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Dry-Rubbed Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy

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Serves 12

Thanksgiving turkey doesn't get more classic (or simple) than this. This bird is seasoned with a generous salt rub, then sits in the fridge overnight.

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
  • 1 oz. kosher salt (1/4 cup Diamond Crystal or 2 Tbs. Morton); more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • One 12-lb. all-natural turkey
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
  • 2 medium celery stalks, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth 
  • 1-1/8 oz. (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
Tip:
Use an all-natural turkey. Avoid kosher birds (they’re already brined and will be too salty) and “self-basting” birds (which are treated with fat solutions). Consider ordering your bird in advance.
Season the turkey

In a medium bowl, mix the sage, zest, 1 oz. salt, and 1 Tbs. pepper.

Remove the tail, neck, heart, and gizzard from the turkey and reserve for making turkey broth. Discard the liver. Remove and discard the plastic timer and any metal or plastic leg holders. Rinse and pat the turkey dry.

Rub the spice mixture under the turkey’s skin over the entire breast, legs, and thighs, as well as in the cavity and over the wings. Set on a platter or pan large enough to hold the turkey and refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Roast the turkey
Tip:
Let your turkey rest for 30 to 40 minutes before carving—the juices will redistribute into the meat, making it moist and tender. It also gives you time to finish preparing the meal.

Position a rack in the bottom of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, celery, and onion with the oil. Put half of the vegetables in the center of a large flameproof roasting pan and put the rest in the turkey cavity. Tuck the wings behind the turkey’s neck and tie the legs together with twine. Set a V-rack in the roasting pan over the vegetables. Put the turkey breast side down on the V-rack. Roast for 1 hour.

Remove the pan from the oven and baste the turkey back and sides with some of the pan drippings. With silicone oven mitts or two wads of paper towels, carefully turn the turkey breast side up and baste with more pan drippings. Continue to roast the turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 175°F, an additional 1 to 1-1/2 hours. During this phase, check the vegetables in the pan every 20 minutes or so: They should be brown, but if they or the drippings threaten to burn, add about 1/4 cup water—you may need to do this several times.

When the turkey is done, protect your hands with silicone oven mitts or wads of paper towels and tilt the turkey so the juices in the cavity run into the roasting pan. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let it rest for 30 to 40 minutes. Carve when ready to serve.

Make the gravy
Tip:
For lump-free gravy, gradually whisk the broth into the roux. The liquid will thicken quickly and get gluey, so keep whisking in more broth, a bit at a time, until the gravy is smooth.

While the turkey is resting, set the roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the wine and cook, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to loosen the brown bits, until reduced by about half, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the contents of the roasting pan into a bowl, pressing on the solids to release the flavorful drippings. Discard the solids.

In a 1-quart liquid measuring cup, combine the broth with 1-1/2 cups water. Tasting as you go, add enough of the pan drippings to the broth to make a flavorful yet not overly salted liquid—you may or may not use all of the drippings. Let sit until the fat rises to the surface. Skim off and reserve as much fat as possible.

Measure 4 Tbs. of the fat into a medium saucepan (supplement with olive oil if necessary) over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking almost constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the broth. As soon as the broth thickens, whisk in another 1/2 cup. Repeat until the mixture stays relatively smooth, at which point you can whisk in the remaining broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes to develop the flavor. The gravy will be on the thin side; if you prefer it thicker, continue simmering until thickened to your liking, but expect the flavor to concentrate as well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a gravy boat and serve with the carved turkey.

Variations

Provençal Roast Turkey with Red Wine Gravy: For the dry rub, use 3 Tbs. herbes de Provence, 2 Tbs. finely grated orange zest, 4 tsp. fennel seeds (crushed), 1 oz. kosher salt, and 4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Substitute 1/3 cup dry red wine for the white wine or vermouth.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 570; Fat (g): 27; Fat Calories (kcal): 240; Saturated Fat (g): 8; Protein (g): 73; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9; Carbohydrates (g): 3; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 7; Sodium (mg): 1130; Cholesterol (mg): 210; Fiber (g): 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe was a real hit for our thanksgiving dinner. Everyone raved and nearly the entire turkey was consumed at one sitting! So much for endless leftovers! Only modifications made were to use a blend of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme instead of sage alone and the zest of one lemon instead of an orange. The turkey was brined for 12 hours inside an oven roasting bag, then removed and placed in the roasting pan for about 30 minutes at room temp before going in the oven. They turkey was prepared as directed (with one exception, no v-shaped rack) breast side down at 400 degrees for one hour, flipped and roasted an additional hour and a half. The turkey was just shy of 12 lbs but it was PERFECT. The result was a beautiful, picture worthy thanksgiving turkey. Easy prep, short cooking time, excellent result! This one is a keeper.

When I read this recipe I was certain that I wanted to host a Thanksgiving dinner with this bird as the star performer. As it turns out, the event was held for 20 at my mother's ranch, out in the country ~ so the pressure to perform was very high. This recipe exceeded all expectations, and won RAVE reviews from everyone, some who are serious foodies. I added a little Thyme and Rosemary to the herb mix, along with about a teaspoon of lemon zest. I applied the rub about 24 hours before roasting, and because it looked a little dry when I pulled it out of the fridge I brushed a little olive oil over the bird before convection roasting for about 2.5 hours (16 lb. bird). Very little liquids in pan to baste with, so I added a little white wine during the last hour. The onions were completely carmelized, and the carrots roasted down to almost nothing ~ and oh, what a wonderful gravy those pan drippings made! The bird sat for a good hour while the last-minute (chaotic) preps took place, but when it came time to carve it was a beautiful thing. Super moist, wonderful flavor and not too salty.

Made with free range turkey, substituted fresh tarragon for sage and made own unsalted stock for the gravy. Excellent flavor, and much easier than brining.

I did this last year at Canadian Thanksgiving. All 20 of my dinner guests said it was the best turkey they've had in their whole lives. This recipe is a keeper!

If your bird or gravy were too salty, you didn't follow the instructions: salt mixture goes UNDER the skin, except on the wings. Have made this a few times and the meat is succulent, the gravy is incredibly flavourful.

The turkey turned out perfectly and I didn't find it too salty at all.! Instead of the orange zest i used lemon as i prefer the flavor. I also added some thyme to complement the sage. Everyone enjoyed it. It's one of the easiest turkey recipes i have tried, without much prep work.

Yes, it was a little salty and too strong on the orange zest for my family.

I used this recipe with a turkey breast and it was very juicy and flavorful. You don't need to add salt to the gravy, but I did not find it to be too salty. Everyone raved so I am going to make it again for Thanksgiving.

The turkey and gravy turned out to be quite salty. I used a coarse kosher salt but not either of the two brands mentioned in the recipe; therfore, to be on the safe side I used less than the minimum suggested as I didn't know how the crystal size compared to the recommended brands. I would not recommend this recipe.

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