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Recipe: Alternatives to the big bird are an option — just pick a part

There’s no law saying you can’t roast a 15-pound bird just for the few people you’ll be feeding at Thanksgiving in this unusual year. Even if you only eat a small portion on the holiday, there’s always joy to be found in leftovers, and soup stock made with the carcass.

Or you could think small. Choose white meat or dark, and roast turkey parts instead of a whole bird. Supermarkets have stocked up on frozen turkey breasts this year, perhaps anticipating that people will seek out that alternative. The recipe that follows is a favorite from a few years back.

If your preference is dark meat, you’ll have to hunt a bit harder for turkey legs — find them at a Whole Foods Market (Kahala, Kakaako or Kailua).

FOR WHITE-MEAT LOVERS

An old Italian recipe for roast chicken calls for a stuffing a mixture of cheese and vegetables under the chicken’s skin before roasting. Not only is the flavor a knockout, but the meat emerges incredibly moist. The white meat has none of the dryness that can be the bane of the poultry breast.

The stuffing beneath the skin insulates the meat, a scheme that works just as well with turkey, translating beautifully.

This stuffing combines sauteed onion, garlic and shredded zucchini with Parmesan and ricotta cheeses, all bound together with fresh breadcrumbs. But feel free to experiment, as any moist stuffing would do the trick.

When you carve the breast, make sure that every slice has a little bit of stuffing and skin.

—Sara Moulton, Associated Press

ITALIAN-STYLE ROAST TURKEY BREAST

  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat turkey
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (pulse 4 slices firm white bread in a food processor or blender)
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5- to 7-pound bone-in turkey breast

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Set a rack in lower third of oven.

Using a food processor or box grater, coarsely grate zucchini. In a colander, toss zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon of salt; let drain in sink for 20 minutes. A handful at a time, squeeze out zucchini to remove excess liquid. Set aside.

In large skillet over medium, heat oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add garlic and thyme; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add zucchini; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan, breadcrumbs and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat turkey skin dry with paper towel, then rub with a bit of oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently separate skin from meat, being careful not to tear it and leaving it attached at the edges. Stuff zucchini mixture evenly under loosened skin (this is a messy project; just do your best), then place turkey on a rack set in a roasting pan. Cover loosely with foil.

Roast 1 hour. Remove foil and roast an additional 1 to 1-1/2 hours, to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. If the turkey starts to brown too much, cover again with foil. Transfer to platter; let rest at least 20 minutes before carving. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 630 calories, 30 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 215 mg cholesterol, 690 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 74 g protein.

PREFER DARK MEAT?

The hardest thing about scaling back the turkey for me was deciding whether to go with white meat or dark. I chose thighs, which are a lot easier and more forgiving than the more finicky breast. Pair the meat with quick-pickled onions and cranberries, which, with their fuchsia hue, add a welcome bit of color that could replace or brighten the usual jamlike cranberry sauce.

If you prefer white meat and would be happy for the extra leftovers, you can substitute a roasted breast.

— Melissa Clark, New York Times

TURKEY THIGHS WITH PICKLED CRANBERRIES AND ONIONS FOR TWO

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated, pressed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves, preferably lemon thyme
  • 1-1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on turkey thighs (2 medium thighs, see note)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, basil or parsley leaves, for serving
  • >> Pickled cranberries and onions:
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Finely grate 1/2 teaspoon zest from lemon and put it in a small bowl with garlic and thyme. Halve lemon and juice it, adding 1 tablespoon of juice to bowl. Reserve remaining juice for pickles.

Mix everything into a paste. Pat turkey thighs dry; season with salt and pepper. Smear turkey with paste and place thighs on a plate. Refrigerate, uncovered, so the skin can dry out; at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

To make pickled cranberries and onions: In a medium bowl, combine reserved lemon juice with onion, cranberries, lime juice, sugar and salt, tossing well. Let mixture sit at room temperature, tossing occasionally, until onions wilt and turn pink, 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate. (Can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put turkey thighs on a baking pan and dot with butter. Roast 40 to 50 minutes, until skin is crisp, meat is cooked through and juices run clear.

Serve turkey with a little of the cranberries and pickles on top, with herbs scattered over everything. Serves 2.

>> NOTE: On Oahu, Look for turkey thighs at Whole Foods Market locations.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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