You want your breasts to be pleasurable, don't you?
Goddamn right you do. And that's why you'll either pull out that old cooler from the garage and clean the hell out of it or, more realistically, buy a brining bag. They're just great big plastic ziplock sacks. If you go the cooler route (good for you!) make sure you put the thing on a lot of ice. Brining bag? Shove that animal into the fridge. Do this the day before you plan to cook the bird.
Here's a rough approximation of what I used in my last brine, which I thought was pretty nice:
1 c salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1 qt turkey broth/stock
1 T black pepper
1.5 t allspice
1.5 ground ginger (but candied would be better)
0.5 t star anise
1 gallon water
It is a modification of this recipe. Make sure you remove the giblets from the carcass and put them in a container, which you need to refrigerate until the next day. Refrigerate or otherwise cool the bird during brining.
That next morning, get up and take out the animal before setting the oven to 500 degrees. Discard the brine and pat dry the bird with a towel. Chop off the tips of the wings and put those in a small pot. Stick your hands between the breast meat and skin, separating the two. Set the bird aside.
Now make some herb butter. Put in a mini food processor whatever you feel like: sage, chives, rosemary, thyme, honey, marjoram, that sort of thing. I'm not listing specifics here for the simple reason that it really depends largely on what you like and whether you have them kicking around the kitchen. Drop in a stick of butter or so. Blend that all together.
Oh, you washed your hands, right? Gross. Go do that, you monster. Now get them filthy again by shoving herb butter under the skin and on top of the breasts and all over the bird's body. Just lube that sucker up. You may not need it all. Or maybe you will.
This is when you stuff your turkey. I do that because I'm not a coward. But I suppose you could put in a quarter of an onion, maybe some celery, and a bouquet garni instead. Or whatever sissies stuff their turkeys with. And no, I'm not telling you what's in a bouquet garni. You figure that out on your own.
In the roasting pan, which you will have been praying can hold your turkey because you haven't bothered to test it, put a couple of carrots, a quartered onion, and maybe even a few bay leaves. Also include the giblets and turkey neck, which should have been in the bird.
If you're feeling fancy, you can tie the drumsticks together. It doesn't actually matter. And if you ignored my instruction to cut off the wing tips, you'll need to tuck them under the bird. Not sure what that means? Imagine the bird is reclining in the pan, stretching languidly out on its back, arms pulled back to display its ample breasts, wing tips playfully tucked behind the back of its non-existent neck. That's what your bird should look like: hot. And it will be, it will be.
That's because you're going to load the turkey into the oven and forget about it for a half hour. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook about an hour and a half, two hours longer if you're cooking a bird around 16 pounds. Or, if you were me this Thanksgiving, you should misread the recipe you are using as a general guide and interpret it to add about an additional half hour, hour to the thing. And that's when you'll slightly burn the breast skin, but be able to salvage it anyway.
So that's how to roast a turkey. Even though I burnt mine a little, you still don't need to baste. It is a pain in the ass anyway. Let the bird rest for about a half hour. More, if you want. Tent it in foil and keep it in a turned-off oven if you mistimed (again, like me) and need it to stay warm.
But wait, there's more! Remove and coarsely chop the vegetables and shred the neck meat. Set aside. Either discard the giblets or chop them, too. Deglaze the crud in the pan with some water or the wing tip turkey stock or whatever you've got. Many of you will already be drinking, so if you were wise enough to choose a white wine, that'll do. Reserve the liquid and collected fond.
Now make a roux: heat equal parts water and fat together at medium or high heat in a small pot or deep-rimmed pan. Never, ever stop stirring, because you don't want to burn it. And for God's sake, don't burn yourself with this stuff, which might as well be napalm. You'll use the roux for flavor and as a thickener.
(I'm not going to get into the varieties of roux, which is a whole other thing, but suffice to say you can make it "blonde" or darker. Darker has a nuttier, roasted taste. Because darker roux is harder to make, I obviously prefer it. You can chicken out, but I remind you that you're making a turkey. Don't turkey out.)
Add the reserved liquid from the pan, the chopped vegetables, the neck meat, and the giblets, if you kept them. You can lower the heat if you want, since you're just reheating at this point. Check the consistency, which is probably pretty thick. Add some of the turkey wing broth you've been simmering on the stovetop if necessary.
If you need more gravy, the homemade stock can be used to make more than you'll want. Just make a roux or, if you're lazy, add some corn starch or flour. But really, make the roux. It tastes better.
Now you can sloppily carve the bird in front of your family and friends!
-- Archivist's Entry