots, sliced
  • Neck and giblets from your turkey (discard the liver)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs thyme, parsley, rosemary and/or sage
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Gravy
  • Turkey drippings from your roasting pan
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter (optional)


  1. In a medium-size pot, melt the butter and add the chopped onion, giblets and turkey neck (discard the liver). Cook to brown the giblets. Then add the chicken broth, bay leaf and herb sprigs.
  2. Simmer for about 2 hours, or until you have 3 cups of giblet broth. Then strain the broth and keep warm. This can be made ahead and refrigerated until it’s gravy-time.
  3. When the turkey is done, remove the turkey and the vegetable bits from the turkey baking pan.
  4. ONLY if you’re using a stainless steel pan: put the pan with the turkey juices on the stove burner on medium-low heat and using a wooden spoon deglaze the pan, scraping all of the dark bits from the bottom of the pan. If the pan is not stainless steel, skip this step and jump to #5.
  5. Pour all of the juices and dark bits from the turkey roasting pan to a fat separator or glass measuring cup and let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the fat to separate. You can put this in the fridge to help separate the fat and the juice for the gravy. Once they are separate, take a spoon and discard the fat.
  6. Make a roux with 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of flour. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the flour browns, about 4 minutes.
  7. Gradually add the 3 cups of giblet broth to the roux, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil.
  8. Pour pan juices into the gravy. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium low.
  9. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. If the gravy doesn’t thicken after a long time, you may need to make more roux in a separate pan and add it.
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve in a warm gravy boat.

Credit for this recipe goes to:

– My parents
– Alton Brown’s giblet gravy recipe (which is no longer online)

Save it for later:

Thanksgiving Recipes Turkey Gravy

What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?

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