It occurred to us recently that many of the same flavors we crave on grilled meats during the summer also would be superb on roasted turkey at Thanksgiving. After all, cumin and chili powder and garlic and onion and thyme and smoked paprika don’t just play well with beef and ribs. They’re also splendid on turkey, not to mention alongside stuffing and mashed potatoes.
So we decided to see what would happen if we created a spice rub for our Turkey Day bird using the same ingredients we often reach for in a barbecue rub. The result was wonderful. Even better was the gravy we got from the bottom of the roasting pan.
Looking for sides that play up everything going on with this bird? Consider a cornbread-based stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes (perhaps with a dash of chili powder) and roasted squash drizzled with cumin-spiked butter.
Makes a 12- to 14-pound turkey with gravy
4 large yellow onions, quartered
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional, more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
12- to 14-pound turkey
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups turkey, chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2tablespoons instant flour, such as Wondra
Heat the oven to 375 F. Scatter the onions over the bottom of a roasting pan and fit a roasting rack over them.
In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, paprika, thyme, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Mix well, then add the butter and mash together to form a smooth paste.
Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry all over. Smear the spiced butter mixture all over the turkey, being sure to get it under the skin as well as in the cavity. Place the turkey on the rack in the prepared pan. Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, covering the turkey with foil if the skin begins to darken too much. By the end of roasting, the temperature of the breast should reach 160 F and the thigh should reach 170 F.
Move the turkey to a serving platter and cover first with a layer of foil, then with several layers of clean kitchen towels to keep warm.
Remove the rack from the pan and use a slotted spoon to lift the onions out and transfer to a blender.
Place the roasting pan over medium heat on the stovetop and add the wine. Bring to a simmer and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Whisk in the stock, tomato paste and vinegar. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking and heating until the gravy thickens.
Carefully pour the gravy from the pan into the blender with the onions. Puree until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt and black pepper, if needed. Serve with the turkey.
Nutrition information per serving (based on 18 servings): 380 calories; 130 calories from fat (34 percent of total calories); 15 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 195 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 51 g protein; 390 mg sodium.