It seems like there are dozens of different ways to make your Thanksgiving turkey and hundreds of different recipes out there to suit whatever need, ingredients or things you may want to try when it comes to the turkey. For me, roasting a turkey doesn’t get much better. Since I am not hosting Thanksgiving this year, Michelle decided she would like to have a turkey dinner to help celebrate her birthday this past weekend. Now I didn’t really need a recipe to make the turkey, but I came across this method from Saveur Magazine that professed to make the perfect roast turkey, so I figured I would give it a try to see how it worked out.
Perfect Roast Turkey and Gravy
1 13-14 pound fresh turkey
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups homemade chicken or turkey broth
3/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 tablespoons brandy
4 tablespoons fat from the roasting liquid or butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups warm turkey or chicken broth
Remove the giblets from the turkey and refrigerate them for a later use. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the kosher salt and black pepper liberally all over the turkey, spreading a little in the turkey cavity and being sure to season the back, breasts and thighs. Arrange the turkey on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered (this will help to dry out the skin, giving you a crisper skin during the roasting) for one to two days.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about two hours before roasting to take the chill off the bird. This will help it to cook more evenly. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Tuck the turkey wings behind the neck and tie the tips of the drumsticks together with kitchen twine. Arrange the turkey breast side up on a rack set in a sturdy roasting pan. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the turkey or chicken broth into the bottom of the pan and slide the turkey into the oven, immediately lowering the heat to 350 degrees. Let the turkey roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours total, rotating the pan after about 1 1/4 hours. Meanwhile, combine the remaining broth with the giblets in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, partially covered, until the giblets are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the giblets, saving them to add to the gravy later, and keep the broth warm.
Baste the turkey by spooning pan drippings over the breasts every 45 minutes. If you notice the breasts or drumsticks getting too dark, cover them loosely with aluminum foil during the last 30 to 45 minutes of roasting. The turkey should cook at a rate of about 13 minutes per pound. To check the doneness, pierce the meaty part of thigh with a sharp knife and check that the juices run mostly clear with only a trace of pink. Don’t wait for them to become perfectly clear; this may br a sign that the turkey is already overdone. To double-check yourself, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thigh, being careful not to hit the bone; it should read 170 degrees.
When the turkey is done, grab both sides of the roasting rack with oven mitts to lift and tilt the turkey and let the juices pour from the cavity into the pan. Set the turkey aside, tenting it very loosely with foil, to rest for at least 30 minutes while you make the gravy. Pour all the liquid from the roasting pan into a heatproof bowl or 1-quart measuring cup and set it aside. Set the roasting pan over 2 burners at medium-high heat and add the white wine or vermouth and the brandy. Bring to a boil, scraping with a wooden spoon to dissolve any cooked-on bits and return the reserved liquid to the roasting pan. Boil, stirring often, until the liquid is reduced to nearly half, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Once the liquid from the roasting pan has settled, spoon off and transfer the surface fat to a medium saucepan to make a roux for your gravy. If you can get 4 tablespoons of fat from the surface, use that; if not, you can make up the difference by using some butter. Heat the fat over medium-low heat and whisk in 1/3 cup of flour until it is smooth. Cook for about 4 minutes, until the roux is a light amber color, and then gradually whisk in the reserved pan drippings. Bring the mixture to a simmer and slowly whisk in 4 cups of the warmed broth. Let the gravy simmer and thicken, whisking occasionally, for about 15 minutes (or longer if you want a thicker gravy). For a hearty giblet gravy, finely chop the neck meat along with the gizzard and the heart and stir it into the finished gravy. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste and keep the gravy warm while you carve the turkey.
I don’t know if this is the perfect roast turkey, but I have to say if it isn’t it’s pretty darn close. I had never salted the turkey like this before, but it did seem to help the bird when it came to retaining moisture and juice and it wasn’t too salty, though we did find that you don’t really need to add much salt, if any at all, to the gravy because the pan drippings had plenty. The bird was perfectly browned and moist and the gravy was wonderful. Saveur does provide a method for making your own turkey broth ahead of time using turkey parts that you can buy, but I didn’t do this and just used chicken stock that I had instead and I think it turned out fine. I think you could certainly substitute store-bought chicken or turkey broth to save you some time if you don’t want to make your own turkey broth.
That’s all I have for today. I have lots of other recipes that are perfect for Thanksgiving as I made a lot of side dishes to go along with this turkey, so check back all week for some great ideas on ways to make turnip casserole, Brussels sprouts, maple glazed carrots, sausage, apple and sage stuffing, creamed pearl onions, some great appetizers like broccoli dip in a bowl and meatball sliders and a lemon layer cake I made for dessert. Check back and see what comes up next. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!