Roasted Turkey Legs

Given that we’re sheltering in place during this pandemic and relying on friends and Whole Foods home delivery for our groceries, Thanksgiving proved problematical this year. We had hoped to order the makings for our feast from the Whole Foods “Holiday Desk,” only to discover that they would not deliver. Amazon was supposed to offer a limited-time offer for the holiday, but that fizzled out as well.

As the holiday drew closer, we decided to order a whole turkey only to find that we couldn’t get one under 18 pounds—far too much for a family of two who really don’t care too much for turkey. For an alternative, I suggested retrieving a couple of duck legs from the freezer as, but my husband wanted to maintain some semblance of a traditional Thanksgiving table. He assured me that he’d take care of it.

The next day, it was taken care of, and he informed me that a Whole Foods order for two turkey legs, yams, bread stuffing, cranberry sauce (both fresh and canned), mushrooms, and gravy had been placed. He also let me know that, as he planned on making his mother’s classic green-bean casserole for which he had previously ordered (and hidden) the all the makings, he had added to our order a tin of fried onions and a can of water chestnuts.

Although I was disappointed by the absence of a whole bird, I was amazed by the size of the two legs. The first word that came to mind was “gargantuan”; they must have come from a twenty-pound bird. Andrew thought them “worthy of Henry VIII.” Now all I had to do was figure out how to cook them. For a recipe, I went directly to Google, searched “turkey legs,” and before too long found what I thought was the perfect recipe on “The Spruce Eats” website.

The recipe by Linda Larsen required just a minimum of prep and nothing to do after putting them in the oven for an hour and forty minutes. All that was required before roasting, was to prepare a compound butter, for which several variations were provided. I combined a few ingredients from each and came up with my own.

Another view

A few hours before putting the legs in the oven, I made a sausage stuffing based loosely on a recipe by Julia Moskin on the New York Times “Cooking” website. It called for cubes of crusty white bread, for which I thought the Whole Foods stuffing would be a reasonable substitute—as least until I opened the bag. The picture on the package led me to believe it contained standard sized croutons; however, upon opening it, I found what looked like debris from a bombed-out building. When my better half saw my chagrined expression, he shrugged and said: “It’s stuffing.” That put things in perspective.

The picture on the bag
What was in the bag

I sweated some chopped onions and celery in olive oil and butter and then added the sausage. After browning the meat, I added some sliced mushrooms in lieu of potatoes, along with a generous splash of Marsala to deglaze the pan. I mixed in the micro croutons, some broth and butter, followed by some chopped parsley, thyme, and tarragon. I mixed everything together which, before too long, to my amazement, actually looked like stuffing. It went into the oven, uncovered, 30 minutes before the turkey was done.

The sausage stuffing

My husband then took over and prepared the green-bean casserole, which was surprisingly good, but that we both thought would have been better with fresh beans as opposed to canned. He also cleaned up the yams, which we decided to bake along with the turkey.

I didn’t plan to write this meal up, so we didn’t take any pictures of the preparation. But our dinner was so good, sating not only our bodies but our spirits, that I decided to post a few of the photos of the finished dishes along with my adaptation of the recipe for the turkey.

Our Thanksgiving dinner

Roasted Turkey Legs (adapted from a recipe by Linda Larsen on “The Spruce Eats” website)

2 bone-in skin-on turkey legs, approx. 4 pounds total
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
½ cup chicken broth


1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a bowl, combine the softened butter, salt, pepper, and herbs and mix until the the herbs are evenly distributed.
3. Dry the turkey legs well with paper towels
4. Place some the butter under the skin being careful not to tear, and rub the remaining butter over the turkey legs.
5. Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Use a pan just big enough to fit the legs comfortably but without crowding. This will allow for even browning.
6. Pour the chicken broth around, but not over, the turkey legs. The broth will keep the legs moist.
7. Roast the turkey legs for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 170° F. Do not baste or turn the legs.
8. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, cover it with foil, and let stand for 10 minutes.
9. Serve on heated plates either whole or with the meat carved off the bones. We opted to serve ours carved.

Plated carved turkey


Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir or a Cru Beaujolais

3 thoughts on “Our Pandemic Thanksgiving

  1. A perfect Thanksgiving dinner for two. The pandemic thwarted our plans as well. We usually have a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner for our Swedish friends and family the Saturday after the US holiday, but not this year. It was dinner for two and although it was lovely, we sure missed the celebration. But, heck, we’ll plan for next year.

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