ROAST TURKEY with CRÈME FRAÎCHE, HERBS & GRAVY

Much pressure surrounds making the perfect, moist, and flavorful Thanksgiving turkey--a more or less scrawny bird lacking in the fat that makes other cuts of meat tasty. Have no fear! This recipe rescues bland turkey while providing a wonderful base for a simple pan gravy. Count on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of fowl per person. If feeding a large crowd, why not take the two is better than one approach? The benefit of multiple birds is a shortened cooking time and less worry about drying out the breast meat before the thighs are cooked to a safe temperature. No more getting up before the rooster crows to put the turkey in the oven. Imagine the surprise when drumstick lovers realize there are four to be had at this year's feast. The roasted onions also add to the allure of this dish--so much so that the recipe just may be more aptly named Roasted Onions with Turkey....do hide these pungent, edible bulbs before dinner is served. The smell of roasting onions lures kitchen vultures (a.k.a. hungry husbands and teenage boys) to follow their caveman instincts in search of pre feasting nibbles. These tasty sidekicks are the secret weapon to outstanding leftover turkey sandwiches.

Nota bene: Buy only air chilled, hormone free, free range turkey.  Even better, buy a locally raised and humanely slaughtered turkey. Self-basting turkeys often have been injected with a solution of phosphorous and potassium, both linked to raising blood pressure. For the crispiest skin and even golden color, a roasting rack prevents the underside of the turkey from sitting in liquid once the onions begin to cook and shrink. 

DIRECTIONS

FOR THE BRINE

  1. FIll a pot large enough to hold the turkey 3/4 full with cold water.
  2. Add the salt and sugar to the water and whisk until dissolved.
  3. Place the turkey in the water and refrigerate covered for 24 to 48 hours. 
  4. Remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry with paper towels, and place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Return the turkey, uncovered, to the refrigerator for 24 hours.

FOR THE TURKEY

  1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2.  Mix the creme fraiche, dijon, 2 tablespoons butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, shallot, thyme, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together. 
  3. Loosen the turkey skin all around and gently rub the creme fraiche mixture under the skin.
  4. Truss the turkey with kitchen twine.
  5. Rub the exterior of the turkey with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle the entire turkey with salt & pepper and stuff the halved lemon, halved garlic and quartered onion into the turkey's cavity. Place the turkey in a roasting pan on top of an oven rack.
  6. Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 350  degrees and continue roasting the turkey for 45 minutes. 
  7. Toss the onion wedges in olive oil, salt and pepper, reserve.
  8. Remove the turkey from the oven, pour the chicken stock into the bottom of the pan (not over the turkey), and place the onion wedges around the turkey. Return the turkey to the oven and roast for approximately 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 155 degrees F. and the juices between the area where the thigh, leg and breast run clear when an incision is made with a knife (the turkey will continue cooking to 165 degrees F. when taken out of the oven).  
  9. Check the turkey periodically and if the skin is getting dark, tent with aluminum foil and continue roasting.
  10. Remove the turkey from the oven, tip it to allow the juices to run back into the roasting pan, and place it on a platter to rest tented with aluminum foil for at least 30 minutes before moving to a serving platter and carving.
  11. If the onions are not deeply browned, return the roasting pan to the oven and cook until the onions are deeply browned, but not charred.
  12. Reserve the roasted onions for serving alongside the turkey. 

FOR THE GRAVY

  1. Place a 1/2 cup of the hot pan juices in a glass measuring cup. Gradually add the flour and whisk until smooth.
  2. Return the pan to the stove top over medium heat scraping the fond off the bottom of the pan. 
  3. Add the wine and continue stirring and scraping.
  4. Sprinkle the thickened flour over the gravy and whisk continuously until incorporated and the flour is cooked, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Season to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper (be careful to salt after tasting).
  6. Strain the gravy, optional.

SERVES 6 TO 8

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE BRINE

  • 1 1/2 cups coarse kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • Cold water

FOR THE TURKEY

  • 10-12 pound organic turkey, giblets removed & reserved

  • 1 cup crème fraîche

  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 lemons, 1 zested & juiced, 1 cut into quarters

  • 1 head of garlic halved crosswise plus 6 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • 1 tablespoon, fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  • 4 large onions, 3 peeled & sliced into 1" wedges, 1 onion cut into quarters

  • Olive oil

  • 3/4 cup chicken stock

  • Coarse sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE GRAVY

  • 1 1/2 cups stock (use what is left in bottom of the pan)

  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • Freshly ground black pepper