The roast turkey in the picture above is what I made for this year’s Thanksgiving table. Stuffed with a delicious walnuts filling. I am sharing this recipe now, post-Thanksgiving because I strongly believe that things delicious could and should be made for any festive occasion. This turkey, for example, is a perfect fit for a Christmas or New Year’s eve celebration table, if you did not make turkey a part of your Thanksgiving feast.
The filling in the walnut-stuffed roast turkey is called levengi (alternative spelling: lavangi). It is a traditional Azerbaijani filling that hails from the Southeast of the country. The formula is simple: ground walnuts + grated and dry-squeezed onion pulp + sour paste (paste obtained from cooking down grated pulp of sour plums or cornelian cherries). Such a simple combination yet the flavor palette it yields is amazing. Rich, moist, tangy, sweet, exotic. Poultry, game, or fish, and even eggplant stuffed with the levengi filling is also called levengi. So this roast turkey would be called turkey levengi.
Most of the time, in place of sour paste I use pomegranate syrup in the stuffing. Honestly, I like the levengi with pomegranate syrup more than with sour paste. The syrup adds both a nice tang and a subtle, very subtle sweetness to the filling. Delicious! I’ll show you how to make this filling – super easy!
I hope you try this recipe and make walnut-stuffed roast turkey a part of your holiday table. From my kitchen to yours, shared with love. Happy Holidays once again!
Walnut-Stuffed Roast Turkey
One 13-pound (6 kg) turkey (I use organic)
Herbed Butter Spread:
1 stick (4 oz/115 g) unsalted butter
A handful of mixed chopped fresh herbs – thyme, parsley, rosemary, basil, tarragon (use all or any combination if some are not available)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 orange
5 cloves garlic, crushed with a garlic press
Ground black pepper
3 medium onions (preferably red)
6 cups walnuts, finely ground (but leave them a little crunchy)
About 1/2 cup pomegranate syrup (or adjust to taste; available in Middle Eastern/Iranian stores)
2 teaspoons salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (or adjust to taste)
Mixed turkey drippings (from the roasting pan) and turkey broth or chicken broth (to make a total of 4 cups)
1/2 stick (2 oz/55 g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Remove any giblets and neck if any, from the turkey cavity. Place the neck in a medium saucepan filled with water and simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour, to obtain broth (you will use it later). Set the broth aside.
Leave the turkey skin on. Wash the turkey inside and out under running water. Thoroughly pat dry. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Set aside while you prepare the herbed butter rub.
To prepare the herbed butter spread, melt the butter slightly (it should just become creamy) in a medium pan over medium heat. Remove, pour into a bowl, add chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice, orange juice, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well.
Loosen the breast skin of the turkey and spread some of the butter mixture inside, right under the skin. Rub the outside of the chicken with the remaining butter spread. At this point you can put the chicken in the refrigerator to stuff and cook it the next day, or proceed to cooking it the same day.
When ready to cook, prepare the stuffing. Pass the onions through a meat grinder or grate in a food processor. Place on a cheesecloth (make several layers if too thin), bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and twist, squeezing out the onion juices completely. You should obtain half-dry onion pulp.
Put the onion in a medium mixing bowl. Add the walnuts, pomegranate syrup, and salt and pepper. Stir well to obtain a paste-like mixture. Adjust the seasoning to taste. You might need to add more pomegranate syrup for a smoother paste, so taste and add more syrup accordingly.
Stuff the turkey with the filling. Bring the legs of the turkey together and tie with a kitchen twine.
Place the turkey on a roasting rack set over a roasting pan and roast in a 325ºF (160ºC) oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Every 1 hour pour 1/2 cup of the reserved turkey broth (or chicken broth if turkey broth is not available). Remove the turkey from the oven.
Make the gravy. Strain the turkey dripping and combine with turkey or chicken broth to make a total of 4 cups. Place in a small pot. Separately melt the butter and add the flour to it; stir to mix. Add the butter mixture to the pan with the drippings. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until thickened. If too thick, loosen with some broth.
Carve the turkey and place on a large serving platter. Separately pile the walnut filling on a serving bowl to share. Pour the gravy into a gravy saucer and serve separately. Your walnut-stuffed roast turkey is ready. Enjoy!