Fool-Proof Roast Turkey & Gravy
Note: You must start this process with a thawed turkey the day before you want to serve it. How much time will it take to thaw a frozen turkey? Click here for information.
Remove the neck cavity fat and giblets from the fresh or thoroughly defrosted turkey. Rinse well with cold water inside and out.
In a container large enough to snugly hold the turkey, combine the salt, sugar, and garlic and 1 cup cold water. Stir mixture well. Place the turkey in the container and add more water until it is just covered. Put a plate on top of turkey to keep it entirely submerged in the brining liquid. This brine (counter-intuitively) draws moisture and flavor into the turkey meat. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 24 hours.
Combine the butter, shallots, herbs, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Put the mixture on wax paper in a log shape (1 inch in diameter), roll the paper around it, and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).
After 24 hours in brine, discard the brine and rinse the turkey well with cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels. Put the turkey on a dry work surface. At the neck cavity, gently separate the skin from the breast meat on both sides with your fingers, working from the neck end back to the tail, making a pocket to hold the shallot stuffing. Be careful not to rip the skin. Cut the stuffing into 1-inch rounds. Gently insert the rounds under the breast skin. Working from the outside of the bird, use your fingers to smooth the stuffing evenly over the breast meat. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the melted butter, maple syrup, salt, and pepper to make the baste.
Place a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the turkey, breast side down, and it cook until the breast skin is an even, rich brown all over (about 15 to 20 minutes).
Put the turkey breast-side down on a V-shaped roasting rack in a 4-inch deep roasting pan. Baste the exposed skin well. Put the turkey leg-end first into the lower third of the oven. Baste every 30 minutes or so. Cook the turkey, breast down, until the innermost thigh meat registers 165°F (75°C) on an accurate instant-read thermometer (probably around 1-1/2 hours, depending on the oven).
Turn the turkey breast-side up and check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast. Baste well and return to the oven leg end first. Baste it every 15 minutes. When the breast meat registers 152°F (67°C) around 1 to 1-1/2 hours later; time will vary substantially between ovens remove the turkey from the oven. Let it rest 30 minutes under an aluminum foil tent before carving. It will continue cooking during this period.
For the Gravy:
While the turkey is cooking, combine the giblets, neck, and stock in a saucepan. Simmer very gently and reduce the stock to about 4 cups liquid.
While the turkey is resting, pour the pan juices into a gravy degreaser. Discard the fat and reserve the juices. Deglaze the roasting pan with one cup of the reduced stock, using a wooden spoon to ease the tasty brown particles off the pan. Add the deglazing liquid back to the stock. Reduce by 1/3 over medium heat. Remove the giblets and neck from stock. Whisk as much of the reserved pan juices into the reduced stock as you can without making it salty.
Bring the liquid to a low boil. Gently shake 4 tablespoons of quick-mixing sauce flour into the stock, whisking continuously for about 2 minutes. If the gravy is still thin, whisk in more flour. Add the sherry, reduce the heat, and slowly simmer the gravy for 10 minutes more. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Strain into a gravy boat and set in a warm place.
Yield: serves 8
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