When I begin planning my Thanksgiving meal, the most contentious item is the turkey—okay, not the turkey itself, but its method of preparation. To brine or not to brine? To roast low and slow or hot and well-browned? Should it be flipped during cooking or spatchcocked for efficiency? After all of this deliberation, however, I most often just stick the bird in the oven and monitor its temperature carefully.
In The Epicurious Cookbook, editor Tanya Steel offers a variation of the traditional method. Credited to Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, this bird is roasted hot to brown the skin, and then low and slow to finish. What sets it apart, however, is the unabashed use of butter. This is not a turkey simply rubbed down with butter. It is slathered, stuffed, and basted with the stuff, and then the gravy is spiked with a couple more tablespoons for good measure. A couple tablespoons of chopped herbs go a long way to flavor the bird, but, really, it's a celebration of what good, creamy butter can do to enhance a plain ol' turkey.
Why I picked this recipe: One word: butter.
What worked: The method worked great; this was probably my most well-browned turkey in recent memory, and the fragrance of the herb-butter perfumed my kitchen in the most salivating of ways.
What didn't: I ended up skimming off a substantial amount of fat from my pan juices before adding them to my gravy base (there was over a cup of fat). I'd recommend doing the same unless you like greasy gravy.
Suggested tweaks: The recipe headnote suggests switching up herbs to suit your taste, as well as adding a lemon half or two to the bird's cavity while roasting.
Reprinted with permission from The Epicurious Cookbook by Tanya Steel and The Editors of Epicurious. Copyright 2012. Published by Clarkson Potter. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- For Gravy Base
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds turkey necks and/or wings
- 2 cups diced onions
- 1 cup diced peeled carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or more as needed
- For Turkey
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, plus 15 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon, plus 5 large fresh tarragon sprigs
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, plus 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage, plus 5 fresh sage sprigs
- 1 (14- to 16-pound) turkey
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
Make Gravy Base: Melt the butter in a heavy large deep skillet over high heat. Add the turkey necks and/or wings and sauté until deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add the 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour the gravy base through a strainer set over a 4-cup measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract liquid. If necessary, add enough more chicken broth to gravy base to measure 4 cups.
Make Turkey: Mix 1/2 cup butter and all the minced herbs in a small bowl; season the herb butter with salt and pepper. Transfer 2 generous tablespoons to another small bowl and reserve for gravy; let stand at room temperature.
Set a rack at lowest position in the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Rinse the turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at the neck end, slide your hand between the skin and the breast meat to loosen the skin. Rub 4 tablespoons of herb butter over the breast meat under the skin. Place the turkey on a rack set into a large roasting pan. Sprinkle the main cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place 4 tablespoons of plain butter and all the herb sprigs in the main cavity. Tuck the wing tips under. Tie the legs together loosely. Rub the 2 tablespoons remaining herb butter over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle the turkey generously with salt and pepper.
Place the turkey in the oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Roast 30 minutes more, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon plain butter to the roasting pan. Roast 30 minutes more; baste with pan juices, then pour another 1 cup broth over and add another 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Cover the turkey loosely with foil. Roast until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh registers 175°F, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer. Transfer the turkey to a platter; let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).
Strain the pan juices into a bowl; whisk in the gravy base. Melt the reserved 2 tablespoons herb butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat; add the flour and whisk constantly until the roux is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Gradually add the pan juice-gravy base mixture; increase the heat and whisk constantly until gravy thickens, boils, and is smooth. Reduce the heat to medium; boil gently until gravy is reduced to 4 1/2 cups, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and serve with the turkey.
Do Ahead: Gravy base can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before using.