This is a recipe that has evolved from my two Italian grandmothers, who came to America in the early part of the century, to my mother, who has always roasted breast down, insisting it makes the moistest breast meat (she's right!), into my kitchen, where I've started using more fresh herbs than they had access to. Serve with Herman's Cornbread Stuffing and your favorite side dishes.
Use a large, shallow pan, not a turkey roaster, and nurture the bird with its own juices by basting often, and I think you'll like the results.
- 16 to 20 pound hormone and antibiotic-free turkey (set aside neck and giblets)
- 1/2 medium lemon
- 12 branches each fresh basil, parsley, thyme, and marjoram
- 6 large cloves garlic, split
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
- Freshly black ground pepper
- About 2 cups dry white wine
- Giblet gravy
1. A day ahead, rub bird inside and out with the lemon half, then with herbs and garlic. Slice lemon. Tuck inside cavity along with half the garlic and herbs. Mince together leaves from remaining herbs and garlic, blending with the olive oil. Slip the mixture under the turkey's skin all over breast areas, thigh, leg, and back if possible. Sprinkle turkey with pepper. Lightly cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove herbs and lemon from turkey. Stuff the bird, taking care not to pack too firmly. Spread a little olive oil on pan where the breast will sit. Sprinkle bird with salt. Roast breast side down in a shallow pan 15 to 18 minutes to the pound, or until an instant-read thermometer tucked into the thickest part of the thigh reads 175 degrees. Shift the turkey every so often to keep breast from sticking.
3. After 30 minutes, pour 1/3 of the wine over the bird, and baste frequently with pan juices. Continue adding a third of the wine over the next hour. Then baste with pan juices. During the last 30 minutes, turn over to brown breast area. Rest 10 minutes in a warm place before carving.
4. Set turkey on a heated platter and serve garnished with clusters of fresh grapes or herbs. Have the giblet gravy on the side.
Simmer together cut-up giblets, neck, heart, onion, carrot, and celery in a 4-quart sauce pan with water and a little wine to cover as the turkey cooks. Keep partially covered so broth reduces. When turkey is ready, remove to a platter, keep warm, and defat pan juices. Set the pan over two burners, bring to a boil with strained giblet broth. With a fork, whip together in glass 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons flour and about 1/2 cup water to smooth. When broth and juices are reduced by half, blend in flour mixture and keep stirring, scraping up any browned crusty bits. Simmer until thickened and rich in flavor (about 8 minutes). A little port or madiera could be stirred in, too. Taste, season and serve.