Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Main Event: Lemon Herb Turkey

For me, there is nothing like roasting a turkey.  The tradition, the smells, the beautiful golden brown, the poultry herbs, the careful coordination of basting, the art of carving.   Roasting the Thanksgiving turkey is like a right of passage.  For several years, I tried a slightly different recipe each time, trying to get a good feel for what "the perfect turkey" meant to me, taking ideas from each recipe I tried.  Here's the culmination of all those recipes.  Here's how Mama makes her turkey:

Lemon Herb Turkey
- 12 - 20 lb. turkey (figure about 1 lb. per adult you are serving)
- garlic herb butter (this recipe)
- 1 stick of butter
- 4 - 6 c. chicken stock
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 lemons
- 2 onions
- few sprigs each of rosemary and sage (leftover from herb butter)
- salt & pepper


1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees, place oven rack on the lowest setting.  Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry.  Remove neck and bag of "goodies" from inside the turkey.  (If turkey is frozen, be sure to thaw it in the fridge several days before. If still slightly frozen, thaw in cold water in the sink for a few hours until completely thawed.)

2.  Tuck wings underneath.  Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the entire bird and the cavity.

3.  Reserve 2 T. of the herb butter to use in the gravy.   Gently run your hands underneath the skin on the breast to separate from the meat.  Rub 4 T. of the herb butter underneath the skin of the turkey breast.

4.  Spread remaining herb butter on top of the turkey.  Cut the onions and lemons into chunks.  Stuff the cavity of the turkey with half of the lemons, onions, and garlic and 4 T. of plain butter (reserve the other 4 T. for basting).  Put 1 or 2 sprigs each of the sage and rosemary in the cavity.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine or use the skin at the bottom of the turkey, if possible.

this turkey had an awesome built-in leg holder,
so no tying required!

5.  Scatter remaining lemon, onion, garlic, and herbs around the turkey.  Pour about a cup of chicken stock into the pan.  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes in 425 degree oven, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. 


6.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, baste with pan juices, then pour 1 c. chicken stock and 1 T. butter into the pan.  Bake another 30 minutes, baste, and pour in 1 c. stock and 1 T. butter.

that initial baking at 425 makes this beautiful golden crust

 7.  Cover turkey loosely with foil and continue roasting at 350 degrees until internal temperature of 175 is reached (insert thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh), about 2 hours longer (may take longer based on how big your turkey is.  This was a 12-lb. turkey.).  Continue to baste with pan juices every 45 minutes, each time adding 1 c. of stock and 1 T. butter.

I like to baste under the skin, too!

8.  When turkey is nearly done, increase heat to 425 degrees, remove foil and spread 1 last tablespoon of butter of the top of the breast and thighs of the turkey.  Return to oven for about 5 minutes to crisp up the skin.  Remove from oven, tent with foil, and allow turkey to rest for about 30 minutes.

9.  Strain pan juices to use in gravy.  Carve the turkey and enjoy! 

10.  I even pureed some turkey and potatoes for Peanut.  She really liked Mama's turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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