12 servings, or more
A whole roast turkey is still something special on our table. And after years of Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts and birthday dinners I have perfected the two-stage, wet-then-dry turkey roasting procedure that I present here. It’s unusual but it works. In fact, I roast all kinds of meats and poultry this way to produce marvelously moist and flavorful meat with a crispy, caramelized exterior-and a rich pan sauce at the same time.
- 1 12 to 14-pound turkey, including neck and giblets
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Vegetables and Seasonings
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 large onions, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 3/4 pound celery, rinsed and cut in 2-inch chunks
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 6 short branches fresh rosemary, with plenty of needles
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, if needed
- 4 to 6 cups Turkey Broth or a simple vegetable broth (Turkey Broth Recipe)
- Reduced Balsamic for Glazing the Turkey (optional)
- 1 pint good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 bay leaf
- Choose one of the following (optional) for the Reduced Balsamic Vinegar:
- 4 whole cloves
- A tender branch fresh rosemary with lots of needles
- fresh thyme, several small sprigs with lots of leaves
Prepping the turkey and vegetables:
Arrange a rack low in the oven, making sure that the fully prepared turkey will fit in easily and roast well below the oven ceiling. Remember that the foil tent will be an inch or 2 higher than the turkey itself. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Take out the giblets and neck from the turkey and save. Remove and discard any lumps of fat from the cavities. Rinse the bird inside and out, in cool running water, clearing the cavity of any residue. Rinse the giblets too. Pat everything dry with paper towels.
Set the wire roasting rack in the pan and the turkey on the rack with the neck and giblets in the pan bottom. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt inside the main turkey cavity and the rest of the salt (1-1/2 tablespoons in all) over the outside of the bird. Pour the olive oil on the turkey, a bit at a time, and spread it with your hands to coat the entire skin, including the back. Twist the tip joint of each wing down and forcefully fold it so it stays in place under the neck (think of placing both your hands behind your neck). Rest the oiled turkey on the rack, flat on its back, wings folded and breast up.
Toss together in a bowl the vegetables and seasonings, except the salt, with the 1/4 cup olive oil, mixing everything well. If you are using my Turkey Broth or other salted broth, don’t add salt. If using an unsalted stock, mix 1 teaspoon kosher salt with the vegetables.
Put a handful or 2 of mixed vegetables (and one of the rosemary branches) loosely into the cavity of the turkey. Spread all the rest in one layer in the pan bottom, all around the turkey. Push the vegetables pieces under the rack, if your pan is small, so they will cook in the stock.
Before pouring in the broth, move your pan near the oven, so you won’t have far to carry it. Pour the broth into roasting pan on the side, without wetting the turkey. Depending on pan size, you’ll need 4 to 6 cups of stock to fill the bottom about 1/3-inch deep. Add more stock (or water) if necessary.
Putting up the tent and roasting the turkey:
Tear two long sheets of aluminum foil. Cover one side of the pan with the first sheet, arching it well above the turkey. Crimp the foil against the rim of the pan so it stays in place without touching the bird. Cover the rest of the pan and turkey with the second sheet of foil (or more if needed), overlapping the sheets several inches. Press the bottom of the foil tightly against the sides of the pan, all around, sealing the tent completely.
Carefully place the covered pan on the oven rack-it will be heavy so you may need some help. Push it well to the back of the oven for the maximum heat and let the turkey roast undisturbed for 2 hours. Open the oven, pull the roasting pan to the front, and lift off the foil sheets. The pan juices should be bubbling away and the steaming turkey will be mostly pale. t.) With a ladle or bulb baster, baste the turkey all over with the pan juices and return it to the oven. Save the foil.
Roast the turkey uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour, to brown the skin and cook the meat to a safe internal temperature. (Because every oven thermostat is different and turkeys will vary in size, cooking times will vary.) After 30 minutes, baste again and check the internal temperature of the turkey then continue roasting, if necessary until the meat is reaches the right temperature. If the breast is getting too dark, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil.
Starting the sauce:
Carefully remove the roasting pan and lift the turkey out of the pan and onto the baking sheet. Cover the turkey loosely with the foil and keep it in a warm place while you make the sauce. (The oven should remain on at 375 degrees if you’re going to glaze it.)
Remove the turkey neck and giblets (not the liver) out of the roasting pan and into the saucepan. With a potato masher, crush the cooked vegetables in the roasting juices, breaking them up into little bits. Set the sieve on the saucepan and pour everything out of the roaster into the sieve, scraping up all the juices, vegetables, the liver, and flavorful caramelized bits. Press the vegetables and other solids against the sieve with a big spoon to release their liquid, and then discard what’s left in the sieve.
You should have 1 to 2 quarts of pan juices (depending on how much stock you started with and the roasting time). Set the saucepan over high heat, bring the juices to a boil and let them reduce, uncovered.
Glazing the Turkey & Final Steps:
Make a glaze for the turkey. (See Below) Brush the glaze all over the bird in a smooth even coat. Return the turkey to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the glazed skin is crisp, shiny and deeply colored. Let it rest in a warm place, tented with foil, if you wish.
To finish the sauce: Pour into the boiling sauce any turkey juices that accumulated in the baking sheet. When the sauce has reduced almost by half, taste it for salt and add a bit more if you like. Remove the turkey neck and giblets and bring back to a simmer.
Strain it once again, this time through a fine-meshed sieve into a measuring cup or other narrow container. Let it rest for a minute, then spoon off the fat layer that’s accumulated on top. Thicken the sauce with bread crumbs if too liquid.
To serve: for formal occasions, you can present the whole turkey and carve it at the table. For most family dinners, I cut the bird up in the kitchen as follows: cut the wings off, slice the breast meat, then remove the legs at the joint and slice the leg and thigh meat from the bones for dark meat lovers; arrange all the pieces on a serving platter. Pour any juices left in the pan or on the cutting board over the meat, and then nap all the pieces with a cup or more of the finished sauce. Bring the platter to the table and let people serve themselves. Put the rest of the sauce in a bowl and pass it.
Making the Balsamic Reduction:
Pour the balsamic vinegar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and place over moderate heat. Stir in the honey, drop in the bay leaves and optional cloves or herbs and bring to a low boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and allow the vinegar to reduce slowly. After a half hour or so, when it has lost more than half of its original volume, the vinegar will start to appear syrupy, and you should watch it closely.
To use as a glaze, cook the sauce to 1/3 of its original volume (when it will measure 2/3 cup). It should be the consistency of molasses, thick but still spreadable. Pour the syrup through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Discard the bay leaves and seasonings. Brush on the glaze while warm.
For use as a condiment and an elixir to drizzle over vegetables, reduce the vinegar even more, until it approaches one-quarter its original volume. Slow bubbles will rise from the syrup and it will take on the consistency of honey, leaving a thick coating on a spoon. Pour it through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Use a heatproof spatula or spoon to clean out the saucepan before it sticks to the pot for good! Drizzle on the syrup while it is still warm.
Store in the refrigerator, in a sealed container. It will congeal but keep indefinitely. To use, spoon the hard sauce into a bowl or heatproof measuring cup and heat it slowly in a pan of hot water or at low level in the microwave. For a thinner consistency, stir in drops of hot water.