Turkey time: Try this unique spin on stuffed turkey for your holiday table

I'm expecting to welcome a half dozen of my son's college friends with big appetites to the Batali household this Thanksgiving; so naturally, this means being ready with a variety of antipasti and snacks for the week. As always, I'll work my way backwards with menu planning and ingredient prep so come Thursday, I've maximized leisure time and have minimal cleanup. If you're like me and you plan to cook for a large group this year, look no further than stuffed turkey with apples and walnuts.

When I first made this turkey years ago, my wife Susi wasn't pleased with the abstract-looking sausage we were about to feed our family and guests. I have to admit, even I was wondering if this was too untraditional for Thanksgiving. One slice into this succulent roast, though, and all doubts delightfully subsided. Our entire table agreed that nothing could be better than perfectly tender meat filled with stuffing, all encased in a crisp and well-seasoned skin. Plus, the advantages of this untraditional method are twofold: It's in the oven for just about an hour, and carving is simple. (Cut straight through like a regular roast, and your turkey will be on the table within minutes.

The trifecta of flavors in this dish is also fantastic. The combination of walnuts, sausage and apples (I like to use Ginger Crisp apples from Michigan) are a kind of holy trinity in poultry cooking, and when laced with fresh nutmeg and sage, the trio becomes magical. Take a chance this Thanksgiving, and discover the beauty, ease and deliciousness of this recipe. Follow my lead, and you'll see why it's my favorite way to cook a turkey.

Stuffed Turkey with Apples and Walnuts

Serves 8 to 12

1 whole turkey breast boned, halved, and butterflied by your butcher (5 to 6 pounds)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound turkey sausage

2 apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (such as Ginger Crisp)

1/2 cup walnut pieces

2 cups panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley finely chopped (1/4 cup)

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups chicken broth

Pound the butterflied turkey breast halves to flatten them, then season with salt and pepper and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 400 F

In a 12- to 14-inch saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until smoking. Add the turkey sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks, until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain all but 4 tablespoons of the fat from the pan and add the apples and walnut pieces. Cook for 8 minutes, until the apples soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Add the panko, Parmigiano, eggs, 2 tablespoons pepper, nutmeg, and herbs, and stir with your hands, as you would for meatloaf or burgers, just until it comes together.

Place the two turkey pieces on a cutting board, skin-side down, and divide the stuffing between them. Roll each of the breasts like a jelly roll and tie them firmly in several places with butcher's twine. Place the two rolls on a rack set in a roasting pan, skin-side up. Pour 1 cup of the wine and 1 cup of the broth over them, season with salt and pepper, and roast until they are dark golden brown on the outside and a meat thermometer inserted into the fattest part of the breast registers 165 F on a meat thermometer, about 1 hour, plus or minus 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, place the turkey rolls on a cutting board, and let them rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 cup wine and 1 cup broth to the pan and deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the remaining 1/4 cup oil. Shake the pan to emulsify the sauce, and season with salt and pepper.

Carve the turkey rolls into 1/2-inch slices, and drizzle with the pan sauce.

(Mario Batali is the chef behind 25 restaurants, including Eataly, Del Posto and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo.)

(c)2017, MARIO BATALI. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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