There’s a 30-minute or so grace period while the turkey takes its necessary rest after coming out of the oven (this is what makes for juicy eating, believe it or not). Use this grace period to heat up the sides and to simmer the gravy.
Fresh herbs and wine give you a fragrance as this turkey roasts that could drive everyone into the kitchen for the duration - it’s that come-hither.
A bottle of wine and a basting spoon seem to be standard equipment for most Italians when it comes to roasting a turkey, or anything else. Those two items perform far beyond expectations. Wine opens up flavors that no other substance can, and basting with the pan juices keeps flavoring the bird, concentrating its goodness onto the crisping skin almost like a glaze.
Slow roasting keeps the meat moist and gives we cooks time to enjoy friends and family. Anticipate the turkey needing 12 to 15 minutes per pound. If you must wait for late arrivals, the turkey could be turned down to 275º F, but don’t let the breast meat cook beyond 170º F on an instant-reading thermometer.
Cook to Cook: Use a large, shallow pan, not a turkey roaster, and nurture the bird with its own juices by basting often. Do not use a pre-basted turkey if you can avoid it. If possible, select an organic turkey, or a bird that’s been raised on solely vegetarian feed.
Seasoning the Turkey:
- 16 to 20 pound turkey (set aside neck and giblets)
- 1/2 medium lemon
- 12 branches each fresh parsley, sage and thyme
- 6 4- to 6-inch branches fresh rosemary
- 6 large cloves garlic, split
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 stalks celery with leaves
- 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- 2 large carrots
- 2 to 3 cups dry white wine (soave, vermentino, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio)
- Crab apples or grape clusters and 3 bundles of rosemary
1. A day ahead, rub bird inside and out with the lemon half, then rub with the herbs and garlic. Slice the lemon into thin rounds. Tuck it inside the 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 several generous grinds of pepper. Lightly cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, heat the oven to 325ºF. In a large shallow pan, lay out the celery, onion and carrots so they are close together; this is the rack for the turkey. Remove herbs and lemon from turkey and scatter them over the pan.
3. Sprinkle the bird on all sides with salt. Set it breast side down on the vegetables. Count on roasting 12 to 15 minutes to the pound, or until an instant-reading thermometer tucked into the breast reads 165ºF.
4. After the first 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, carefully turn the turkey over to brown breast area. Once the breast reaches 165ºF, remove the turkey from the oven. With potholders, transfer it to a platter, lightly tent with foil, and rest the bird at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
5. Warm the side dishes, and prepare the gravy. To serve the turkey, garnish with little apples or clusters of fresh grapes, and the rosemary. Pass the gravy as you carve.
White Wine Pan Gravy
1. Make the Gravy Broth: Up to 2 days ahead, in a 4-quart saucepan, combine the turkey giblets and neck with 2 cups dry white wine, a cut up onion, carrot, a stalk of celery, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 6 whole cloves.
2. Add water to cover by 1/2-inch and simmer at a slow bubble. Keep the pot partially covered so broth reduces slowly as it cooks.
3. After 3 to 4 hours you should have an intense-tasting broth that’s cooked down to barely cover the solids. It should be between 2 and 3 cups. Boil it down if necessary.
4. Strain it, pressing down on the vegetables to get all their goodness. Chill the broth. Remove any fat before making the gravy.
5. Make the Gravy: When turkey is resting on its platter, remove the vegetables from the roasting pan. Skim off about half the fat.
6. Set the pan over two burners set on high heat, bring the pan juices to a boil and add 1/2 cup white wine. Cook down for about 3 minutes, stirring with a wood spatula to pick up all the brown bits in the pan.
7. Then stir in the strained giblet broth, and boil another 3 minutes, or until the liquid is intense and rich tasting. To thicken, put 1 tablespoon of flour in a tall glass. With a fork, gradually beat in 1/2 cold water until the mixture is smooth.
8. When broth and juices are reduced by about half, whisk the flour mixture into the boiling liquid. Boil, while you stir with the wood spatula about 5 minutes, or until the gravy is slightly thickened and has no raw flour taste. A little port could be stirred in, too. Taste the gravy, season with salt and pepper, and serve with the turkey.
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