Herb-roasted Turkey

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Herb-roasted Turkey
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Turkey skin acts as a sort of rain slicker: outside flavors have a tough time penetrating it. So for this recipe, we combine herbs with softened butter and lemon zest and smear them directly onto the meat, after working the skin loose by hand. The herb butter not only subtly flavors the meat, but it also really enhances the pan drippings we use to make a delicious gravy.

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What you'll need

  • 15- to 20-pound turkey
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 6 to 8 chopped fresh sage leaves (or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried crumbled sage)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups chicken broth

How to make it

  1. Position the rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325º. Remove the turkey neck, heart, and gizzard and discard or reserve for another use. Rinse the bird well inside and out and pat dry, then salt the cavity.

  2. In a small mixing bowl, blend the butter, herbs, mustard, lemon zest, and pepper. Starting at the tail end, gently slide your hand under the skin of the turkey breast to loosen it. Using your fingers, smear a generous tablespoon of the butter mixture on each half of the breast. Smear half of the remaining herb butter on the exposed flesh near the neck. Then smear the remaining herb butter over the skin of the breast. (If you are not stuffing the bird, pull up the excess skin at the neck to seal, and secure it to the body of the bird with a small skewer or toothpicks.)

  3. Loosely fill the neck cavity with stuffing. Pull up the excess skin at the neck to seal, and secure it to the body with a small skewer or toothpicks. Loosely fill the main cavity with stuffing. Tie together the legs with kitchen twine, or secure them with the plastic leg clamps if the bird came with them. Tuck the wing tips under the bird so they don't scorch.

  4. Place the turkey directly in a large roasting pan or on a rack inside the roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour without opening the oven. After 1 hour, add 1 cup of chicken broth to the pan. Rotate the pan 180º. Continue to roast until the meat registers 180º, measured at the thickest part of the inside thigh; do not let the thermometer touch bone. At the center of the cavity, the stuffing should register 165º. Add more broth to the pan, if necessary, to keep the pan juices from burning. Total cooking time for a stuffed turkey should be 4 1/4 to 5 hours (for an unstuffed bird, subtract 30 minutes). Transfer the turkey to a large platter. Cover and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour the pan juices into a 2-cup measure and set aside for the gravy. Makes 10 servings.

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