Don’t stress… If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the holidays is that roasting a turkey doesn’t need to be daunting. In fact, it’s way easier than most people think. A perfectly delicious turkey is only a few steps away!
With years worth of scouring the Internet and rummaging through my dozens (ok, hundreds) of cookbooks, I’ve just about tried every method, marinade, and brine known to man. In the last two years, however, I think I might have just cracked the code to the juiciest & most succulent bird that’s worthy of taking center stage on any holiday table.
Combining methods used by some of my favorite chefs, this recipe is relatively stress free and almost laughably easy. It’s definitely not something you can make at the last-minute, so remember to give yourself two to three days before you start the process.
All four recipes are below: Turkey, Clarified Butter, Gravy, and Cranberry
To give you a quick rundown, I start by brining my turkey in a wet brine of water, sugar, and salt for twelve to 24 hours. I then rinse and let the bird dry out, uncovered, in the refrigerator for about seven hours – this will allow the skin to develop a beautiful crisp. The turkey is then brushed with clarified butter, seasoned with a bit of Maldon salt, and stuffed with a few aromatics before roasting in a very hot oven. The trick is to avoid the temptation of opening your oven while it cooks – you want to keep all the heat intact and avoid temperature fluctuations. After about an hour, start checking your turkey by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. At my last Christmas party, my 11-pound turkey was done in less than 90 minutes (see here for cooking times based on weight).
Time saving tip: Make your cranberry sauce and gravy several days in advance and reheat when needed.
This turkey goes beautifully with my recipe for three-cheese potato gratin, which can also be made in advance and reheated while your turkey is waiting to be carved.
My favorite turkey recipe with cinnamon spiced cranberry sauce & make-ahead gravy (serves 6 to 8)
Equipment you will need:
- A bucket big enough to hold the Turkey and the brine
- A meat thermometer
- A large roasting pan with a roasting rack. If a roasting rack is not available, you can roast your turkey on a bed of seasoned root vegetables mixed with a cup of water.
- A large platter for your turkey
Ingredients for the Turkey:
For the brine:
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 2 cups table salt
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
For the turkey:
- 1 fresh turkey 10 to 12 pounds (if your turkey is frozen, please allow for an extra day to thaw in the refrigerator)
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- ½ a lemon
- 1 carrot, cut in half
- 1 head of garlic, sliced crosswise
- Clarified butter (recipe below)
Step 1 – brine your turkey
Start by dissolving your salt and sugar in 32 cups of cold water. Add the lemon halves and peppercorns, and carefully lower the turkey into the brine, turning it a couple of times to coat it. Place a large plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged. Cover the top of the bucket with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.
Step 2 – dry your turkey in the fridge
After twelve to twenty four hours, carefully remove the turkey from the brine. Rinse it with cold water, then pat it dry with paper towels. Place it on a rack in a roasting tin, and refrigerate it uncovered for approximately seven hours or overnight. This will dry out the skin.
Step 3 – roast your turkey
Take the turkey out of the refrigerator one hour before roasting.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 C), and place the oven rack on the lowest level.
Stuff the inside of the turkey with the fresh thyme, lemon, carrot, and garlic. Slather the entire surface of the skin with cooled clarified butter. Sprinkle with a bit of Maldon or sea salt (do not over salt, remember it will have some carry over saltiness from the brine).
Roast your turkey. You can start checking it after an hour. Stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (don’t touch the bone) – when it reads 165 degrees F, it’s done. Note that my 10.6 pound turkey took approximately one hour and thirty minutes to roast.
Let the turkey rest for twenty to thirty minutes before carving. This will give you plenty of time to reheat your side dishes.
- 250 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
Melt the butter over low heat in a heavy bottomed pan. Simmer gently until white foam bubbles and rises to the top. Once the foam stops rising to the surface, gently skim it off the top with a spoon. You will be left with a beautiful yellow liquid, gently pour it into a bowl. If there are any more white foamy bits, remove and discard. Cool slightly before slathering onto your turkey.
For the gravy (can be made several days in advance)
- Olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 whole boiler chicken, or the equivalent in wings and legs
- 4 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 brown onion, unpeeled and roughly chopped
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 cups white wine
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C)
Coat chicken, carrots, and onion together with olive oil and season with salt and pepper – add it all to a roasting pan with the thyme and rosemary. Roast for approx. 1 hour or until chicken and vegetables start to caramelize. Remove from the oven, and dissolve the flour in a bit of water to form a paste. Add the paste, wine, and remaining water to the chicken and vegetables. Boil it all together, stirring occasionally, until the sauce starts to thicken and is reduced to about 1½ to 2 cups of liquid. This should take one to one and a half hours. Remove chicken and vegetables through a strainer and discard.
Cinnamon orange cranberry sauce (can be made one week in advance)
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ½ cup plus one tablespoon white sugar or maple syrup
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
Place all ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and boil until cranberries start to pop and develop a thick, jam-like consistency, approximately 20-25 minutes. Remove from the stove and serve or store in the refrigerator until needed.
Carve your turkey and serve alongside the gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes and all the other trimmings you fancy.
Enjoy your festive feast & Happy Holidays to you all!