Perfect Roast Turkey

Adapted via
Serves: 12 to 16

For brine:
♦ 2 qt cold water
♦ 1 large onion
♦ 1 bunch fresh thyme
♦ 1 tsp peppercorns
♦ 1 1/2 cups kosher salt – can substitute with 3/4 cup table salt
♦ 1 fresh turkey (15 to 18 pounds)
♦ 5 qt cold water
♦ 2 qt ice

For compound butter:
♦ 1/2 lb unsalted butter
♦ 1/2 tsp kosher salt
♦ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
♦ 2 tsp fresh thyme

For the short stock:
♦ 1 onion
♦ 1 large carrot
♦ 1 rib celery
♦ 2 lb chicken or turkey bones
♦ 4 tbsp vegetable oil
♦ 1 cup dry white wine
♦ 6 cups stock (turkey or chicken)

For roasting the turkey:
♦ 1 tsp kosher salt
♦ 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
♦ 1 onion
♦ 1 large carrot
♦ 1/2 head fresh garlic
♦ 6 sprigs fresh thyme
♦ 2 bay leaves
♦ 1 tbsp vegetable oil

For gravy:
♦ 6 to 7 cups stock (from short stock)
♦ 3/4 cup fat drippings
♦ 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

To brine the turkey: place 2 quarts of cold water into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Slice the onion and add to the pot, along with the thyme and salt. Once all of the salt has dissolved, turn off the heat and set aside to steep and cool.

Next, clean the turkey by removing and reserving the neck. Discard the giblets, unless you choose to add them to your stuffing. Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the top of the bird. Then rinse the turkey with cold water. In a large container, add the steeped brine mixture and 5 quarts of very cold water. Top up with 2 quarts of ice. Add the turkey and make sure it is completely covered with the brine. Place into the refrigerator or a large cooler full of ice for up to 24 hours.

To make the compound butter: first add the salt and pepper to the butter. Finely chop the thyme and mash everything together until smooth. Set aside.

Remove the turkey from the brine and let it drain briefly before placing it onto a tray. Discard the brine and pat the turkey dry. Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat it to 350° degrees Fahrenheit. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for one hour. Meanwhile, you can prepare the short stock.

To make the short stock: chop the onions, carrots and celery and place into a bowl. Set aside. Using a heavy knife, carefully chop up the bones, including the reserved turkey neck. You could also ask the butcher to do this for you (Anne note – this is a tough step, so if you are pressed for time ask the butcher).

Preheat a large, stainless-steel fry pan over high heat. Once hot, add the oil and half of the bones. Let the bones brown and caramelize, which will give the gravy its rich color and flavor. Add half of the vegetables and let caramelize slightly. Deglaze with half of the wine. Scrape up the bits from the bottom, then transfer to the roasting pan and repeat with the second batch.

Once done, add the stock to the roasting pan. Place the V-rack over top and cover with foil. Poke a few holes to let the juices run through. Coat the foil with a bit of oil then set the pan aside while you prepare the turkey.

To season the bird: sprinkle the inside with the salt and pepper and add the vegetables and herbs. Rub the outside skin with a bit of oil and then rub about one-third of the compound butter just underneath the skin. Place the turkey, breast-side-down, onto the v-rack and then transfer to the oven. Set your timer for one hour.

Before you remove the turkey from the oven, melt the compound butter. Using two cloths, carefully flip the turkey over. Brush the top with some of the melted butter and return to the oven. Set the timer for hour number 2. After 2 hours, quickly brush the turkey with a bit more butter and set your timer for hour number 3.

At the 3-hour mark, test the turkey for doneness by inserting a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Test the same area from the inside of the cavity. The inside reading will always be lower, so this is where the final reading should come from. Because all ovens cook differently and your turkey may be slightly bigger or smaller, the timing will all depend on the reading you get from your turkey. If your turkey isn’t done, brush it with the remaining butter and return it to the oven for about 15-30 minutes.

Test the turkey again. The second reading on the inside of the thigh should reach 165° degrees Fahrenheit, which is perfect. Loosely tent it with vented foil to allow steam to escape. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving.

To make the gravy: strain the liquid from the roasting pan and let the fat rise to the top. Skim off the fat and place it into a separate bowl.

Measure the liquid to equal 6 cups. Take 3/4 cup of the reserved fat and pour into a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once the fat is nice and hot, add the flour and stir continuously. As the roux cooks, it will turn from a light tan color to a nice, rich brown color. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes but the end result is well worth it.

Add about 1/3 of the stock and stir constantly. Stir and continue to add the stock until smooth. Once the 6 cups of stock have been added, check the consistency. Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken after you turn off the heat. If you like a thinner gravy, you may want to add up to one additional cup of stock.

For a super-smooth gravy, strain again. Cover and keep the gravy hot while you carve the turkey. Reheat over low heat if necessary.

To read more about this dish and my musical pairing, click HERE.

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