When you want the standard elements of Thanksgiving dinner — the turkey, the sweet potatoes, and some greens for good measure — but crave something a little bit different, turn to braised turkey. It's a one-pot meal that has all the flavors you want in the big holiday main dish, without tasting quite like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It's perfect for smaller gatherings for those who want turkey without having to roast the whole bird, or for those seeking a bit of Thanksgiving adventure.
The One-Pot Method
Cooked in a Dutch oven, this braise delivers both the main course and sides, plus a rich sauce that serves as your stand-in the for traditional gravy. It's a Thanksgiving one-pot meal that delivers turkey so tender it falls off the bone with the touch of a fork yet still boasts ultra-crispy skin.
Start by searing the turkey legs, both the thighs and drumsticks, until the skin is deeply browned and crisp. It gets removed from the pot, just briefly, so you can create a braising liquid layered with flavor from pancetta, leeks, celery, white wine, and fresh herbs. Hearty collard greens get stirred into the braising liquid and topped with the turkey pieces, with the sweet potatoes getting added about halfway through cooking.
Don't skip over the final addition of apple cider vinegar when the braise finally leaves the oven. This pop of acidity brings all the ingredients to life and helps balance the fat from the pancetta and turkey.
Two Tips for Extra-Crispy Skin
One thing this recipe asks of you at the onset is patience. To really achieve the solid sear that makes the skin stand out, let the turkey cook skin-side down, undisturbed, until it's a deep brown. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Before heading to the oven, nestle the turkey pieces into other ingredients in the pot, taking care to leave as much skin as possible exposed. As the turkey cooks, this careful positioning will help it take on an even deeper level of crispiness.
Dutch Oven Braised Turkey
2 skin-on, bone-in turkey drumsticks (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)
2 skin-on, bone-in turkey thighs (about 3 pounds total)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, cut to 1/2-inch pieces
2 leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 bay leaves
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 large bunch collard greens, center ribs removed, leaves chopped (about 6 cups chopped)
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.
Pat the turkey pieces completely dry with paper towels. Generously season the meat all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add the turkey skin-side down without crowding the pot and working in batches if necessary. Sear each side until deeply browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; set aside.
Lower the heat to medium and add the pancetta or bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the meat is well-browned. Stir in the leeks and celery, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
Add the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Cook until the wine is reduced by about half. Add the thyme, sage, bay leaves, and stock to the pot, then bring to a boil. Add the collard greens and submerge them in the liquid as much as possible (they will not be fully submerged). Place the turkey pieces skin-side up on top of the greens.
Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Stir in the sweet potatoes, keeping the turkey skin exposed. Return the pot to the oven and bake until the meat is cooked through and registers an internal temperature of 165°F, about 1 hour more.
Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Let the braise stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.