For buttery, melt-in-your mouth white meat and even no need for gravy, follow these instructions. This is a combination of recipes, from Julia Child, Sheila Lukins and my own ideas. I first put this together in 2005 and fortunately, wrote it all down. But first, you must have a great quality, fresh bird – never frozen and never from a big producer. Now some local farm bred turkeys I have found are not so great. Sometimes their dark meat is tough (they walk a lot!) and the breasts are small. My butcher, Bob, from Espisitos Pork Store in Manhattan, gets his from a farm in PA. And then upstate, Mike and Cindy of Thunderhill Farms produce an excellent bird. Mike is really proud of his turkeys and he sells out every year.
Now I know, there’s a lot of butter here and usually I don’t make recipes that have this much, but fear not. You will not be eating most of it as you degrease the pan juices and only use 4 Tbs. to make a lot of gravy.
BEST ROAST TURKEY EVER
One 14.5 – 17 lb. fresh turkey
Sea salt – fine grind
Pepper – fine grind, preferably TexJoy brand
Paprika – sweet
Cornbread sausage stuffing with apples and pecans
2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, divided into 3 uses ( 20 Tbs.), 1 1/2 sticks should be thoroughly softened at room temperature
2 stalks celery, washed and cut into 3” long pieces
2 fat carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise and into 3” long pieces
3 small onions, cut in half or 3/4″ thick slices
Turkey vegetable rack
4 tbs. canola oil
Cheesecloth – enough to be 3 layers thick and cover the entire breast area
Giblets and neck
1/3 cup tawny port
1 – 2 cups or more of homemade or low sodium chicken broth
4 tbs. flour
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbs. chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place the flat sides down of the carrots, celery and onions and arrange in a rectangle to create a vegetable rack in your roasting pan for the turkey to sit on.
Thoroughly wash and dry your turkey, inside and out. Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika inside both cavities. Fill each with the cooled stuffing and seal closed with skin and metal skewers. Do not stuff too tight as the stuffing will expand while cooking.
Remove the wing tips from the bird and reserve. Skewer the remaining wings to the body with small metal skewers.
Take 1 1/2 sticks of the softened butter and smear all over your bird. Then sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika all over. Place the bird on the vegetable rack in your roasting pan. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Melt 4 tbs. butter in a small saucepan and add 4 tbs. canola oil. Place your cheesecloth in this mixture to soak up all the liquid and arrange the soaked cheesecloth on top of the whole breast area. Save any leftover liquid.
Place in your oven to roast at 325 degrees.
Baste every 30 minutes, without fail, to keep your breast meat juicy and moist. Baste under and over the cheesecloth and use any remaining butter and oil left from soaking the cheesecloth originally. When basting, take the pan out of the oven, close the oven door and baste quickly on top of the stove so your heat stays constant in the oven.
Meanwhile, take your giblets, neck and wing tips and place in a small saucepan and cover with cold fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer slowly for one hour.
Remove all giblets and neck from the liquid. Remove meat from neck and chop all finely and reserve for your gravy. Discard this liquid.
Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees and the thickest part of your breast registers 160 degrees.
During the last 30 – 40 minutes of roasting your turkey, remove the cheesecloth and discard and brush on the 1/3 cup tawny port.
A stuffed 17 lb. bird took 4 hours and 45 minutes. A stuffed 14.5 lb. bird took 3 hrs and 54 minutes. Your oven may vary, but figure on 15 – 16 minutes per pound.
Let the bird rest for one hour and let all those juices re-circulate back into the meat. Serve your soup or first course.
Meanwhile, back to the gravy. Smash the vegetables from the roasting pan through a strainer into a bowl. Degrease the pan juices and add enough broth to make 2 cups.
Melt 4 tbs. butter in a saucepan. Add 4 tbs. flour and whisk together on medium heat, letting it brown slightly for 2-3 minutes. (You are making a roux here!) Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the 2 cups of reserved juices and broth. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the smashed vegetables, 1 tsp. thyme, salt and pepper to taste (gravy may need more salt than you think – taste it), 1 tbs. chopped parsley and reserved chopped giblets and neck meat. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add more chicken broth if you think it’s too thick or you know you have a lot of gravy lovers and need to stretch it.