Roasted Turkey with Cinnamon and Star Anise

26 Sep

Greetings from the couch, where a nasty upper respiratory infection has kept me for the last several days. In the early days of the blog, I wrote an impassioned prescription for the uninsured; this time I can sing the praises of Flonase, which is the only thing that has brought me a moment’s comfort, courtesy of my awesome Primary Care Provider.  (To that end, October 1st is coming–check out your local Health Exchange if you need the hook-up to illness-altering drugs. And for all my fans in Canada–well, you just keep enjoying that single-payer system.)

Okay, so back to turkey. Right. So, a year ago BFKef received a turkey from his employer in a very Scrooge-on-Christmas-morning move. We had been meaning to cook it for, well…a year and finally decided that the best time to serve it up would be on my birthday. It didn’t really make sense to me either, but I found myself getting more and more excited about baking that bird as the date drew near.

Luckily, I have saved every November Bon Appetit issue since 2003 for a moment exactly like this one. I chose a recipe that came from the November 2011 issue, which called for a cider brine with star anise and cinnamon.  I assembled all the ingredients on the list (which was, admittedly, a bit long, even for me) only to find out that the good people of Trader Joe’s had pre-brined the turkey for us. Womp. Lesson learned- read your bird’s label, people!


So- I will post the recipe as we made it (sans brine)– but you should certainly give the ol’ cinder brine a try and let us know how it went. For proportion reference, ours was a 15-pounder!

Chef Kefi’s Birthday Bird


  • 1 pre-brined turkey, thawed, giblet/neck removed, rinsed, and dried
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 16 whole black peppercorns
  • 12 whole star anise pods
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • about 5 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 TBS cinnamon
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 granny smith apples,  cored and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup of mushrooms (shitake if you’re feeling fancy, regular if not), chopped
  • a few citrus fruits, chopped (use whatever’s in the fridge- we used 2-3 lemons and 2-3 limes, plus 1 clementine)
  • 32 oz apple cider


1. Preheat oven to 400F. Put butter, peppercorn, star anise, garlic, green onions, ginger, cinnamon, and cilantro in food processor and grate until a seasoned butter has formed. It took me about 3 minutes of processing, more or less.

2. Place your bird in a roasting pan on a rack and gently loosen the skin so you can stick your hands between the skin and the meat. I can’t give you any helpful hints on this one because I made BFKef do this dirty job. Carefully push as much butter as you can in between the skin and the meat. Spread the remaining butter all over the exterior of the bird.

3. Mix the apples, onions, mushrooms, and citrus together. Throw some in the cavity and the rest between the bird and the pan. Truss the bird if you feel so inclined (we didn’t). Pour apple cider into pan around the bird. Put turkey in oven.

4. Call every parent you have between you and whoever you’re cooking with so they can each tell you a different roasting scheme, even if they have been cooking turkeys with another one of the parents-in-counsul since the early 1980s. Opt instead to follow Trader Joe’s instructions, which are as follows:
— 400F for 30 minutes
— Turn oven down to 325, roast for another 90 minutes
— Take turkey out to baste generously and then tent with tin foil
— Continue roasting per poundage guidelines until someone more experienced than you says its done (or the meat thermometer you just happen to have hanging out says that the thigh is 165F). For us, it took a little less than 4 hours.

5. Let cooked bird rest for 20-30 minutes before serving. Let your beaming BF carve in front of a crowd. Enjoy.


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