There are certain basic Thanks-giving recipes that, once mastered, need no adjusting from year to year. Here are the ones we turn to each November:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (do not add salt to a brined bird)
12- to 14-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed
In advance: Place the raw turkey in the refrigerator breast-side down so the juices flow to the white meat; this contributes to moist breast meat. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before roasting.
Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-third position.
In a small bowl, mash together the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold running water, drain it and pat it dry with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body.
Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Generously season the inside and underside of the turkey with salt and pepper.
Using clean hands, loosen the skin over the breast by running your hands just under the skin. Reaching with your fingers as far as possible, carefully loosen the skin over the legs. Gently push about 6 tablespoons of the butter mixture under the skin, using your fingertips to carefully spread the butter over the breast and legs. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons butter mixture evenly over the outside of the turkey skin.
Transfer the turkey to the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes. The turkey should begin to turn golden brown.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and loosely cover the turkey with a large piece of tented aluminum foil. Continue to roast the turkey.
Start checking for doneness after about 2 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven when a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted in the breast. The total cooking time should be 2 to 212 hours for a 12- to 14-pound bird.
Transfer the turkey to a carving board and set aside to rest for at least 20 minutes prior to carving. Reserve the drippings in the roasting pan for the Turkey Gravy.
8 servings plus plenty for leftovers
4 tablespoons turkey fat (from the drippings in the turkey roasting pan)
4 tablespoons flour
About 2 cups turkey stock, chicken stock or broth, heated until almost boiling
Defatted juices (from the drippings in the turkey roasting pan)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In advance: Turkey stock can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen. But gravy cannot be made in advance. It demands both turkey fat and the defatted drippings from the turkey roasting pan, which are available only after the turkey comes out of the oven. (Use a fat separator cup to isolate the fat from the drippings.)
Directions: In a medium saute pan or pot over medium heat, heat the turkey fat until warm. Using a whisk or a fork, stir the flour into the fat and cook, whisking constantly, until a paste forms. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 2 more minutes. Still whisking constantly, gradually add the hot stock or broth in 14-cup increments, whisking until the stock is completely incorporated after each addition. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy simmers and thickens, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the defatted juices and salt and pepper to taste and whisk to combine.
If desired, strain the gravy. If the gravy is thicker than you would like, thin it with a little more stock. Serve immediately.
Makes about 8 servings