Blissful, succulent, turkey-induced heresy.

That’s what this unconventional tactic from chef David Tanis of Chez Panisse makes us think. Tanis allows us to circumvent the usual turkey roasting conundrum—the maddening trickiness inherent in trying to cook a turkey until the dark meat is done without punting the white meat into dry oblivion—by bucking tradition and cooking the dark and white meat separately. The legs luxuriate in a long, slow, wine-sloshed bath with aromatics, simultaneously being braised and tenderized and infused with fragrance and flavor. The breast simply gets blasted by a hot oven, just long enough to plump it, no longer. Of course, this untraditional technique preempts the pretense of carving at the table. We’re not certain that’s such a bad thing.

One last thing. Remember that the secret–well, the other secret–is to season the turkey overnight. So just a reminder, you’ll need to begin things the day before.–David Tanis

LC Essential Butcherspeak Note

Tanis savvily suggests you ask your butcher do the heavy chopping for you. Simply request-nicely, please–for the turkey legs to be lopped off with the thighs attached, for the wings to be hacked from the body, and for the breast to be cut into 2 boneless but skin-on halves. While you’re at it, smile sweetly and request that what remains of the carcass be chopped up into large pieces for your stock. (Make sure to request the giblets, too.)

An oval platter with roasted and braised turkey, a dish of stuffing, a bowl of cranberry sauce, a bowl of chestnuts, two glasses of wine, and a small pot of gravy on a wooden table.

Roasted and Braised Turkey

5 / 4 votes
Roasted and braised turkey makes certain that both the white and dark meat is cooked perfectly and with tons of flavor. Cooking them separately ensures that everything is succulent.
David Leite
Servings8 to 12 servings
Calories139 kcal
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time5 hours 15 minutes
Total Time6 hours 15 minutes


For the “brine”

  • One (12- to 14-pound) turkey, cut into six parts (as above)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the broth

  • Carcass and bones and leftover parts from your turkey , (or about 3 pounds [1.3 kg] other poultry bones)
  • 1 large onion, peeled, halved, and stuck with 1 clove
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 or 3 slices dried porcini mushrooms
  • About 6 quarts water

For the braise

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine

For the garnish

  • Parsley or watercress sprigs


Brine the turkey

  • Place all the turkey pieces on a cutting board and season well on both sides with salt and pepper. Mix the sage, thyme, and garlic in a small bowl. Add the olive oil and spoon the mixture over the meat and under the skin and smear it in well. Place the legs and wings in a container, cover, and refrigerate. Wrap the breasts in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Make the broth

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Place the turkey bones, onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaves in a roasting pan and into the oven. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is nicely browned.
  • Transfer the browned vegetables and bones to a big soup pot. Splash a little water into the roasting pan and stir to dissolve any tasty bits left in the pan, then pour the liquid into the pot. Add the dried mushroom and water and bring to a boil. Skim off the scum, turn the heat down to a simmer, and let it cook slowly for 11/2 to 2 hours.
  • Strain the broth through a sieve. You should have about 5 quarts of turkey broth. Cool, then refrigerate; when ready to use, skim off the fat that has risen to the surface.

Roast the turkey

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Put the legs and wings in a large roasting pan, making sure they have enough room so they’re not crowded. Put the pan in the oven and let the parts roast while you prepare the braising liquid.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and season them with salt and pepper. Let them cook gently, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and let the onions color a little bit. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and tomato paste and mix well. Slowly add first the red wine and then 2 cups of the turkey broth. Bring to a simmer, stirring almost constantly as the sauce thickens. Gradually stir in 2 more cups of broth and stir until the sauce thickens once again. Remove from the heat.
  • Remove the pan of legs and wings from the oven. They should be nicely golden but not too dark. Pour the braising liquid over the turkey parts, cover the pan tightly with foil, and return to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350°F (176°C) and braise the turkey for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of your bird, until the legs are tender when tested with a fork. Transfer the braised turkey legs and wings to a cutting board and let them cool slightly.
  • Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan, skimming off any fat that rises. This will be your gravy. Taste the sauce for seasonings and texture. If it’s too thin, reduce it a bit over medium heat until it reaches a consistency you like. Set aside. (The braised turkey process can be done hours ahead or the day before and refrigerated.)
  • When the braised turkey parts are cool enough to handle, remove the leg meat from the bones in large pieces and tear the meat from the wings. Cut the meat into rough slices and put in a baking dish. Cover and hold at cool room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, remove the breasts from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. The breasts will take only about a half hour to roast, so they can be started up to an hour before dinner in a 375°F (190°C) oven. Put them in a shallow roasting pan, skin side up, and into the oven. Check at 30 minutes—you want an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C). (The temperature will continue to rise as they rest.) Let them rest on a platter, loosely covered, for 15 to 30 minutes before carving.

Serve the turkey

  • Slice the turkey breasts on an angle, not too thickly. Arrange the turkey on a warm platter and garnish with parsley or watercress.
Heart of the Artichoke

Adapted From

Heart of the Artichoke

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 139 kcalCarbohydrates: 11 gProtein: 1 gFat: 8 gSaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gCholesterol: 11 mgSodium: 70 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 David Tanis. Photo © 2010 Christopher Hirsheimer. All rights reserved.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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5 from 4 votes

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Recipe Rating


  1. I am getting ready to make this. Step nine is the last one that mentions dark meat. Is it to be served at room temperature along with out-of-the-oven sliced breast meat? Or is the baking dish that contains the dark meat supposed to be heated up while breasts are roasting? Thanks!

    1. Dmitrii, the meat, covered with foil, will hold its temperature well, even at room at temp. But if it cools too much, you can gently heat it up in the oven. As you know, Thanksgiving can get hectic, so the last thing I want you to do is stress.

  2. 5 stars
    I just made the braised legs and thighs. During dinner, my seven-year-old granddaughter said, “What is the creamy stuff?” After another bite, my husband said, “Oh, my G–! It is the skin!”. This is the best turkey braise recipe ever!!! It will be my Thanksgiving turkey and other times forever. Thank you for sharing this deliciousness.

    1. My pleasure, Grace. So glad the whole family like it. It’s on my docket for my next big turkey dinner. I’m thinking…New Year’s.

    2. You’re so very welcome, Grace. I’m a tremendous fan of cooking the turkey breast and legs separately, and David Tanis does it to a faretheewell, does he not?! So, so glad you loved it, and so, so grateful that you took a moment to let us know. I’m looking forward to hearing which recipe from the site you try next…

  3. 5 stars
    This is the very best turkey I have ever eaten in my life and I am 72 years young. The breast doesn’t get dried out, the rest of the bird is tender, flavorful, and mouthwateringly good! If you don’t try it this way you are missing out on delicious!