Homemade Roast Turkey – My First One!

The wonderful co-op we buy fresh food from didn’t have turkeys ready in time for Thanksgiving (further proof of the legitimacy of the farmers – they didn’t pump the birds with artificial scary stuff just to have the birds ready for the high season).  When I got an email last week letting me know their birds were finally ready, I decided to place an order.  Although I had never made a roast turkey before, I figured it would be just as delicious as the chicken, eggs, milk and vegetables I order every other week.

Every November cooking magazines and television shows warn of turkey disasters: dry meat, not leaving enough time for the bird to thaw, houses burning down during a deep-fry session. But, I wasn’t feeling intimidated.  I roast chicken several times a month, and I assumed a turkey couldn’t be much different.

Silly me!

Roasting a turkey is a lot different!  The turkey weighed in at 15 pounds – more than three times than the chickens I’m used to! And, it took three full days for the bird to thaw in our fridge.  I was quite grateful to have my strong husband at home to help with the heavy lifting.  He ended up hanging out in the kitchen with me for most of the preparation, and I really enjoyed that time with him.

Many years ago I read about roasting a turkey with butter-soaked cheese cloth.  I wish I could remember where the idea came from, but the idea has been floating unattributed in my recipe folders for years.  What I do know is that the finished bird was delicious!  Perfectly juicy and tasty.  Success!

Homemade Roast Turkey

15 lb turkey, rinsed, patted dry and giblets removed (and reserved)

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 1/2 sticks butter, melted

2 1/2 cups white wine

salt, pepper

natural, unbleached cheese cloth (I found this at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but its usually available at most grocery stores)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place bird breast side up on a rack in a large roasting pan.  Pour 1 cup of white wine over the top of it.  Rub softened butter all over the outside and generously sprinkle salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, stir melted butter and 1 1/2 cups wine together.  Place cheese cloth in the butter mixture and soak thoroughly.  Drape the soaked cheese cloth over the top of the turkey.

Place turkey in oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.  Every 30 minutes, brush some of the remaining butter mixture over the cheese cloth.  Its important to keep the cheese cloth moist, but it will turn brown.

After 2 1/2 – 3 hours, remove cheese cloth and discard.  Brush remaining butter mixture on top of the bird.  Continue cooking, basting occasionally with pan juices, until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.  Our 15 pound bird roasted for close to four hours. Remove from oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Giblet Stock (for Homemade Gravy)

Turkey giblets (minus the liver)

1 celery stalk, 1 carrot, 1 onion (I keep a stash of veggie odds-&-ends in our freezer for homemade vegetable stock, so I just tossed in a few handfuls from that stash)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon peppercorns

Toss all ingredients into a large stock pot and cover with water.  Simmer for three hours (while the turkey is roasting).

Strain and toss solid ingredients.  This should yield about 3 cups of stock.

Homemade Gravy

3 cups giblet stock

4 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups Madiera wine

pan juices from turkey

Pour turkey pan juices into a fat separator.  Let it rest for 10-20 minutes to allow fat to rise to the top. All the good stuff is the dark brown liquid at the bottom.  Set aside.

In a small cup, whisk flour and 1 cup of stock until flour is dissolved. Set aside.

Put roasting pan on the stove over medium heat.  Slowly pour in wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the roasting pan.  Slowly whisk in stock-flour mixture.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until flour is totally incorporated.  Add remaining 2 cups giblet stock.  Add dark turkey drippings (not the fat).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 20 minutes.

Strain gravy through a fine sieve.  Serve with the turkey.

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