Idea Lab

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season in Harlem, and 125th Street lights up. Since it’s a community day, we partner with our neighbors, the NBA Players Association, to give away roasted turkeys. The first year we did this, our sous chef Michael Garrett stayed up all night, making sure the turkeys would be ready.

We come up with a new recipe each year, and this is a particular favorite. I love the perfume from the lavender and rosemary. The port, red wine, and prune juice that baste the bird give it a mahogany skin, and when you cook cranberries in the pan juices, you’ve got a killer gravy.

Start brining the turkey the day before.

Put the neck out on the platter when you serve the turkey—you know someone’s going to want it. And save the liver for banh mi (see recipe below).

YIELD serves 8, with leftovers

  • 8 quarts water
  • 2½ cups fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup coarse kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 (12-pound) turkey
  • 2½ sticks (1¼ cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary needles, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons culinary lavender, crumbled, or 1 tablespoon lavender  flowers, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled, sliced, and smashed
  • ½ cup prune juice
  • ½ cup ruby port
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 12 pitted prunes, halved
  • 1 cup cranberries
  1. 1. Put 2 quarts of the water, 2 cups of the orange juice, the salt, and sugar into a very large pot over high heat and, stirring, bring to a simmer. Add the remaining 6 quarts water and cool to room temperature. Submerge the turkey and refrigerate for 18 hours.
  2. Mix 2 sticks of the butter with the rosemary and lavender. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Take the herb butter and the remaining ½ stick out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan on using them.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Pat the turkey dry. Slide your hands under the skin, loosening it from the breast and thighs. Rub the breast and thighs, under the skin, with the herb butter. Rub the turkey all over with the remaining ½ stick butter. Mix the pepper and garam masala and sprinkle all over the bird. Put the garlic, bay leaves, and ginger into the cavity and tie the legs together.
  5. Set the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and add the neck to the pan. Roast for 2 hours.
  6. Stir the remaining ½ cup orange juice, the prune juice, port, and red wine together in a measuring cup. Pour over the turkey. Scatter the sweet potatoes and prunes around the turkey. Slide the pan back into the oven and continue to roast, basting the turkey and stirring the sweet potatoes every 20 minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 more hour.
  7. Set the turkey on a carving board and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sweet potatoes and prunes to a serving bowl.
  8. Pour the pan juices into a fat separator. Let sit until separated, then pour the juices into a small saucepan, leaving the fat behind. Bring the defatted pan juices to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cranberries and boil until the cranberries pop. Taste for pepper (you won’t need salt).
  9. Put the cranberry gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the turkey, sweet potatoes, and prunes.

Marcus Samuelsson‘s Day-After-Thanksgiving Banh Mi

Leftover turkey sandwiches can be a lot more interesting than the usual ones with Swiss cheese and lettuce.

Start by mixing 2 tablespoons cornstarch with ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper and some salt. Use it to dust the turkey liver and 2 chicken livers (or 6 chicken livers). Heat a slick of grapeseed oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the livers until browned and cooked through but still a bit pink inside, about 3 minutes per side. Deglaze the skillet with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, cooking until the skillet is just about dry. Transfer the livers to a cutting board and return the skillet to the heat. Cut an apple into thin slices and sear them for 1 minute per side. Add them to the cutting board.

Cut a crisp baguette lengthwise in half. Cut the livers into pieces, arrange them over the bottom half, and smash them with a fork. Layer on the apples. Shred ½ pound leftover roast turkey and pile it on the sandwich. Top with about ¼ cup grated carrot and TK cup pickled cabbage. Stir 1 teaspoon Sriracha into 2 tablespoons mayo and slather it onto the other half of baguette. Put the top on, press, and cut in half. It’s a great lunch for two.