by Chef Laura Frankel, author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons (Wiley) and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes (Wiley).
We love turkey in our house but I have to admit that I think the gravy steals the show. My kids are always very insistent that there be “lots” of gravy. Usually, the run down on the menu (Thanksgiving) begins a month or so before the holiday. After being assured that there will indeed be “lots” of gravy, the campaign for who gets the legs begins.
I roast my turkey a bit differently. I like to crisp the skin with high heat and then reduce the roasting temperature and let the breast slowly baste in the natural juices and added olive oil and wine. The addition of cheesecloth helps protect the delicate breast and hold the herbs in place.
I do not stuff my turkey but prefer to make the stuffing on the side. I also do not use a roasting rack. I like to roast the turkey on a bed of vegetables. The vegetables keep the turkey from getting soggy from sitting in its own juices and, as well as flavor the juices which will be used to make the much loved gravy.
1 12-14 pound whole turkey, thawed
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thymelt;
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
3 large Spanish onions, roughly chopped
6 ribs celery, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 bulbs of garlic, cut in half
2 cups chopped mushrooms
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (optional) 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Remove the neck and goblets from the turkey. Place the neck in a separate roasting pan. Rinse turkey with cool water, and dry with paper towels. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature. Combine the chopped herbs and set aside.
Place rack on lowest level in oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine olive oil and white wine in a bowl. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters and cut it into a 17-inch, four-layer square. Immerse cheesecloth in the olive oil and wine; let soak.
Place the chopped vegetables on the bottom of a heavy metal roasting pan (you want the vegetables to cover the bottom of the pan to keep the turkey from sitting in its own juices and getting soggy). Place the giblets in the pan with the vegetables. Place turkey, breast side up, on top of the bed of chopped vegetables in the roasting pan. If the turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it; an instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate. Fold wing tips under turkey. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper inside turkey. Tie legs together loosely with kitchen string. Rub turkey with olive oil and sprinkle generously with fresh herb mixture and salt and pepper.
Lift cheesecloth out of liquid, and squeeze it slightly, leaving it very damp. Spread it evenly over the breast and about halfway down the sides of the turkey; it can cover some of the leg area. Place turkey, legs first, in oven. Place the neck in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, baste cheesecloth and exposed parts of turkey with the juices that will gather in the bottom of the pan. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue to cook for 1 more hour, basting every 30 minutes. Remove the neck and set aside for making the gravy.
Carefully remove and discard cheesecloth. Turn roasting pan so that the breast is facing the back of the oven. Baste turkey with pan juices. Cook 1 more hour, basting after 30 minutes.
Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke into a bone. The temperature should be between 140-160 degrees and the turkey should be golden brown. The breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not yet fully cooked, baste turkey, return to oven, and cook another 20 to 30 minutes.
When fully cooked, transfer the turkey to a serving platter – lightly tent the turkey with foil (tear a large piece of foil lightly cover the turkey and let it rest.)
To Make the Gravy:
Pour all the pan juices into a glass measuring cup and pour the vegetables into a mesh strainer placed. Press on the vegetables to gather all of the juices for the gravy. Discard the vegetables and reserve the giblets! Let stand until grease rises to the surface, then skim it off reserving 2 tablespoons.
Place the roasting pan over medium – high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the turkey fat back to the pan. Add chopped shallots and mushrooms and using a wooden spoon, scrape the pan until all the brown bits are gathered from pan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Cook the roux for 2 minutes to remove the raw flour flavor. Add one cup white wine and one cup of degreased pan juices, plus stock if needed, to equal one cup. Chop the cooled giblets. Add the roasted neck and chopped giblets and slowly simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove the neck and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper