We’re thinking of Harvest Festival and the bounty of the season this week and, of course, of the approaching Holidays. Holidays for most, mean a turkey. Sometimes keeping it simple is not only best,... it’s the tastiest, especially when cooking turkey on a chaotic Thanksgiving Day morning. When it comes to stuffing the turkey, I like to bake my stuffing separately. If the cavity of your bird is stuffed solid, it takes so much longer to cook, plus you risk either drying the meat out or undercooking the stuffing inside, neither of which are great options, so, for a perfect bird, don’t put anything more in the body cavity than a few aromatics to add flavor, with maybe put just a little stuffing tucked under the turkey’s breast flap. Your bird will be moist and delicious. And if you are on a bland diet, you don’t have to pass on the bird, simply avoid the skin, eat lean white meat and pass on the gravy.
Rub the turkey all over with olive oil, and generously rub in salt and pepper.
Put the garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and 6 sprigs of thyme into the body cavity. Tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings underneath the body.
If using, put the butter underneath the skin covering the breast. Transfer to a roasting pan.
Bake in the oven uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes. Then pour 1 cup of water or stock into the pan and cover the turkey very loosely with foil. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees. The turkey is ready when a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165 degrees, about 1½ hours.
Discard vegetables from cavity. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
A rule of thumb for the cooking time for a turkey is 15 minutes a pound + 30 minutes. If you fill the body cavity as well as the breast with stuffing, be sure to add on the extra weight and adjust the cooking time upwards.
Don’t throw the giblets away, use them make stock for the gravy. Give the liver to a lucky cat, and put all the rest, neck, heart and gizzards, into a small saucepan with a couple of unpeeled shallots, a small scrubbed carrot and a sprig of celery. Cover with water, and add a stem each of parsley and thyme and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for 1 to 1½ hours. Strain, discarding the cooked giblets and vegetables. Use the stock to deglaze the turkey pan to make the gravy.
And of course when the turkey’s been eaten up, use the carcass to make a delicious bone stock.