Sunday, January 16, 2005

Thanksgiving Turkey

Use a V-rack to keep the bird elevated. Be careful to dry the skin thoroughly before brushing the bird with butter; otherwise it will have spotty brown skin. Rotating the bird helps produce moist, evenly cooked meat, but for the sake of ease, you may opt not to rotate it. In that case, skip the step of lining the V-rack with foil and roast the bird breast-side up for the entire cooking time. You don't have to brine the bird if you use a frozen Butterball (injected with salt and water) or a kosher bird (soaked in saltwater during processing).

I used an frozen Empire turkey. Be careful about salt when using kosher or brine birds; I find that my gravy requires NO salt and that, in fact, I need to add 4 cups of unsalted giblet water so that isn't too salty. I undersalt the dressing as well.

Serves 20 to 24
2 medium onions , chopped coarse
2 medium carrots , chopped coarse
2 ribs of celery , chopped coarse
1 lemon , quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme (3 to 4 inches each)
1 frozen turkey (Butterball or kosher turkey, 18 to 22 pounds gross weight), neck, heart, and gizzard reserved for gravy, turkey rinsed and thoroughly dried with paper towels
4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

A no-fuss recipe yields a beautiful bird that will please everyone around the crowded holiday table.

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position; remove remaining racks. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line large V-rack with heavy-duty foil and poke holes in foil; set V-rack in 15- by 12-inch roasting pan.

2. Toss onions, carrots, celery, lemon, and thyme in medium bowl; set aside. Brush turkey breast with 2 tablespoons butter, then sprinkle with half of salt and half of black pepper. Set turkey breast-side down on V-rack. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with remaining salt and black pepper. Fill cavity with half of onion mixture; scatter rest in roasting pan and pour 1 cup water into pan.

3. Roast turkey 1 hour; remove roasting pan with turkey from oven. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Using clean dishtowel or 2 potholders, turn turkey breast-side up; return roasting pan with turkey to oven and continue to roast until legs move freely and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 180 degrees, about 2 hours longer. Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes. Carve and serve.

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