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Updating the roast turkey — with a yogurt marinade

Written By Pam Brandon and Anne-Marie Denicole On November 18, 2009

tandoori turkeyThe Pilgrims weren’t afraid of change, so why are you? Since the first Thanksgiving way back in 1620, we’ve had, oh, around 390 years to get it right. How the original menu of fish, fowl, pumpkins, berries and nuts morphed into kitschy melted marshmallow sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and quivering mounds of canned cranberry reflects a culinary saga as bold and twisted as our American history.

Just this once, in the rebellious spirit of our ancestral pilgrims, try something new.

What sets this turkey apart is the yogurt marinade. As the bird languishes overnight in the savory brew, the yogurt’s live cultures and lactic acids tenderize the meat and, when roasted, create an incredibly crisp, golden, caramelized skin to truly give thanks for.

To go with, try a cranberry chutney and mix ground coriander and butter into smashed sweet potatoes. Scald mustard seeds in a bit of vegetable oil to add an exotic edge to steamed green beans or corn.  


8 to 12-pound turkey
1 cup plain yogurt
Juice of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons melted butter for basting, optional

Remove neck and giblets and rinse the turkey thoroughly under cold running water; pat dry. Mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger paste, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt.

Place the turkey in a zip-top bag (2 1/2-gallon capacity) and pour yogurt marinade over the bird. Massage marinade into the turkey, making sure it is evenly distributed. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the turkey from the bag and place in a roasting pan, breast side down (discard remaining marinade). Roast turkey uncovered for one hour. Turn the bird breast side up, loosely tent with foil and continue roasting until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees, about 3 hours. Baste with pan drippings every hour; during the last 30 minutes, remove foil tent and baste with melted butter, if desired. This will caramelize the skin and create a gorgeous golden color.

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