I once asked a professional chef how he makes turkey. "I don't. It's too big -- the hollow in the middle means you have to cook the thing to dry in order to get everything cooked safely." But then I heard about spatchcocking (butterflying), and started working on the perfect turkey recipe. This one takes elements from Emeril, Wolfgang Puck, SeriousEats.com, and Tastefully Simple. The butterflying has proven to give consistently delicious, moist results every time. So I'm combining it all into my recipe so I can try to replicate it.
Notes from the Test Kitchen:
We love how Nicole took a bit of this recipe and a piece of that to make one great original turkey recipe!
Despite cooking this at a high temperature, the brining made this turkey remain really moist. The gravy might be a bit time consuming, but so worth the effort. It tops this turkey wonderfully. This would be great on your holiday table!
onions, roughly chopped
carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
celery, roughly chopped
whole turkey (12 - 14 pounds, though i successfully did 17)
garlic-infused olive oil
rustic herb seasoning (tastefully simple), or favorite non-sodium turkey herb mixture (such as rosemary and thyme)
First, all the advice says to get the turkey 3 days in advance and store in the fridge. MINE NEVER GETS THAWED. We get ours a week in advance and leave it in the fridge.
In a 10 quart pot, combine the brining ingredients with 1 gallon of hot water. Stir to combine. Add 1 gallon of ice. Let stand until ice melts. I give full credit for these instructions to Wolfgang Puck, and full credit for the ingredients to Emeril Lagasse.
While the ice is melting, I take Tommy out of his wrapper, remove and reserve all the extra bits inside (neck and innards), and run cold water through until the ice is gone.
The next few steps come from SeriousEats.com, and there is an excellent tutorial with pictures. The address is: seriouseats.com/....html#show-283126. But for purposes of completeness: Pat the turkey dry with paper towels, then place it breast-side-down on the cutting board. Holding it firmly with one hand, make a cut along one side of the backbone, starting down near where the thighs meat the tail. (I've noticed that turkey packagers now tuck the legs into the flap of skin -- go ahead and release them. You can also cut some of the excess skin/fat away).
Continue cutting, working your way around the thigh joint until you've snipped through every rib bone and completely split the turkey up to the neck. Use your hands the spread the turkey open slightly. (Careful! The bone shards are sharp enough to cut your hand. You may want to have a clean-but-old towel on hand to protect your hands.)
Make an identical cut along the other side of the backbone. This cut is a little trickier, so make sure not to get your fingers in the way of the blade. Add the spine to your neck and gizzards collection for use in the gravy.
Turn the turkey over onto what once was its back, splaying its legs out. Press down hard on the ridge of the breast bone. You should hear a couple of cracks, and the turkey should now rest flatter. Flatter is better for even cooking and crisper skin.
Once both turkey and brine are ready (splayed and cooled), put the turkey in the brine and put into the refrigerator for cooking the next day.
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Make sure the rack above is high enough to allow room for the pan and splayed turkey to slide in. Preheat the oven to 450*F.
While the oven preheats, line a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with aluminum foil. Scatter the onions, carrots, celery, and thyme sprigs across the bottom of the pan. Place a slotted broiler rack or wire rack over top of the aromatics.
Pull turkey from the brine and pat dry. Rub the olive oil all over the turkey. I like to loosen the skin and rub oil under the skin and over the meat, as well. Season the whole turkey -- inside the rib cage, over top, and under the skin, with the rustic herb seasoning mix. I season the inside then place the turkey on the prepared roasting pan to finish my herbing. Tuck the wing tips behind the back. Finish arranging the turkey so it doesn't overlap the edges, pressing down one last time to make it as flat as possible.
Transfer turkey to the oven and roast, rotating occasionally, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 150*F, and the thighs register at least 165*F, about 80 minutes.
While turkey roasts, make the gravy. Roughly chop the neck, backbone, and giblets. Heat vegetable oil in a 3 quart saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add chopped turkey bits and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add onions, carrots, and celery and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften and brown in spots, another 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer. Allow to cook for 45 minutes, then strain through with a fine mesh strainer into a 2 quart liquid measuring cup. Discard the solids. Skim off any fat from the surface of the broth.
Melt butter over medium-high heat in a 2 quart saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Whisking constantly, add broth in a thin, steady stream until it is all incorporated. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until reduced to about 1 quart, about 20 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and keep gravy warm.
When turkey finishes roasting, remove from the oven and transfer rack to a new baking sheet or cutting board. Tent turkey with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving.
Carefully pour any collected juices from out of the roasting pan through a fine-mesh strainer, into a liquid measuring cup. Skim off any excess fat and discard. Whisk juice into gravy. (I'm still perfecting this part -- I added more flour, eventually, to try to thicken it up, but it was still a really thin gravy :(.)