Curtis Stone’s Cajun Thanksgiving

Spice up the traditional Thanksgiving feast with tips from our celebrity chef.

Cajun Roasted Turkey
Cajun Roasted Turkey (Photo by Ray Kachatorian)

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Though holiday celebrations may look a little different this year, it’s important to serve up something extra special for your family. The perfect twist on a holiday favorite, Cajun Roasted Turkey makes a beautiful centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table. Adding a kick to the recipe, the spice blend — oregano, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne pepper — is reminiscent of New Orleans’ great cuisine.

The secret to a juicy, succulent turkey is brining it overnight. The spices will flavor the bird from the inside out and keep it moist during cooking. You can make your spice mixture a couple days before you brine. I’m Aussie so I like to add a bit of beer to the brine as well — one for the bird, two for me.

Breast meat dries out more quickly than other parts of the bird, so shield the turkey with foil during the first hour to slow the cooking of the white meat, and then remove the foil during the last hour to brown and crisp the skin. Use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is at the right temperature and an instant-read meat thermometer to ensure the turkey is cooked to the right temperature. Don’t leave either of these up to chance or guesswork.

Enjoy Tray Roasted Vegetables with Lemon Salsa with hearty potatoes, cauliflower florets, and Brussels sprouts as a side dish or a vegetarian entree. The lemon salsa adds extra zip and the nuts texture and crunch.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday.

Cajun Roasted Turkey and Gravy

(Makes 10 servings)

Cajun Spice Mixture

  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 4 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Turkey and Gravy

Sliced Turkey with gravy
Cut and not dried: Breast meat dries out quicker than other parts of the bird, so shield the turkey with foil during the first hour to slow the cooking of the white meat.
(Photo by Ray Kachatorian)
  • 6 quarts cold water
  • 1 12-ounce bottle amber ale beer, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 rosemary sprigs, divided
  • 1 14- to 15-pound fresh whole turkey
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

To make Cajun spice mixture: In small bowl, mix all ingredients to blend.

To brine the turkey: In large pot, bring 1 quart water to boil over high heat. Add beer, salt, sugar, and ⅓ cup of spice mixture and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add 2 rosemary sprigs and remove from heat. Pour hot brine into container large enough to hold turkey and add remaining 5 quarts of cold water to cool brine. Place turkey into brine, making sure it is entirely submerged. Cover container tightly with lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 12 hours or overnight.

To roast the turkey: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Remove turkey from brine and discard brine, reserving rosemary sprigs, and then pat turkey skin dry with clean towel. Stuff main turkey cavity with half each of the celery, bell pepper, onion, and reserved brined rosemary sprigs and tie turkey legs together with butcher’s twine.

In small heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons (¼ stick) of butter. Remove pan from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of spice mixture. Place remaining celery, bell pepper, and onion in large roasting pan with rack. Set roasting rack in pan and place turkey on rack. Brush spiced butter all over turkey. Cover pan with aluminum foil and roast turkey for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Baste turkey and continue roasting uncovered for about 1 hour and 20 minutes longer, or until meat thermometer reads 160°F when inserted into part of thigh nearest to hip joint. Transfer turkey to carving board (do not clean out roasting pan), and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before carving.

To make gravy: Set roasting pan on stove over medium-high heat. Add chicken stock, thyme sprigs, and remaining rosemary sprig to pan drippings in roasting pan, and bring mixture to simmer, stirring often to scrape up brown bits. Strain pan juices and discard all solids. Spoon off fat that settles to top of pan juices. In medium heavy saucepan, melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of spice mixture (reserve any extra spice mixture for another use) and cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant and toasted. Stir in flour and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes. Whisk in pan juices and bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until gravy thickens slightly. Season gravy to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve: Carve the turkey and serve it with the gravy.

Per serving

  • Calories: 780
  • Total Fat: 44 g
  • Saturated Fat: 12 g
  • Sodium: 630 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 6 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 89 g
  • Diabetic Exchanges: 13 lean meat, 0.5 vegetable, 4 fat

Cut and not dried: Breast meat dries out quicker than other parts of the bird, so shield the turkey with foil during the first hour to slow the cooking of the white meat.

Tray Roasted Vegetables with Lemon Salsa

Plate of roasted vegetables
(Photo by Rochelle Palermo)

(Makes 8 servings)

  • 1 small lemon
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 16 medium red-skinned new potatoes, halved
  • 8 Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 8 large mushrooms, halved
  • 1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 cup freshly cooked grains (such as farro, barley, rice, pasta)
  • 2 cups (loose) leafy greens (such as frisée lettuce, arugula, escarole)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Using handheld slicer, thinly slice lemon, removing seeds. Stack lemon slices, cut in half, and then cut into very small triangles until you have about ½ cup. Squeeze 2 teaspoons lemon juice from remaining lemon. Combine lemon triangles and juice, parsley, shallot, ½ cup oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt in medium bowl; toss to combine. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. Place two rimmed baking trays in oven until hot. In bowl, toss cauliflower, potatoes, sprouts, mushrooms, and onion with ½ cup oil and season with salt.

Arrange vegetables, cut side down, over hot baking trays. Roast vegetables,
without turning, for 25 minutes or until browned and crisp-tender. Divide grains among plates. Top with leafy greens and roasted vegetables. Spoon lemon salsa over. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Make ahead: Lemon salsa can be made up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

Per serving

  • Calories: 404
  • Total Fat: 30 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g
  • Sodium: 45 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 31 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Diabetic Exchanges:1.5 starch, 1.5 vegetable, 6 fat

Want more? Check out Curtis Stone’s Oven-Roasted Baby Beets with Orange Vinaigrette at

Recipe © Curtis Stone

This article is featured in the November/December 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Cajun Roasted Turkey (Photo by Ray Kachatorian)

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