Recipes: Thanksgiving Basics

The classic Roast Turkey from 2006 is perfect in a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
The classic Roast Turkey from 2006 is perfect in a traditional Thanksgiving feast. (Renee Comet - For The Washington Post)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Roast Turkey

8 servings, plus enough for leftovers

Here's a basic recipe that starts with high heat. Store the raw turkey in the refrigerator breast-side down, so the juices flow to the white meat; that contributes to moist breast meat. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before roasting.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Salt (do not add if the bird has been brined)

Freshly ground black pepper

12- to 14-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a roasting rack inside a large roasting pan. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-third position.

In a small bowl, mash together the butter and salt, if using, and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Cut 1/2 inch from the tips of the wings, then tuck the wingtips under the body.

Generously season the inside and underside of the turkey with salt and pepper to taste. Place the turkey on the rack in the roasting pan. Using clean hands, run your fingers just under the skin to loosen it from the breast. 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 mixture over the breast and legs. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of the mixture evenly over the outside of the turkey skin.

Transfer the turkey to the preheated oven, add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan 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, basting it with the pan drippings every 30 minutes or so, if desired. Start checking for doneness after about 2 hours. Remove the foil tent in the last 30 minutes of roasting to brown the bird more evenly.

Remove the turkey from the oven when a meat thermometer inserted into the breast meat registers just shy of 165 degrees. (The internal temperature will continue to rise a few degrees after you remove it from the oven.) Transfer the turkey to a carving board and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes. Reserve the drippings in the roasting pan for the Turkey Gravy (recipe follows).

Per serving (using meat and skin): 459 calories, 57 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 24 g fat, 171 mg cholesterol, 7 g saturated fat, 185 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by The Washington Post; e-mail questions

Rich Turkey Stock

Makes about 12 cups

A rich stock makes for superior gravy or day-after soup. To achieve depth of flavor, cook with roasted rather than raw turkey parts. Adapted from the November 2003 issue of Food & Wine magazine.

You can make this stock up to 3 days in advance, or further ahead if you plan to freeze it. Skim off the congealed fat before using.

7 pounds turkey parts, such as wings, thighs and drumsticks

1 large onion, cut into thick slices

1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 large stalk celery, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 large cloves garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 quarts (16 cups) water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the turkey parts in a single layer in a large roasting pan and roast for about 1 1/2 hours, until well browned.

Transfer the roasted turkey parts to a large pot, reserving the roasting pan. Use a fat separator cup to isolate the fat from the drippings, and reserve both to make Turkey Gravy (recipe follows); they may be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

To the pot of roasted turkey parts, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, salt and several pinches of pepper along with 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, place the roasting pan over 2 burners on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, using a nonmetal spoon to scrape and loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside for a minute to cool slightly, then carefully pour the liquid from the roasting pan into the pot and return to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and cook for about 2 1/2 hours. Strain the stock, discarding the solids or removing the turkey meat from the bones and reserving the meat for another use. Set the stock aside to cool slightly before storing.

Ingredients too variable for meaningful analysis.

Recipe tested by The Washington Post; e-mail questions

Turkey Gravy

Makes about 2 cups or 8 servings

Gravy should be made the same day it's eaten. If you have prepared Rich Turkey Stock ahead of time, you'll have the turkey fat and drippings to use before the Thanksgiving day turkey comes out of the oven.

4 tablespoons turkey fat (reserved from the drippings in the turkey roasting pan; see preceding recipe)

4 tablespoons flour

About 2 cups Rich Turkey Stock (see preceding recipe) or low-sodium chicken broth, heated until almost boiling

Defatted turkey drippings (see preceding recipe)


Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the turkey fat until it has warmed through. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly, until a paste forms. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Still whisking, gradually add the hot stock in 1/4 -cup increments until all the stock is completely incorporated. Cook for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the gravy has thickened and starts to bubble around the edges. Slowly add the defatted drippings, whisking to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, strain the gravy. If the gravy is too thick, add a little more stock to reach the desired consistency. Serve immediately.

Per 2-tablespoon serving (using low-sodium chicken broth): 30 calories, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 52 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by The Washington Post; e-mail questions

© 2006 The Washington Post Company