Presumably you are reading this from a state of internal chaos, so I shall not bother you with too much unnecessary preamble, except for a few crucial notes regarding the journey that you are about to embark upon:
1. Remember that the turkey is already dead, and does not need to suffer a second death through the means of incineration. Believe your thermometer when it reaches 165 degrees F, and do not pay attention to anything it says other than the temperature itself. Many thermometers try to give little pieces of written advice on the dial, such as acceptable cooking temperatures for poultry, and they are wrong, just wrong. In the wise words of Arthur Weasley, never trust something if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.
2. Clear room in your fridge NOW, not at the moment when you actually need to wrestle a 15 lb bird carcass into it. This turkey does not ask much of you, except for a cool place to hang out undisturbed for several hours. Give it a much-deserved personal space bubble.
3. The potato recipe is truly just a guideline – the type of potatoes you use and the starchiness of the individual potatoes will determine liquid amounts and seasoning much more than any written instructions can. I know I do tend to drone on about this, but actually taste your potatoes (several times!) and decide what is best for them yourself. And no, the mayo is not a typo. Do you even know me at all???
4. This gravy is the best gravy and also a most forgiving gravy. Should you find yourself stirring a lumpy pot of flour-coated butter, don’t panic – just keep whisking (all the while repeating Dory’s line of “just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo in the hopes that people will think you’re insane and leave you alone to troubleshoot) and try to smooth out some of the bigger lumps. As long as most of your gravy is smooth and luxurious, you can always do a final strain at the end that nobody ever has to be privy to.
Are you ready? I BELIEVE IN YOU!
BA’s Best: Dry-Brined Turkey
Taken from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there
10 thyme sprigs
6 sage sprigs
4 rosemary sprigs
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
½ cup kosher salt
2 tbsp white sugar
1 15 lb (or so) turkey, giblets and neck removed
1 medium onion, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-2 bunches assorted herbs (like extra sprigs from the brining herbs)
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
The night (or very early morning) before making the turkey, roughly chop up the thyme, sage, and rosemary (sprigs and all!) to prepare the dry brine. Pulse the herbs in a food processor with the garlic and pepper until a coarse paste forms. Add the salt and sugar and pulse until blended, at least 30 seconds. You can also make the dry brine a few days ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to use.
Pat the turkey completely dry with paper towels and place on a large platter or dish. Rub the dry brine all over the skin, ensuring that every inch of the turkey has had some exfoliation. Chill the turkey UNCOVERED for 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Rinse the turkey under cold water to remove the dry brine. Pat the turkey very dry with paper towels and place, breast-side-up, on a rack set in a large roasting pan. Stuff the turkey with the onion, garlic head halves, and assorted herbs. Working from the neck side of the turkey, start gently pushing your hand between the membrane that separates the skin and the flesh to gently loosen the skin. Take care not to tear the skin (remove any prominent rings)! You should initially feel a bit of resistance, but ultimately the gradual loosening of the skin should feel easy and deeply satisfying. Massage the butter under the skin and all over the outside of the bird. Again, every last nook and cranny of that bird should be slick with butter. Tie the turkey legs together with kitchen string (or get lucky and have a butcher who ties the legs together under the skin for you). Pour the broth into the bottom of the roasting pan and roast the turkey for 30 minutes.
Once time has elapsed, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and roast for 2 ½ - 3 more hours, basting the bird with pan juices every 30 minutes. Top up the broth as needed to maintain liquid in the pan. Tent the turkey with foil if it begins to brown too quickly. The turkey is ready to pull when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees F. Remember that the turkey keeps cooking as it rests, and you’re about to give it a loooooong rest.
Carefully transfer the turkey to a platter to rest and generously tent with foil (don’t rinse that pan – those drippings are going to make amaaaaaaazing gravy) Let rest for minimum 30 minutes, but preferably closer to an hour, before carving. For carving assistance, click here! The hardest part is over – hurrah!
“THE” Mashed Potatoes
4-5 lb Russet potatoes (Yukon Golds will also work well!)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into a few large pieces
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
½ - ¾ cup full-fat mayonnaise
Place a large pot of well-salted water on the stove, but do not turn it on yet (it is imperative that you generously salt the water as this gives the potatoes the initial dose of salt that they badly need!). Peel and quarter the potatoes (or just halve if using smaller Yukons), removing any nasty-looking bits that you find. Place the potatoes in the pot of water and turn the heat up to high. Bring the water to a boil then turn down slightly to a vigourous simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, meaning a fork easily pierces the very centre of the potato without letting it fall apart into mush. This will really depend on the size of your potatoes, but will likely be 20-30 minutes for most “average” potatoes. Please avoid cooking the potatoes until they are literally disintegrating as they will taste waterlogged and unsatisfying once mashed. Drain the potatoes and immediately start placing them through a ricer or food mill to “mash” back into the warm pot. A regular potato masher would certainly work, but the ethereally smooth texture that these potatoes are famous for would be lost. Bury the butter pieces in the riced potatoes and place a lid on the pot.
While the butter melts into the potatoes, heat the milk, bay leaves, and nutmeg (if using) in a pot over medium heat. Let the milk just come to a bare simmer and take off the heat. Using a wooden spoon, mix the (now) melted butter pieces into the potatoes to form a smooth puree and season the potatoes to taste with plenty of salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves from the milk and start gradually pouring the milk into the potatoes, ¼ cup at a time. You may not need to use all the milk, but I will say that you want the potatoes to be a bit (just a bit) on the runnier side because they will thicken up as they sit. Stir the potatoes until smooth, then stir in the mayo, starting with ½ cup and adding more if extra creaminess if desired. Taste the potatoes again and decide what they need (if anything). More salt? Probably. More mayo? Possibly a spoonful. A tad more milk? If getting too thick, definitely. Another pat of butter for that extra kick of richness? This is your party, you do what you want.
Keep the potatoes warm by popping the lid back on the pot. Roughly 10 minutes prior to serving, place the covered potatoes over a very low burner, stirring every so often until heated through. You can add a bit more hot milk if the potatoes have stiffened up too much. Another piece of the holiday dinner puzzle has fallen into place – one more to go!
Adapted ever-so-slightly from Bonnie Stern (The National Post)
Makes ~ 5 cups gravy
¼ cup turkey pan drippings (try to use mostly the dark brown drippings from the bottom of the pan, but add some of the clear fat too) OR 1/4 cup unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour (I’ve used GF flour several times and it works well too!)
6 cups good-quality chicken or turkey stock
½ cup dry white wine
3 tbsp soy sauce (or Tamari)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
½ cup whipping cream (optional…but like, not really…it’s so good)
Heat the pan drippings in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Once sizzling, add the flour and whisk until a roux forms. Cook, stirring, until golden-brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Pour in the stock and wine, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil, then add the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, herbs, and cream (if using). Stir and taste, seasoning further if needed. Cook for a few more minutes, until thick and creamy. If there are any lumps left in your gravy, you can always strain it through a sieve into the gravy boat. Serve piping hot and languish in what you can now say is the best gravy you’ve ever made.