The beauty of this recipe is almost all the work is done before Thanksgiving. The turkey, dressing and gravy are all made the day before.

Most of our Thanksgiving menu was prepared in advance. The pumpkin pies were also made a day ahead and the appetizers were prepared early Thanksgiving morning while everyone else slept (well not Dylan, he never sleeps past 7 am, unfortunately!).

I had our butcher butterfly a 15lb free range turkey. He removed the back bone and breast plates. The plan was to roast the turkey on top of the dressing so the drippings from the turkey would mix into the dressing. I did not have a roasting pan that had a cover with holes in it but I did have a roasting pan with a wire rack which I thought would work.

In hindsight, I probably should have covered the rack with foil and cut some holes in it for drainage. This would have slowed the drainage down and not made the dressing so moist. However, everyone loved the dressing as it was. I just thought it was not the ‘traditional style dressing’.

The following recipes are adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen “Best Entertaining Recipes” DVD. To print the recipes, click on the print link at the end of the recipes.


Serves 10 to 12


For the Turkey

2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 turkey (15 pounds, but will work for 12-15lbs), rinsed thoroughly, and butterflied by the butcher (or you can do it yourself)
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the Sausage Dressing

12 cups Italian loaf bread broken into 1-inch pieces (include crumbs), or 18 cups
1-3/4 cups organic chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half
2 large free range eggs, beaten lightly
14 ounces breakfast sausage, squeezed out of skin
3 medium onions, chopped fine (about 3 cups)
3 ribs celery, chopped fine (about 11/2 cups)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper


Brining the turkey

Dissolve salt and sugar in 2 gallons cold water in large stockpot or clean bucket. Add turkey and refrigerate or set in very cool spot (about 40 degrees) for 8 hours. I did not have the room in the fridge for this so I bought a large styrofoam cooler for $2.50 at the grocery store and a bag of ice. I placed the brining solution in the cooler, added the turkey and topped with some ice. I kept checking the cooler every hour or two to see if it needed more ice. The ice did dilute the brining solution somewhat – next time I do this, I will probably put the turkey (since it’s butterflied and very flexible) directly into the brining solution in the pot, and put the pot in the cooler and surround it with ice.

Preparing the dressing

  1. Adjust one oven rack to upper-middle position and second rack to lower-middle position. Heat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Spread bread pieces in even layers on 2 rimmed baking sheets and dry in oven for about 40 to 50 minutes.
  3. Whisk together stock, half-and-half, and eggs in a medium bowl
  4. Place bread chunks in a large bowl. Pour stock mixture over the bread and toss to coat thoroughly.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, until hot.  Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until sausage is not raw. Remove sausage with slotted spoon to a bowl.
  6. Add about half the onions and celery to the sausage fat in the skillet and  sauté, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes.Transfer onion and celery mixture to bowl with sausage.
  7. Return skillet to heat and add 2 tbsp butter and the remaining celery and onions, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Stir in thyme, sage, and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Add this second mixture along with sausage and onion mixture to the bread pieces and fold gently to combine.
  10. Spray large roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray. Put dressing in roasting pan and spread it out evenly. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate.

Drying the turkey

  1. Remove turkey from the brine and rinse well under cool running water.
  2. Place turkey on a broiler pan or foil-lined rack (punch a few holes in the foil for drainage) and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Place turkey and pan on top of the stuffing in your roasting pan (still covered with foil) and refrigerate overnight, uncovered. Stacking the two pans saves you space in your fridge – if you have a huge fridge, you can place them side by side.

Butterflied Turkey on Sausage Dressing
Roasting the turkey and dressing

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Remove turkey and stuffing from the fridge.
  3. Remove the foil covering the dressing in your roasting pan. Baste the turkey with 1-2 tbsp melted butter, then place the turkey and broiler pan on top of dressing again. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes.
  4. Rotate roasting pan and continue to roast for an additional 40-45 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F in the breast and 175 F degrees in the thigh.
  5. Remove the turkey and place on cutting board. Loosely tent with foil and let rest 20 minutes.
  6. Place the dressing in the roasting pan back in oven and continue to bake for 10 minutes (or until golden brown). Remove from oven and let rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes



Turkey trimmings: reserved giblets (do not use the liver), neck, tailpiece, and backbone and breast bones from turkey
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 rib celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small onions, coarsley chopped
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3-1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
2 cups dry white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and ground black pepper


  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Place the turkey trimmings, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in large roasting pan and spray lightly with vegetable oil spray.  Toss to combine.
  3. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until well-browned, 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from oven, and place over burner(s) set at high heat. Add chicken stock and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan with wooden spoon. Transfer contents of pan to large saucepan. Add wine, 3 cups water, and thyme; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 11/2 hours. (Note: if you don’t have a roasting pan that can be placed on top of a burner, just transfer the contents to your large saucepan and add the chicken stock directly to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Then add the wine, water and thyme and bring to boil again before simmering.)
  5. Strain your stock into a large bowl. Cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next day, skim fat from stock, keeping  fat for the gravy. Pour stock through fine-mesh strainer to remove remaining bits of fat. You can discard these remaining bits of fat.
  7. Bring stock to simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  8. In another medium saucepan, heat 4 tbsp of the reserved turkey fat (skimmed from the stock) over medium-high heat until bubbling. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly with your whisk, until combined and honey-colored, about 2 minutes. You need to make sure you get that honey-colored look, or your roux will be undercooked.
  9. Continue to whisk constantly and gradually add the hot stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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