Thanksgiving gets complicated when you have a large family, and all of our kids are in college or starting their own family’s. That’s why I host our Thanksgiving the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, to maximize attendance; then we have a small celebration on Thanksgiving Day proper.
A favorite Thanksgiving tradition in our home is purchasing a turkey from a local farm. A couple of years ago, I visited the Schmucker’s Amish farm in Homer, Michigan. I enjoy the fact I’ve met the owners – as well as the turkeys – and appreciate the attention they give to the natural order of farming. (See original post for more details regarding their farming practices and another recipe.) I, therefore, ordered a 20-pounder a couple of weeks back from Arbor Farms.
Unlike my favorite gravy recipe, I hold no allegiance to one particular roast turkey; I browse the latest cooking magazines to decide which recipe strikes my fancy on a given year. This year a Bon Appetit recipe for Roast Turkey with Lemon-Sage Butter quoted their test kitchen saying it was “one of their favorites”. It looked easy, so I gave it a whirl.
I prefer savoring the flavor and texture of the bird with minimal intervention, maybe a dry brine, but these days that’s as far as I’ll go. You can spend hours, days even, getting a bird prepped for roasting, grilling or deep-frying. But if you overcook it, undercook it, or burn it before it’s cooked through, all that work is wasted. If I could give three mandatory ingredients for roast turkey they would be a thermometer, kosher salt and pepper. Maybe rosemary, but that’s it.
This was an excellent recipe for roast turkey, and the recipe you will find below is exactly what you will find on the Bon Appetit web site, for the more common 12-14 pound bird. It really is a good recipe. Unlike the recipe below, however, my bird was almost 20 pounds; I increased the ingredients used, as well as the cooking time, accordingly.
Just a note about that pic I took of the bird. Ever wonder why your bird doesn’t look as pretty as those holiday turkey glam shots? When a bird is cooked properly, it’s a bit shriveled 30 minutes out of the oven. In the distant past, I remember taking pictures of holiday turkeys for brochures.
We’d cook them until half-way done, then “paint” the flesh a lovely gold-mahogany finish. Half cooked, the bird remains plump. Well, the bird you see in this picture, is the real deal. A bit shriveled – but it’s ready for carving (and eating). Turkey verity.
Of note: My bird was browned to perfection before the flesh was cooked (thank you for advising, instant-read thermometer), so I draped it in foil the last 40 minutes of cooking time. There was a slight hint of lemon and sage flavor which was lovely with the texture of the fresh bird. Also, my bird temped 175˚, and was not overcooked.