Perfect Roast Turkey

I have to be honest, I am not much of a turkey lover. I enjoy eating it once a year at Thanksgiving, but I don’t find myself craving it at any other time. Once my husband and I stumbled on this particular recipe for roast turkey accompanied by the mouth-watering gravy (not usually a term I would associate with gravy, but it’s true) my mind was changed. This is the best roast turkey I’ve ever had, and now and then we will cook a small one during the year. The meat is moist, and the lemon, onion, and herbs impart a subtle but delicious flavor. The aforementioned gravy is the jewel in the crown.

adapted from: Barefoot Contessa Parties
serves: 8

Directions and notes on brining: Why are some turkeys dry while others boast meat that’s firm, juicy, and well seasoned? The answer is brining. Soaking poultry in a brine- a solution of salt (and often sugar) and a liquid provides it with a plump cushion of moisture that will sustain it throughout the cooking process. The bird will actually gain a little weight- the weight gain translates into moist meat; the salt and sugar in the brine translate into seasoned, flavorful meat. I recommend using Morton’s kosher salt, and have a large bucket on hand for the brining process.

Your turkey should brine around 8 hours, but no more than 12. You can either brine it the night before if you will be cooking the following morning, or early in the morning if you are cooking later on in the day. Remove the neck and giblets and wash the turkey inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry with paper towels. In a large pot, heat a gallon of water along with 3 cups of kosher salt and ½ cup of brown sugar until the sugar and salt dissolves. Refrigerate the mixture overnight, or until very cold. Pour the gallon of salt water into a clean bucket that will accommodate 2 gallons of water, ice, and your turkey. Pour in an additional gallon of very cold water and stir to combine. Place the turkey breast-side down in the bucket and add a bunch of ice. At this point you can cover the bucket with plastic wrap or a towel and place in a cold garage, basement, or a cool corner of your kitchen. It will stay cold, and salt keeps away bacteria. After 8-12 hours, pull out the turkey and pat it very well with paper towels until completely dry. Your turkey is now ready to proceed!

1 stick unsalted butter
1 lemon, zested & juiced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 fresh turkey (around 12 lbs)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 whole lemon, halved
1 Spanish or yellow onion, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
(no need to peel the onion or garlic)

Preheat the oven to 350°

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and 1 tsp of thyme leaves. Stir and set aside.

Pour enough chicken stock to cover the bottom of the roasting pan in order the catch the drippings and prevent burning and smoking. (You will be adding chicken stock to the drippings for the gravy later on anyway.)  Place the turkey on a roasting rack in the prepared roasting pan. With your hands, rub salt and pepper inside the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the turkey breast side up on the roasting rack. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings under the body of the turkey.

Roast the turkey about 2 ½ hours, or until a thermometer inserted in the breast registers 170, and the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and loosely cover with foil. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Slice and serve with THE gravy. (recipe to follow)

Thanksgiving wine pairing: Pinot Noir for red or Riesling for white.

I recommend a jigsaw puzzle for the lulls in cooking. Relaxing and fun! A glass of wine will probably do the trick as well.

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