Up to one week ahead:
In a medium heavy sauté pan over low heat, melt the butter; add the flour, whisking until smooth. Cook over very low heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. The roux should be a pale straw brown; if it begins to darken, remove it from the heat. Refrigerate the roux in a wide-mouthed jar or other covered container.
On the day of serving:
Bring the roux to room temperature. Heat the oven to 325°F and adjust the racks to accommodate the roasting pan and an extra pan of stuffing. Cut away one of the wider sides of a brown grocery bag and coat the underside of the remainder with oil, using a spray bottle or pastry brush. Rinse the bird with cold water inside and out. Save the neck and discard the other innards.
Cut off the pope's nose (the tail) from the turkey and tuck the wing tips under the back of the bird. With a rubber spatula or your hands, separate the skin from the breast and spread the herb butter and garlic slices under the skin. Loosely fill the front and back cavities of the bird with stuffing. Insert a long metal fork in the middle of the stuffing in the back cavity (leaving the tip exposed); this will help the stuffing cook faster by drawing the heat to the interior of the stuffing. Cut a slit in the flaps on either side of the cavity. Tie a 16-inch piece of twine around one leg, feed the twine through both slits in the flaps, and pull the twine taut. Wrap the twine around the other leg once, and tie the legs together securely.
Put the extra stuffing in a buttered baking dish, about 9x7 inches -- Dot with the 10 dabs of butter and cover with foil. Poke 8 holes in the foil for steam and set aside in the refrigerator.
Coat the bottom of a large roasting pan with 1/4 cup olive oil -- Set the bird in the pan and rub it with the other 1/4 cup oil; sprinkle with 2 tsp. salt and 1 Tbs. thyme. Put the neck in the pan. Cover the bird loosely with the brown bag and put the pan in the oven.
After 1 hour of roasting -- Remove the neck from the oven; set aside. Begin making a stock reduction for the gravy: In a 2-qt. pot, combine 3 cups cider, the wine, apple, shallots, 1-1/2 cups stock, and turkey neck. Boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half (about 2-1/2 cups), about 30 minutes. Discard the turkey neck. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Remove the pan of stuffing from the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
After 2-1/2 hours of roasting -- Put the pan of stuffing in the oven. At the same time, baste the turkey with any juices (there may not be a lot from an organic turkey) and add the 3 cups chicken stock to the pan. Continue roasting for another hour.
After 3-1/2 hours of roasting -- Remove the paper bag from the turkey. Take the turkey from the oven, set it on a hot pad on the counter, and tilt the pan to pour or ladle off all the juices into a heatproof container (when you tilt the pan, use a towel to hold a leg of the turkey to keep it from sliding). Check the turkey's temperature (the thickest part of the thigh should be 165°F when done, and the center of the stuffing should be above 160°F.) Return the turkey to the oven to finish roasting if needed. Remove the foil cover from the pan of stuffing. Let the pan juices sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the fat to rise.
Finish the gravy -- Skim the fat off the reserved pan juices and add the juices to the reduced cider stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer (skimming off any more fat if necessary) and slowly whisk in about one-third of the roux until it's absorbed and the gravy thickens. Add more roux if you like a thicker gravy or more stock or apple cider if you want it thinner. Strain the gravy (the apple will have disintegrated), and season with 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper or to taste. Add the thyme and keep the gravy warm (put the pot, loosely covered with foil, on a hot plate if you have one).
After 4 hours of roasting -- Check the turkey temperature again. Remove the pan of stuffing (it should feel firm). If the turkey isn't done yet, check in another 30 minutes. When the turkey reaches temperature, remove it from oven and cover loosely with a tent of foil. Let rest at least 20 minutes so the juices settle back into the flesh, which will keep it tender. Or leave the turkey in the oven, turn off the heat, and leave the oven door cracked. You can hold the turkey this way for an hour.
Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and slice -- I like to remove the legs and the breast and slice the breast meat on a bias and the thigh meat into slices. Arrange on a platter and garnish with fresh herbs.
nutrition information (per serving):
55, Fat Calories
490, Saturated Fat
75, Monounsaturated Fat
10, Polyunsaturated Fat
Photo: Ben Fink