Your First Thanksgiving Turkey

Fun fact: I have only made one Thanksgiving turkey in my life and it wasn’t even on Thanksgiving Day (my mom owns that duty). It was one random afternoon in the middle of July, when I was in the recipe testing phase of my book. (Deadlines are deadlines!) If you’re wondering why you should trust a relative novice with one of the most high-pressure culinary moments of your year, I will only say 1) this is a version of my mom’s recipe that she has been making for years and it always delivers, and 2) having never roasted a turkey, I was intimidated by the task, but what sticks in my mind from the testing was just how simple it was. If you can roast a chicken, you can roast a turkey. I hope you agree.

Renaissance painting

Simple Herb-Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy
From How to Celebrate Everything, where you’ll find the rest of the Thanksgiving menu. Serves 8-10 without leftovers. (Though this recipe accommodates all size turkeys as long as you time the roasting accordingly once the heat is turned down.)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus 4 thyme sprigs for the roasting pan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
2 large onions, 1 roughly chopped, 1 quartered
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
5 to 6 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade, kept warm on the stovetop while the turkey roasts
1 13- to 16-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed, patted dry inside and out, at room temperature
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and mix in the chopped herbs. Set aside.

Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, and the thyme sprigs to a large roasting pan. Stir in about 3/4 cup of the hot stock. Place a rack inside the roasting dish (on top of the vegetables), and place the turkey on top, stuffing the cavity with the quartered onion. Tuck the wings tightly underneath the bird, trussing the turkey legs with twine if the cavity feels too exposed. Brush herb butter all over the surface of the bird. Generously salt and pepper the skin and place the entire thing in the oven on a low rack.

After 30 minutes, baste with turkey juices and tent with foil; reduce heat to 325°F.

Here’s a good rule of thumb I learned from food writer (and Thanksgiving author) Sam Sifton: From this point, at this temperature, the turkey will cook 15 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°F; set a timer accordingly.

Baste the turkey every 30 minutes with it’s own juices, supplementing with hot broth from the stovetop if the vegetables look like they are drying up.

Remove the foil for the last half hour of roasting and brush with any remaining herb butter. (You’ll need to warm up the butter on low heat.) When a thermometer stuck in the turkey’s thigh reads 165°F, and when the skin has reached the golden burnished color that will invite admiration, transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, strain the pan juices into a medium saucepan for the gravy.

Easiest Gravy
(continued from above)
Makes 2 cups (8 to 10 drizzling portions)

2 cups pan juices from turkey recipe (if you don’t have that much, add a reserved stock, or even a little white wine, to get to 2 cups)
3 to 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Turn the saucepan heat to medium. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk 3 tablespoons of flour with about a third cup of the warm stock from the saucepan to make a kind of sludge, then add this back to the saucepan along with the butter, whisking constantly and vigorously the whole while, until it reaches what you consider desired gravy consistency. We like ours on the thinner side, but do what makes you happy. (If you want it thicker, whisk in more of the flour-stock sludge using a tablespoon of flour at a time.) Taste constantly and add salt and pepper accordingly.

Arrange the turkey on your most beautiful platter and serve with gravy on the side.

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2 Comments

Stefanie

For years I have been brining a dealing with a Turkey for days at a time. But this year I was not able to start so early and luckily came across your recipe. This turkey was DELICIOUS. My family said it was the best ever. So easy and no crazy methods or ingredients! I made a 13lb organic Turkey so proportions were perfect. Thank you!

Reply
Stefanie

For years I have been brining and dealing with a Turkey for days at a time. But this year I was not able to start so early and luckily came across your recipe. This turkey was DELICIOUS. My family said it was the best ever. So easy and no crazy methods or ingredients! I made a 13lb organic Turkey so proportions were perfect. Thank you!

Reply