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Roasted Turkey with Juniper-Ginger Butter & Pan Gravy

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Serves twelve, with leftovers.

Brining the turkey and rubbing an intensely flavored butter under the skin before roasting guarantees a juicy bird.

For the juniper-ginger butter:
  • 7 oz. (14 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbs. minced shallots
  • 1 Tbs. ground juniper 
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
For the brined turkey:
  • 2-1/2 lb.  kosher salt  (8-3/4 cups if you're using Diamond Crystal brand)
  • 1-1/2 lb. (3 cups plus 3 Tbs.) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-1/2 oz. fresh rosemary sprigs (about 2 large bunches), lightly crushed
  • 2-1/2 oz. fresh thyme sprigs (about 2 large bunches), lightly crushed
  • 14-lb. natural turkey (preferably fresh)
Tip:
Because different brands of kosher salt have different densities, be sure to measure by weight. For example, 2-1/2 lb. of Morton brand salt is only about 4-1/2 cups.
For the gravy:
  • 1 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 oz. (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
At least one day ahead, make the butter

Mix the butter ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate 4 Tbs. of the butter for the gravy and set the rest aside at room temperature for the turkey.

One day ahead, brine and prepare the turkey

In a plastic container or stockpot large enough to hold the turkey, mix all the brine ingredients (except the turkey) in 3 gallons of cold water, stirring until the salt and sugar are mostly dissolved. Discard the neck and the giblets and trim any excess skin or fat. Trim the tail, if desired. Rinse the turkey and submerge it in the brine for at least 4 hours and no more than 6 hours. If the turkey floats, weight it down with a couple of dinner plates.

Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Starting at the top of the breast, run your fingers between the breast and the skin to separate them, being careful not to rip the skin. Once you're halfway down the breast, turn the turkey around and work from the bottom of the breast until you have loosened the skin from the breast, thighs, and as far down the legs as you can reach. Rub the juniper butter under the skin, covering the breast and as much of the legs as possible. Tuck the wings behind the breast and truss the turkey with twine, securing the legs to the body. Set the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 6 and up to 24 hours.

Roast the turkey

Position a rack in the bottom of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. If any brine has dripped from the turkey into the roasting pan, pour it out. Then pour 2 cups of warm water into the bottom of the pan and cover the entire roasting pan with foil. Roast undisturbed for 2 hours; remove the pan from the oven and remove the foil. Roast the uncovered turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of both thighs reads 165°F, 45 minutes to 1 hour longer.

Move the turkey to a cutting board, tent with foil to keep warm, and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Make the gravy

Strain the turkey drippings into a fat separator cup (or another clear, heatproof container). Let sit until the fat rises to the top and then separate exactly 2 cups of the turkey juice from the fat—don't use more than that or the gravy will be too salty. Combine the 2 cups juice with the chicken broth and enough water to make 4-1/2 cups liquid.

In a medium saucepan, melt the reserved juniper-ginger butter and the unsalted butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the liquid, bring just to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Whisking frequently, continue to cook about 5 minutes longer to meld the flavors. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make Ahead Tips

The turkey must be brined and buttered a day ahead. You can make and refrigerate the butter up to 1 week ahead or freeze for 2 months. Bring to room temperature before preparing the turkey.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : 6 oz. meat, 2 fl. oz. gravy; Calories (kcal): 500; Fat (g): fat g 26; Fat Calories (kcal): 230; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 11; Protein (g): protein g 60; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 5; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 440; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 185; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Made two of these for Thanksgiving this year. Everyone seemed to agree that this was the best turkey they'd ever had. Flavorful, moist, perfect. I loved that everything was done in advance (I made and froze the herb butter a week or two ahead) and that on the day of all that was required was putting the turkeys in the oven and making the gravy. Both turkeys were done much sooner the recipe indicated, so watch internal temp closely. Skin split on both turkeys, as previous reviewer noted, but I was serving sliced on a platter, so didn't matter. Will make again. (I don't think my family would take "no" for an answer on this one...) Thanks for a wonderful new family tradition!

Made this twice. I was unhappy both times. Though the juniper butter was flavorful, it broke the skin on my turkey (during cooking) on both occasions. It was a horrible presentation and frankly was not worth the effort or the expense. Sad to say that my neighbor's smoked butterball was 10 times butter than my all natural million dollar turkey with this brine. I would NOT make this again.

I cooked this turkey for Thanksgiving this year and it was a hit! I didn't brine the turkey and it still turned out great with tons of flavor. I'm not sure if it was the juniper I was using or because my turkey was a little bigger than the recipe called for but next time, I will add a little more juniper because the flavor didn't quite come through stong enough.

This was the juiciest turkey ever.... and we always get our turkey from the same farm. This method of brining was the easiest because it didn't require finding refrigerator space for all the liquid, nor did the bird become overly salty. The only problem I found with the recipe was the instruction to discard the neck and giblets.... why do that? I also liked that the turkey roasted for two hours undisturbed, in essence braising, giving the cook time to go out for a walk. After the browning time the skin was a lovely bronze (although patches from the butter mixture darkened some areas)

After today's successful test, I will make it again for Thanksgiving. Simple recipe that delivers an elegant turkey. White meat is pretty moist. Flavorings are not overwhelming even in the drippings. Recipe leaves out an IMPORTANT DETAIL: should the breast be up or down when roasting? I assumed that it should be up. Mr. Portale, would you like to comment? Thanks.

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