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Pimentón & Fennel Roast Turkey with Onion Gravy

By Tom Douglas From Moveable Feast Season 47, Ep.81
Scott Phillips

Servings: 10-12, or 6-8 with leftovers.

Be sure to use a flameproof roasting pan so it can go directly over the burner when it’s time to make the gravy. You can find pimentón, Spanish smoked paprika, in specialty stores or online at McCormick.com or iGourmet.com.


For the smoked paprika and fennel seed butter:

  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs. fennel seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 Tbs. sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme leaves (save the stems for the turkey cavity)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For the turkey:

  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large onion (about 12 oz.), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 12-lb. turkey
  • 1 recipe Fennel Salt 
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Zest of 1 lemon, removed in long strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 large sprigs thyme, plus the stems from the chopped thyme above

For the onion gravy

  • 7 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups Turkey Broth, hot

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on twelve servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 640
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 310
  • Fat (g): 34
  • Saturated Fat (g): 13
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 7
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11
  • Cholesterol (mg): 220
  • Sodium (mg): 790
  • Carbohydrates (g): 8
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 71


Make the paprika-fennel butter:

  • Put the butter in a small bowl. Add the fennel seeds, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper, and mix until well blended. Set aside at room temperature (refrigerate if making ahead).

Prepare the turkey:

  • Position a rack in the lowest part of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a large flameproof roasting pan lightly with 1 Tbs. of the melted butter. Make a bed of the onions in the center of the pan.
  • Trim off the wing tips at the first joint and, if already loose, trim the tail from the turkey. Remove the giblets (discard the liver) and neck and set them aside with the wing tips and tail for making the broth. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Set the turkey on a work surface and loosen the skin over the breasts by sliding your hands under the skin. Rub all of the paprika-fennel butter under the skin, smearing it over the breast. Brush the turkey skin all over with the remaining 3 Tbs. melted butter. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. of the fennel salt all over the skin of the turkey (sprinkle a little inside the cavity, too). Place the garlic cloves, lemon zest, and thyme sprigs inside the cavity. If you like, tuck the legs into the tail flap (or tie them together loosely if there is no flap).
  • Set the turkey, breast side up, on top of the onions in the roasting pan (there is no need for a rack). Roast for 1 hour and then baste the turkey with the drippings that have collected in the pan and rotate the pan. Continue to roast, basting every 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of both thighs reads 170°F, 1-1/2 to 2 hours more. (If the turkey is browning too much, tent it with foil.) Set the turkey on a large platter to rest, tented with foil, for about 20 minutes while you make the gravy.

Make the gravy:

  • Set the roasting pan with the onions and juices over medium-high heat (it may need to straddle two burners, depending on your stove). With a wooden spoon, stir up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and continue stirring for a few minutes, allowing the onions to brown a little more. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the onions and juices and stir until the flour is well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Start adding the broth, 1 ladleful at a time, whisking out the lumps before you add more broth. Continue to add broth gradually, whisking each time until smooth, until you’ve added about 4-1/2 cups of broth. Add any juices that have collected on the platter around the turkey. Lower the heat to medium or medium low and gently simmer the gravy, whisking occasionally, until it’s full-flavored and thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. If it seems too thick, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve, then transfer to a gravy boat.
  • Carve the turkey. Pass the gravy boat and the remaining fennel salt at the table.

A rich, fruity Australian Grenache blend would complement the herbal notes in this recipe. Try the Oxford Landing Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre or the Penfolds Bin 138 Old Vines Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre, Barossa Valley.

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Reviews (3 reviews)

  • User avater
    CandG | 11/20/2015

    I purchased a fresh bird for this and the seasonings used for this delicious bird became a part of the equally delicious gravy. I will repeat this dish again and again. BTW: our 14 lb bird was ready in 2 hours (stuffing baked separately), served 10 adults with leftovers for 4. Yum!

  • Krissie | 11/08/2011

    My family loved this recipe. It was simple to follow, and the turkey had a superb flavor. I plan on making this again this year.

  • MickeyH | 11/21/2007

    Absolutely fantastic. I was afraid the fennel seeds might be a bit strong but they blended extremely well creating a full flavor that complemented the turkey. The only change the next time will be more paprika and more fennel butter.

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