Thanksgiving’s approach usually produces one of two reactions in America’s home cooks: Joy at the thought of sharing a home-cooked feast with family and friends, or abject terror at the thought of trying to create that home-cooked feast. For those of you tackling your first roast turkey dinner (or for experienced cooks who want to try something new), here is a delicious, virtually fail-proof recipe for succulent homemade baked turkey.
12-15 pound turkey brought to room temperature.
1 large yellow onion
1 bunch of celery
1 red apple
Heel from a loaf of bread
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Fresh sage leaves
Butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper
If you are using a frozen turkey, keep in mind that it must be thawed and brought to room temperature before baking. Typically, a 15-pound turkey will need to thaw for three days in the refrigerator followed by about two hours covered on the counter to reach room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 450. Lightly oil a roasting rack and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Remove giblets and set aside for gravy. Thoroughly wash the turkey, including both cavities, and pat dry with paper towels.
- Peel and quarter the onion. Cut the bottom off the bunch of celery and chop stalks in half, saving the leaves and tops. Chop the carrots into thirds. Quarter the apple, leaving the peel on. Put these in a bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Place 2 sprigs of rosemary, a rough handful of fresh parsley and 3-4 sage leaves in the turkey cavity. Scoop in the seasoned chopped vegetables and apple. Cover the cavity with the bread.
- Place the turkey on the roasting rack and liberally rub the skin with butter or olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the turkey on the lowest oven rack and cook for 30 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 325. Insert a probe thermometer, if you have one, into the turkey’s thigh and set the alarm for 165 degrees. If you do not have a probe thermometer, use an instant thermometer to check internal temperature after minimum cooking time is completed.
- Bake for 2 to 2-1/2 hours until the juice runs clear when the skin is pierced or a meat thermometer reads 165.
- Check the turkey after one hour and reapply butter or oil if the bird seems dry. Loosely tent with foil if the breast is getting too dark.
- While the turkey bakes, boil the giblets in a saucepan of water with some rosemary, salt and pepper and fresh garlic, if desired, for about 15-20 minutes. Strain the liquid and use this with the turkey pan drippings to make gravy. Prepare and bake your favorite stuffing recipe; baking turkey and stuffing separately decreases cooking time.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and let sit, loosely covered with foil, for 15-20 minutes. Scoop the vegetables out of the bird’s cavity and discard before serving. Transfer to serving platter.
Set the table with your nicest flatware and some richly colored table linens. Your beautiful turkey will be the centerpiece!