Do not fear the turkey, my friends! It's not as hard as you think. In fact, roasting a turkey is one of the simplest holiday meals to prepare (except for the dishes...ugh). Sure, you've read all about brining versus dry brining, roasting versus frying, stuffing versus...well, not stuffing. But truth be told, you can make your turkey prep as complicated, or as simple as you like. I'm not going to lie to you--I do prefer a dry brined bird. But last Friday, just for kicks, I roasted a turkey the old fashioned way, dotted with butter and sprinkled with (dry) herbs. It was about as plain and simple as you can get. And you know what? It was delicious, and juicy, and wonderful...without all the fuss.
Here is how I did it. You should try it too!
First, toss some onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of your roasting pan and lay the rack on top of them.
Then, remove the ugly bag of gizzards from the neck cavity and the hacked-off neck from the body cavity. To keep my turkey's dignity intact, I refrained from photographing this part. It's not pretty. I personally, save the neck and use it to make the turkey stock, but I toss the bag of goodies away because I think gizzards are nasty, even my dog won't touch them. If you love gizzards, then by all means cook them with the neck in the stock and chop them up for the gravy. Anyway, I had some rice on hand so I stuffed it into the neck cavity to help the breast look fuller and prettier. You don't have to do this step but I learned it from Martha and I think it's a nice, easy touch.
Then pull that extra skin up over the rice (or just over the cavity) and "sew it closed with a skewer.
Flip the turkey onto it's back and turn the wings so that they are up and under the breast like this....
It may crack a bit, but don't worry, you are not hurting the turkey. It's already dead. Then pat it dry with a paper towel.
I like to squeeze a little fresh lemon or orange juice over the top of my bird.
Then I stuff it inside the cavity, along with some more onions and celery (and fresh thyme and sage if I have it...I didn't).
Then I dot the entire surfaced of the turkey with softened butter. For a big turkey, you may need about a stick. This is not health food...it's a holiday turkey. Turkey needs butter.
Then I sprinkled the entire bird, inside and out with dried sage...
And dried thyme...
And salt and pepper....to taste, of course.
This is what it looks like when all is said and done.
Finally I put some stock in the bottom of the pan...about 1 cup. I will add more stock periodically as it roasts to make sure that there is plenty of gravy and plenty of juice to baste the turkey with.
And that's all there is to it. I roasted this bird at 350 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours. Do you have this book? It tells you exactly how long to cook just about anything and it is a fantastic resource to have. Your turkey will be done when the breast reads 165 degrees and the thigh reads 175-180 degrees. I like to baste my turkey about every 30 minutes with the pan juices and I add a little more stock to the bottom of the pan as necessary to keep the veggies from burning and the juices flowing.
Fear not....this is the year you will master the turkey. And if not, well, there's always next year.