I only roast a turkey once a year, so I want to make sure it is an excellent recipe. I developed this one years ago and it works so well that I included it in Cooking Meat, my cookbook about all things meaty!
The following is an abridged recipe from that book. There are a few steps involved, but I believe it is truly worth the extra effort.
Be sure to start this the day before the celebration.
Serves 8 to 10
3 quarts water
1 cup salt
1 cup granulated sugar
6 garlic cloves
8 thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
1 quart ice cubes
1 (15 pounds) turkey
Vegetable oil for drizzling
2 cups unsalted butter
1 bunch sage, leaves picked and chopped
1 bunch thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 Tbsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper
½ cup Madeira or port
1 cup butter
2 large onions, small diced
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
Giblets and liver from the turkey, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1 carrot, grated
1 bunch sage, leaves picked and sliced
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper
½ cup Madeira or port (optional)
1–2 cups turkey or Chicken Stock
4 cups 1” cubed stale bread (cube it the day before and leave it to dry out)
2 cups white wine (divided)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp cooking fat (from the turkey)
1 turkey neck (from the bird), roughly chopped into smaller chunks
2 shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 thyme sprigs
4 sage sprigs
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
3 cups dark turkey or Chicken Stock
- In a stockpot large enough to hold the turkey, bring the water to a boil with the salt, sugar, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. When the salt and sugar are dissolved, turn off the heat and add the ice. Allow the brine to cool.
- Remove the giblets, liver, and neck from the turkey (usually these are in the neck cavity). Set them in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Place the turkey in the stockpot with the brine (or place it in the brining bag, add the brine, and then place it in a bowl). Refrigerate for at least 15 hours (allow 1 hour per pound).
- To make the compound butter, cut the butter into slices and arrange them on a plate at room temperature to soften. In a small bowl, mix together the sage, thyme, chives, allspice, salt and pepper to taste, and Madeira. When the butter is soft, add it to the herb mixture and, using a spatula, fold them all together. Shape the butter into a rectangle on a layer of plastic wrap, roll up, and refrigerate overnight.
- On the day of the celebration, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine and set the turkey aside at room temperature while you make the stuffing.
- To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and bay leaves, cover, and, stirring frequently, sweat until the onions start to change color slightly, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the giblets and liver, cook for another 5 minutes, and then add the celery, carrots, sage, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium and sauté, stirring frequently, until the celery starts to take on a bit of color.
- Add the Madeira (or port), if using, and reduce by half. Add 1½ cups of the stock and bring to a simmer. Place the diced bread in a medium bowl and pour the stock mixture over top. Mix thoroughly. If you find the mixture too dry, add a little more stock, ¼ cup at a time, until the stuffing is moist. Add some salt and pepper if required. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have a roasting pan with an elevated roasting rack ready.
- To prepare the turkey, lift the skin at the front of each breast and use your fingers to make a pocket between the skin and the breast meat. Cut the compound butter into ½-inch slices and slide the slices under the skin so they cover the breast. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the bread stuffing. Place the turkey on the roasting rack. Season the bird with salt and pepper and drizzle enough oil over it to cover the skin.
- Place the pan on the center rack in the oven and roast, basting every 30 minutes or so with the pan juices, until a thermometer plunged into the thigh of the turkey reads 180°F and the breast or stuffing reads 165°F, 4½–5 hours. Remove from the oven and transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Wrap the turkey in aluminum foil and then a towel to keep warm while it rests.
- To make the gravy, tilt the roasting pan slightly and skim the fat off the top of the drippings, reserving 2 Tbsp. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-low heat and add 1 cup of the wine. As it simmers, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to lift up all of the bits of caramelized roasting juices. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- In a separate saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the reserved fat. Add the turkey neck, cook until brown, add the shallots and garlic, and sauté until golden. Add the flour and stir vigorously to make an aromatic roux. Add the thyme, sage, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste, and then deglaze the pot with the remaining 1 cup wine. Turn down the heat and stir constantly for about 5 minutes to cook the alcohol from the sauce. Add the stock, whisking to incorporate, and then add all the drippings from the turkey pan, mixing well to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes to incorporate the flavors. Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve into a gravy boat.
- Use a spoon to remove the stuffing from the cavity and place some in a bowl and some on the turkey serving platter. Carve the turkey.
- To serve, present the platter of turkey with the stuffing and gravy to your hungry (and happy) guests.