Monday, November 15, 2010

Herb-Roasted Turkey

Serves 8 to 10, with left-overs :)

No matter how deft your knife skills, carving a turkey is an inevitably messy job, one I’d highly recommend taking care of before your guests even arrive. Taking a trick from up my mom’s clever sleeve, I’ve gotten in the habit of roasting and carving my turkey a whole day before Thanksgiving, then reheating it just before dinner. It may sound like a bit of a cheat, but I promise no quality is sacrificed, and with an oven full of a million and one sides, you’re going to be glad the carving is over and done with, come the big night!

Herb-Roasted Turkey

1 12- to 14-pound turkey
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 Tbl finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbl finely chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbl finely chopped fresh sage
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the turkey
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning the turkey
1/2 cup chicken stock, for re-heating

Pre-heat the oven to 35o°F, and arrange the rack in the bottom third position. 

In a small mixing bowl, combine the butter with the rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper.  Stir with a rubber spatula to thoroughly blend. 

Remove the turkey neck and giblets, and reserve for making the gravy.  Rinse the bird well, inside and out, then pat dry with paper towels.  Generously salt and pepper the inside of the cavity.  Gently slide your hands under the skin of the turkey breast and thighs, to loosen it.  Using just half of the herbed butter, use your hands to smear it beneath the skin over the meat of the turkey breasts and thighs.  Generously season the outside of the bird with salt and pepper.  Tuck the wings behind the back, then tie the tips of the legs together using butchers twine.  Place the turkey on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan.  Pour about a cup of water into the roasting pan (to prevent the drippings from burning.)  Melt the remaining herb butter, then generously brush the entire bird with about a tablespoon or so of the butter.

Roast, basting with butter every hour or so, and adding more water to the pan as necessary, until the internal temperature of the breast meat is 140°F, 2 to 3 hours.  (I highly recommend using a leave-in thermometer such as this one.)  Increase the oven temperature to 425°F, baste a final time with butter, and continue to roast until  the internal temperature of the breast meat is 165°F and that of the thigh meat is 175°F, about 30 to 45 minutes longer.  Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let stand 30 minutes before slicing.

To carve the turkey:

  • To remove the legs from the bird, arrange the turkey with the breast facing upwards and away from you.  Slice through the loose skin between the leg and the breast.  Pull the entire leg down towards the carving board, until the hip joint between the leg and the breast is exposed.  Slice between this joint, cutting through the meat and skin as close as possible to the edge of the thigh meat.  Repeat with the other leg. 
  • To separate the thighs from the drumsticks, cut between the joint that connects the two.  Leave the drumsticks whole.  Slice the thigh meat from around the bone, then cut into serving-size slices.
  • Remove the wings from the bird by slicing through the wing joints.
  • To remove the breast meat, slice along both sides of the breastbone, then angle the knife even with the rib cage, and slice between the meat and the bones.  Place the removed breast on the carving board and slice the meat cross-wise (against the grain) into serving-size slices.  Repeat with the other breast.    
  • If you’re feeling industrious, save the carcass for making turkey stock later :).

The turkey meat can be kept refrigerated in an air-tight container until the next day.  In order to re-heat, arrange the sliced meat into one or two casserole dishes, making sure not to pack the slices too closely together.  Drizzle the meat with about 1/2 cup chicken stock, then cover the casserole dishes with foil and place in a 35o°F oven.  It should take about 20-30 minutes for the meat to re-heat.  Arrange the sliced turkey meat on a platter and serve immediately.