This is a fabulous recipe for a quicker cooking turkey that frees up your oven for other goodies. The challenge with any whole roasted turkey is keeping the breast moist while the thigh finishes cooking. The easiest way to do so is to cook a big bird. And why not? The leftovers are even tastier, including the turkey stock made from the carcass. (See end of the recipe.)
Servings: Convention says to allow 1 pound of turkey per person without leftovers. But, allow more: I never cook a turkey under 18 pounds!
1 fresh regional turkey, any size
Butter, if you like
Instant read thermometer
Stock, homemade if you have it, store-bought if not
Mushroom powder, optional
1-Look at the cooking times below and plan accordingly. Leave turkey out of the fridge for 2-3 hours before cooking. Rub with oil. Generously salt and pepper. If you like, push soft butter evenly under the breast skin (or butter mixed with chopped rosemary).
2- Add stuffing to the large and small cavity. Don’t stuff too tightly. Tuck a piece of bread over the opening, if needed, to stop it from spilling out. (Tip: There is never enough stuffing, so take my mother’s advice: Make double the stuffing. Bake the second half outside the bird. When done, mix the bird’s very moist stuffing with the drier oven-baked stuffing.Perfect.)
3-Place the turkey, breast side up, in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Baste with melted butter and roast for another 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 degrees and continue roasting, basting every 20 minutes. If the bird gets too brown, turn down to 350 degrees and/or cover top lightly with foil or cheesecloth heavily soaked in butter. (If using cheesecloth, pull it off with tongs once or twice to make sure it doesn’t stick.)
4- Look at the cooking times below: At the low end of the time span, test turkey with an instant read thermometer. Breast is done at 165-170 and thighs at 175-180. (Careful not to read the bone; stick it into the flesh.) Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and pepper. Cover turkey lightly with foil and/or keep in warm place until ready to serve. (Wait at least 30 minutes to carve. This will give you a chance to crank up the oven and heat your side dishes.)
Generous Cooking times: (Check on the low end!)
Under 12 pounds: about 1-1/2-2-1/2 hours
12-15 pounds: about 2-3 hours
15-20 pounds: about 2 1/2 to 3-1/2 hours
20-25 pounds: about 3-4 hours.
5-Gravy: While the bird is roasting, start the gravy. Cover the giblets (no liver) with water, homemade or store bought broth. Add onion carrot and celery. Simmer for several hours. Strain. (Chop up giblets and add back to stock, if you are using them. Otherwise discard.) Reserve, along with extra broth. (You can’t have too much gravy!)
When the turkey is cooked, any pan juices into a defatter or measuring cup. Wait a minute, and then use a helpful defatter or a spoon to remove the fat. Season with salt and pepper.
If you prefer thickened gravy, you can boil this mixture with a touch of cornstarch, mixed in some cool water. Or use the old fashioned approach, which I do. Pour off any pan juices, leaving some fat behind. Scrape the cooking pan well. Add a few tablespoons of flour to the fat and whisk over a medium-low heat for about 2 minutes to cook the flour. (I like to stir in a little mushroom powder from my local farm too). Whisk in the defatted pan juices and stock and continue to simmer until it has reached the desired thickness. Strain.
6-To carve: Cut off the wing and legs at the joint to get at the breast. Cut the breast into thin slices, beginning at the wing corner and cutting parallel to the breastbone. (Or remove the breast from the bone on either side of the breast bone. Then slice across it across the grain.) Slice the dark meat from the thighs and legs and arrange on a platter. Serve the pan gravy separately. If you like, garnish with baby (love) apples, fresh rosemary, parsley or kale.
That leftover carcass: Make turkey stock, my favorite, which is liquid gold in soups, stews, grains or for saute dishes. Remove the meat from the bones and chill. In a large pot, the carcass and any remaining bones with water. Add 1 or 2 carrots, celery ribs and an onion, cut in half, along with some unpeeled garlic cloves and a handful of parsley, if you have any. (A splash of leftover white wine is optional.) Simmer for 3 or so hours, keeping the carcass covered with water. Strain. If it tastes great, use it. If the flavor needs a boost, keep cooking it until perfect. Salt to taste. Freezes well.