A roast turkey is not complicated to prepare well. I will say that like many people I was intimidated to prepare one for years. There are many ways to get a moist juicy bird and this is just one. I have brined my turkey before and that method turns out exceptionally well however, this way is faster and also creates a moist tender turkey. I think the best advice I would give anyone attempting to make a large meal for a crowd is to prepare as much of it as possible days before and then you will have a much less stressful time on the big day. I prepare the stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy at least a week in advance and freeze it. I prepare all my vegetables the day before and have them soaking in water. I also get my turkey prepared the day before and then let it air dry in the fridge. Try it once and you will never want to feel the pressure and stress of getting everything done on the day you are serving. Relax, have a glass of cheer and be a part of your party.
You will need:
- a turkey (mine was 11 lbs) free range/organic fresh is so worth the investment.
- garlic herb butter (I make this in advance and keeps for ages in fridge or freezer)
- 2 carrots
- 2 parsnip
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 onions (leave skin on to make gravy darker (I personally hate the look of a white turkey gravy)
- 2 heads of garlic (separated into individual cloves)
- fresh herbs (thyme, sage, parsley, rosemary)
- 2 clementines
- 1 lemon
- olive oil
- chicken stock
- giblets, neck, heart etc..inside most turkeys (you don't have to eat these but they will make your gravy better if you roast in the pan)
Step 1: get a medley of vegetables and seasonings to put in the bottom of your roasting pan. You are not looking to eat these vegetables but to provide a base for the turkey and to provide pan flavour for an excellent gravy.
Step 2: wash your turkey under cold water. Clean inside and out. Dry with paper towels. I do not put stuffing inside the bird but, I will add generous amounts of salt and pepper, lemons, clementines, fresh herbs and garlic cloves. There should be room for air to get into the cavity while baking but, the seasonings will impart nice flavour.
Step 3: I prepare a garlic and herb butter and then allow it to come to room temperature before placing pats of it under the skin of the bird. You can carefully slide your hands under the skin to separate it from the meat. Then take your butter and generously place it under the skin. This will baste and keep the meat moist while baking. I also place a couple of sprigs of rosemary on the skin at the mouth of the cavity to keep the skin in place when baking. It can slide back if you do not.
Step 4: If you are doing this the day before then place in the fridge at this point. You can leave it uncovered overnight.
Step 5: remove your turkey from the fridge and let sit on counter for at least 30 before placing in the oven. At this point I slather lots more garlic herb butter over the outside of the bird. Pour some olive oil over the skin as well to have it all coated.
Step 6: sprinkle the entire bird generously with salt and pepper. Lots of salt on the skin will make a nice crispy skin.
Step 7: place slices of pancetta over the turkey. This is an Italian un-smoked bacon. It will impart moisture and baste the turkey and it will protect the breast from drying out. Add 2 cups of chicken broth to the bottom of the pan. This will also keep the environment moist and provide more liquid for gravy after.
Heat oven to 500 degrees F. Once heated place turkey on the lower part of the oven and close door. Immediately turn down oven to 375 degrees F and cook for approx 30 minutes per kg, plus you can add an extra 20-30 minutes on the end - this bird was 11lbs which is just under 5kg and took 3 hours and when done you can confirm its cooked by testing the temp should be 170 degrees F and if you poke the bird near the leg the liquid should come out clear. I also lift up the bird and allow juices from the inside to run back into the pan. They should be relatively clear.
Here is the part most people find hard. Once your turkey is done you can place on a platter and cover it with foil and towels. You can leave it alone for 2 hours. Some people even suggest that the best turkeys are left to rest for as long as you have cooked it. This will give you time to prepare all your other vegetables, and gravy plus wash the dishes before dinner! I left mine for 2 hours and it was still hot plus you are just going to top with loads of piping hot gravy .
I have prepared a sausage stuffing, maple glazed carrots and parsnips, roasted potatoes, bacon and brussel sprouts and homemade cranberry sauce. I love the Jamie Oliver idea of making the gravy a week before and then just adding it to your pan drippings so there is lots of gravy for everyone.