The recipe that follows is adapted from the one used by my mother, Mary Alice White, who makes the best roast turkey in New England. The first is for a large bird and the second is for a smaller turkey. Both are cooked the day of the meal. When cooking at such low temperatures, I prefer to bake my stuffing separately for safety reasons, although my mother is not one to be put off by warnings from the health department, or from anyone else, for that matter.
As for trussing, I sometimes just cut off the last joint of each wing (they tend to burn easily) and leave it at that. Actually, I find that having the legs and thighs standing free from the carcass cooks them more quickly (the dark meat needs more cooking than the breast meat), Be sure not to leave a cooked turkey at room temperature for too long. For safety reasons, it should not be left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. If you are concerned about the safety of slow-roasting, roast the bird at a constant 325°F (175°C) until the thigh registers 170°F (77°C), then continue with the recipe (see step 3).
For the Turkey:
1 turkey, 18 to 20 pounds, with giblets
For the Gravy:
Cut-up carrot, onion, celery rib, plus sprigs of fresh herbs, optional
1. Remove giblets from turkey and set aside. Wash turkey with cold water inside and out, and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
2. Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush turkey with melted butter, then place bird breast side down on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover turkey and pan tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven.
3. Roast for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 200°F (95°C). Roast for 3 hours. Turn bird breast side up and roast an additional 3 hours, 45 minutes, or until internal temperature of thighs reaches 160°F to 170°F (71°C to 77°C). Remove bird from oven and increase temperature to 400°F (205°C). When oven is ready, remove foil from bird and roast an additional 10 minutes, or until thigh reaches an internal temperature of 170°F to 175°F (77°C to 79°C).
4. While bird is roasting (at least 4 hours before serving), place giblets, excluding liver, in a 3-quart saucepan (you may also add a cut-up carrot, onion, celery rib, and fresh herbs wrapped in cheesecloth, if you like). Add about 2-1/2 quarts cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 3 hours, or until you have reduced the liquid by about 2/3. Strain broth through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Reserve.
5. When turkey is cooked, add 3 tablespoons of pan drippings to a saucepan with the reserved broth. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by about 1/3. Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and whisk into sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Carve turkey and serve with gravy.
Yield: Serves 12 or more
Small Turkey Variation
Smaller birds need between 5-1/2 and 6 hours of roasting at low temperature instead of the 7-1/2 hours required for a 20-pound bird. Using a 12 to 14 pound turkey with giblets, proceed exactly as instructed in the master recipe with the exception of step 3. Follow instead these roasting times: Roast for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 200°F (95°C). Roast for 2 hours. Turn bird breast side up and roast an additional 2 hours, 45 minutes, or until internal temperature of thighs reaches 160°F to 170°F (71°C to 77°C). Remove bird from oven and increase temperature to 400°F (205°C). When oven is hot, remove foil from bird and roast an additional 10 minutes or until the thigh reaches an internal temperature of 170°F to 175°F (77°C to 79°C). Remove bird from oven and allow to rest on a cutting board for 20 minutes before carving.
Yield: A 12-14 pound bird will serve 8-12.
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