Holiday Recipes: Sweet potato casserole? Check. Stuffing with chestnuts and herbs? Check. Cranberry mold? Check. Sauteed green beans? Check. Pumpkin pie? Check. Still need a main course? Check out this recipe for the perfect turkey.
While every year my family debates about whether to try something new, like a smoked or fried turkey, the original roast turkey always wins out. And when you're going to the trouble of making a giant poultry, it's always best to check to check with original domestic goddess, Martha Stewart, to make sure that your roast turkey comes out picture perfect.
Serves 12 to 14
1 20- to 21-pound fresh whole turkey, giblets and neck removed from cavity and reserved
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 bottle dry white wine
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry red or white wine for gravy (optional)
Tools and Materials:
Instant-red meat thermometer
Rinse turkey with cool water and dry with paper towels. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature.
Warm the butter and white wine together and soak a large piece of cheesecloth in it. Peppercorns and coarse salt season the bird.
Place rack on lowest level in oven and heat to 425 degrees.
Tuck the wing tips under the body of the bird, and place turkey breast-side-up in a roasting pan. Season inside of bird with salt and pepper. If your turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it; an instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate indication of doneness.
Insert the stuffing just before the turkey goes into the oven; never do it ahead of time and don't pack it too tightly; the stuffing won't cook evenly and bacteria may grow. Don't forget to stuff the neck cavity.
Pull the flap of skin at the neck down and use toothpicks to fasten it.
Pull the legs together loosely and tie them with kitchen string -- a bow will be easy to untie later. Any kind of sturdy white string or twine will do, as long as it's made of cotton, not polyester (which may melt in the oven's heat). Rub the turkey with butter and season salt and pepper. Choose a heavy roasting pan with sides two to three inches high; don't use one with a nonstick surface. A roasting rack will keep the turkey from sticking to the pan.
Cover the turkey with cheesecloth that has been soaking in the butter and wine. It should cover the breast and part of the leg area. Place turkey, legs first, in oven and roast 30 minutes, then brush cheesecloth and exposed turkey parts with butter mixture and reduce temperature to 350 degrees.
Every 30 minutes, use a pastry brush (better than a bulb baster) to baste the cheesecloth and exposed areas of the turkey with the butter-and-wine mixture. The turkey pictured here is out of the oven, but basting should be done in the oven and as quickly as possible so the oven temperature doesn't drop. Watch the pan juices; spoon out and reserve them for the gravy if they are in danger of overflowing.
After the second hour of cooking, carefully remove and discard the cheesecloth; it will have turned quite brown. Baste the turkey with pan juices, taking care not to tear the skin, and return it to the oven.
After another half hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone; when the temperature reaches 165 degrees, the bird is ready. This will take 1 to 2 hours more (start taking temperature after 2 1/2 hours total cooking time).
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