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Herb Roasted Turkey with Stuffing and Gravy

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This recipe is for a 14-18 pound bird. I do not stuff my turkey anymore because it takes longer to reach the correct internal temperature of 175 degrees with the stuffing inside causing the meat on the outside to become overcooked and dried out. If you want to use a brine for your turkey before cooking see below.

The day before:
Brine your turkey if your choose to. See below for instructions.

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and cubed
1 bunche celery, washed and chopped
1 tbsp frsh thyme, chopped or 1/2 tbsp dried
1 tbsp sage, chopped or 2 tsp dried
salt and pepper
1/2 orange, skin and white pith removed, cut into wedges
2 tbsp white vinegar

1. In large pan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, onions, and garlic and cook until the garlic is golden- 4 minutes. Add the other ingredients and saute until everything is moist and blended. Remove from heat, place in covered container and refrigerate.

2. If you have not already brined your turkey, then now is the time to remove everything from the inside including neck and gizzards, heart and liver. Place aside for use in making turkey stock. Fill your sink with cold water and add a handful of salt and 2 tbsp of white vinegar. Place turkey in the waterand rinse the turkey well iside and out. Remove the turkey and rinse under the faucet with fresh cold water(inside and out.)

3. Dry the turkey with a paper towel. When the marinade is cool, remove from refrigerator and fill the inside of the turkey. (This is a marinade, not a stuffing. It serves to flavor the turkey and moisten it duing cooking.)

4. Put the turkey in a roasting pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator.

The day you are cooking the turkey:
1/4 cup     chopped parsley leaves
3 tsp         chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tsp         minced fresh rosemary leaves
6 tsp         fresh thyme leaves
5              medium garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1/2            lemon zested and juiced
2 tsp         Montreal Chicken Seasoning
1/4 cup     extra virgin olive oil
1               fresh turkey (14-18) pounds

Place an empty roasting pan in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.You want to heat the pan in order to give the bottom of the turkey a crisp texture.

In a small bowl, combine parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme,  garlic cloves, lemon zest and juice, and Montreal Chicken Seasoning.  Stir in the oil. You can put this in a blender or food processor if you want.( If this seems like too much work just brush the turkey with some butter and a little salt and pepper.)

Loosen the skin from the breasts and legs of the turkey and rub your herb mixture under the skin and rub the rest over the outside of the turkey. You may have to press it to make it adhere. Tuck the wings under the turkey, and stick the drumsticks into the skin at the tail if you can.

Carefully remove the hot roasting pan and place the turkey in it. I do not use a roasting rack. Place the turkey in the oven. After 30 minutes turn down the temperatur to 350 degrees and place a sheet of aluminum foil over the turkey. About 30 minutes before the turkey is done remove the foil and let the turkey brown. Do not baste the turkey in the last hour of cooking- your skin will not come out crisp.

Roast until the thickest part of the turkey thigh registers 175 degrees.   Transfer turkey to a carving board and let it rest for 30 minutes to reabsorb the juices in the meat. This makes you meat more flavorful and moist.  Don’t skip this step!

*The Gravy
I like to make my gravy one day ahead of time to avoid that last minute rush of trying to get the food on the table while still hot and having to make gravy at the same time.   This recipe allows you to have your gravy made ahead of time, all you have to do (if you want) is deglaze your turkey pan with some broth and wine and add it to your gravy along with some of the defatted drippings from the pan.  It’s easy!

If you don’t want to make turkey stock just use store bought chicken or turkey broth and skip this next step.

I.  The Stock
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Turkey giblets (the gizzard and heart- not the liver) and neck
1 onion peeled and chopped
2 carrots peeled and chopped into large pieces
2 stalks celery chopped into large pieces
3 cups chicken broth (I use low sodium)
3 cups water
1 stick fresh rosemary
1small bunch thyme

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sauté turkey giblets and neck for 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, carrots, celery, and herbs and cook until soft.  Add chicken broth and water.  Add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain and discard solids.  Reserve liquid for the gravy. You can make this 1-2 days ahead of time.

II. The Gravy Base
3 tbsp butter
¼ cup flour
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the flour.  Keep whisking the mixture until it turns light brown and is fragrant.  This will take about 10 minutes.  The mixture should be smooth and creamy. Heat the turkey stock to a simmer before adding to the mixture (reserve 1 cup for deglazing the turkey pan.) and add gradually whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Simmer for 30 minutes and then let cool until you are ready to add the drippings from your roast turkey. This can be prepared 1 day ahead of time. 

III. The Finishing Touch
When the turkey is done, pour the drippings into a glass container so you can take the fat off of the top.  Start heating your pre-made gravy to a simmer. Put the roast pan back on the burner, or two burners, if you have a large pan. Turn the heat on medium and pour 1 cup of wine and the 1 cup of reserved turkey stock into the pan to deglaze it.  This allows you to scrape up all the bits of turkey in the pan.  Boil this liquid until it reduces by ½ to 1 cup of liquid.  Strain this into your pre-made gravy and add some of your defatted drippings if you want, to taste. It sounds like a lot of steps but it is easier to get smooth gravy this way.  And you could always just use the gravy base without the drippings and deglazing liquid- it will still be good.

Brining your turkey:
 I suggest buying a fresh, ‘natural’ turkey, (one without preservatives, additives, or hormones.) I’ve had some dry, flavorless turkeys over the years, but last year I used a brine to soak the turkey before cooking and it came out very moist and flavorful. Don’t use a brine with a kosher turkey, they have enough salt already, and if you are buying a turkey that has already been injected with a solution of water and other flavors (self-basting) you won’t need to do this.  Brining the turkey involves dissolving 1 cup of table salt per gallon of cold water and soaking the turkey in it for 4-6 hours.  The benefits of placing your turkey in a brine solution for a short period of time include a more flavorful and moist turkey, along with a better ability to withstand hot oven temperatures (essential for crisp skin.) If you can’t fit your turkey and brine solution in the refrigerator, you can use a clean cooler, or bucket, but make sure the water is cold (under 40 degrees).  You will have to use ice to keep the water cold. After you’ve soaked the turkey, air-drying it in the refrigerator produces extremely crisp skin and is worth the effort.

The Brine
Dissolve 2 cups of salt in 2 gallons of cold water in a large pot or clean bucket.  Add turkey and refrigerate for 4-6 hours. Brine a turkey for about 20 minutes per pound. (Remember to remove all giblets and neck from both the main body cavity and the tail cavity.)

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse under cool water.  Pat dry, inside and out.  Place turkey breast side up on a flat wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered for 30 minutes or more.  (Up to 24 hours) Prepare and cook as above.

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