Essentially, I use the flavors and gravy from an Epicurious recipe with the roasting technique from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Generally a good strategy. Although ATK does a great job of micromanaging you toward perfectly cooked meat, I often find their flavors rather bland. This bad boy is not bland at all.
The roasting involves no basting, because all basting does is wash your turkey and slow its cooking time. Seriously, never tell me you still baste a turkey because it’s the equivalent of vehemently arguing the world is flat. That ship has sailed–around the earth. Here’s what I use:
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley plus 3 whole sprigs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus 3 whole sprigs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme plus 3 whole sprigs
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 15- to 16-pound turkey, rinsed, patted dry
- 1 1/2 pounds shallots, peeled, halved lengthwise through root end
- 3 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
Step 1. Go Kosher (Monday or Tuesday)
I spend the money on a fresh, 15 lb Kosher turkey. You might think, “but I want leftovers.” Sure. But if you buy a bigger bird it’s not going to taste nearly as good and you’re going to end up scrambling to figure out how to make those leftovers edible on Sunday.
I’ve brined many a bird and never produced the intense flavor of an Empire Kosher turkey. “Instense” may be the wrong word. It is a turkey after all. I have seen Empire brand turkeys around here at Wegman’s and have also driven all the way to the Kosher market in Maryland to find them. Note: Do not be a cultural ignoramus like me and show up on a Saturday. Oops. You get to skip the brining, but you do need to take a pair of tweezers or pliers and pluck out a bunch of feather tips. It’s gross. I warned you.
If you don’t use a Kosher turkey (or a pre-brined or injected one), brining for 8 hours in a salt water bath (1 cup table salt, 1 cup sugar, 2 gallons cold water) is really important. You don’t have to put any flavorants other than sugar and water in the brine bath because there will be plenty of flavor in the herb butter and shallots. Start the brine Wednesday morning so you have time take it out Wednesday evening, rinse off the brine with cold water, and pat it dry with paper towels so you’re ready for the next step:
Step 2. Air Dry and Prep for Morning (Wednesday evening)
If you really care about your skin (and we know I do) you have to make time to air dry. You saved all that time buying fresh instead of frozen, so you’re fine. Rinse turkey under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast-side up on flat wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours.
How are you going to fit a baking sheet with a turkey on it into your jam-packed Thanksgiving refrigerator without adding “Step 0. Buy second refrigerator for turkey”? The week before Thanksgiving, I buy no groceries (except milk) and force my family to finish off all the leftovers and frozen corndogs and whatever else in the freezer and refrigerator. Then over the weekend I clean out the fridge and freezer throwing away anything expired or unloved. I should have posted this last week.
Prepare herb butter: Mix butter, chopped parsley, chopped sage, chopped thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl to blend. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Transfer herb butter to small bowl; cover and refrigerate. Bring butter to room temperature before using.)
Peel and half shallots lengthwise through root end. Big ones may need to be quartered not just halved. Cover and refrigerate.
Step 3: Prepare Turkey for the Oven (Thursday Morning)
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper inside of cavity. Place whole parsley, sage and thyme sprigs and 4 shallot halves in cavity. Starting at neck end, carefully slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Spread 4 tablespoons herb butter over breast meat under skin. Work another 1 tablespoon of herb butter down under the skin over the thigh meat.
May I just note here that my brother who is a surgeon brings home a suture kit from the hospital at Thanksgiving and Christmas time so he can just cut the skin, rub the butter on the meat and suture the skin back together? I find that one part creepy and nine parts completely awesome.
Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together to hold shape. Tucking the wings back can be tricky with a Kosher bird. You may want to do a tradition truss.
Okay, now this is where you have to trust me (i.e. America’s Test Kitchen). To roast the bird evenly without drying out the breast meat, you’re going to start it out breast down, but you don’t want it fusing to the wire rack, so you cover that with foil. The holes allow the juices to drip through.
Set V-rack on top of shallots in roasting pan and line the rack with heavy duty aluminum foil. Spray the foil with vegetable cooking spray, then pierce 20 to 30 small holes in the foil with a paring knife.
Rub 1 Tablespoons herb butter over turkey skin in the breast meat area. Place turkey on V rack breast side down. Rub 1 Tablespoon herb butter over turkey back.
Step 4: Roast and Flip Turkey (Thursday Morning)
You’re going to be repositioning the turkey while it’s hot, so it really helps to have silicone grilling gloves. I’ve done it with paper towels and hot pads, but it wasn’t pretty.
Roast turkey breast side down 45 minutes. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven (close oven door to retain oven heat). Using silicone grilling gloves, clean potholders (or wad of paper towels), rotate turkey breast side up. Continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, up to 1 hour 15 minutes longer. (Confirm temperature by inserting thermometer in both sides of bird.)
Remove turkey from oven. Brush with 1 tablespoon herb butter. Tent loosely with foil; let stand 20 minutes.
Step 5: Make the Gravy of Champions (Thursday Noonish)
Using slotted spoon, transfer shallots from roasting pan to plate. Pour pan juices into gravy separator. Refrigerate two minutes. Carefully pour out pan juices into heavy medium sauce pan. Discard fat and oil left in separator. Add wine and 1 cup chicken broth to roasting pan.
One Christmas Kent’s clients had sent us a lovely bottle of champagne which I totally used to deglaze my turkey pan! I’m sure this is some horrific culinary sin, but what’s a Mormon gal to do? Honestly, I’ve never had better gravy. When I open up a restaurant someday, we’re serving champagne gravy.
Set pan directly over 2 burners and bring broth mixture to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Continue to boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes; pour into large glass measuring cup. Add degreased pan juices. Add enough broth if necessary to equal 3 cups liquid.
Blend flour into remaining herb butter. Pour broth mixture back into heavy medium saucepan and bring to boil. Gradually whisk in herb butter mixture. Add any accumulated juices from turkey platter. Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat spoon lightly, whisking occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add shallots to gravy (Some people don’t like lumps of caramelized shallots in their gravy, so I usually serve those on the side.); simmer 1 minute. Taste the gravy to see whether you even need any more salt. Season gravy with salt and pepper. Serve turkey with gravy.
By the time you’ve finished reading this recipe, Thanksgiving is probably already over. I know it’s a lot of work, but you do this what? Three times a year at most? Shouldn’t those three times be the meals you knock clean out of the park? That’s what I’m talking about.