For years, my health-food nazi, roughage-eating parents bought only free-range organic turkeys. And I hated them: so dry, tasteless, and without any juices with which to make gravy. Turkey without gravy is a travesty in my family, so my parents gave up about three years ago and started buying the unstuffed Butterball turkeys. Shocking, I know. But the difference has been night and day. I actually kind of like turkey now. Which is good, seeing as I always seem to be the one who stuffs it, roasts it, and then makes the gravy.
So let’s do that today, shall we?
First we’re going to do some gravy pre-preparation. Take the neck and giblets from your turkey and plop them in a pot with some garlic and enough chicken broth to mostly cover them. Simmer that for an hour or so, then take out the giblets and neck (feed the giblets to your dog if you have one, or purée them and add them back to your broth), and set the broth aside.
Stir that mess up and shove as much of it as you can into the cavity of your turkey. You can make removal easier later by lining the inside of the cavity with cheesecloth, but I didn’t have any on this day.
Drape your turkey lovingly with a few strips of bacon. This will keep the skin from drying out and it will save you from having to baste the darned thing while you’re entertaining, as the fat from the bacon will drip down gradually and keep everything moist. You can truss your turkey if you wish, but with big poultry I prefer to leave it all hanging out there to ensure even cooking. I don’t cover it with foil either. Well, not until much later. You’ll see.
Chuck your turkey into the oven at 325°F and roast the sucker. Your cooking time will vary with the size of your bird, but for some reason I find no matter the size, mine always cooks in between three and four hours. Keep a close eye on your thermometer. The turkey is cooked when the thigh temperature is 180°F. Check the stuffing inside the turkey, as well — it should be around 165°F for safety’s sake.
If you plan it right your turkey should probably be done about an hour or so before it’s ready to serve. Clear a space on your counter and lay out two or three old towels. In the centre overlap a couple of pieces of aluminum foil. Once the turkey is done, remove it (with the aid of a poultry lifter) to your improvised platform. Pull up the edges of aluminum foil and add more to cover it all around tightly.
Pull up the towels and add more on top, wrapping it with care and tucking under the edges. Resting the turkey like this will keep it hot for a couple of hours, and will ensure that none of the juices get lost.
Pour whatever juices and solid pieces you get into the pot with your reserved chicken broth from the giblet boiling. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Scoop out a little bit of broth and make a slurry with some flour, then whisk it back into the gravy and keep stirring until the mixture thickens. You can remove it from the heat, cover it, and let it cool while you do other things. You can always heat it up again later.
Your extra stuffing can be roasted, covered with aluminum foil, at 350°F (or higher, depending on whatever else you are cooking at the time) for about half an hour, until the bread crumbs are crusty and brown. Everything in it is pre-cooked so you needn’t worry about temperature in your casserole dish. Just cook it until it looks good.