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Preparing the Thanksgiving turkey

Estimated turkey roasting times
Oven temperature 325 degrees
8 to 12 pounds:   2 ¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds:  3 to 3 ¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds:  3 ¾ to 4 ½ hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 ½ to 5 hours

The official turkey day countdown is on, so that means it is time for my annual “Let’s Talk Turkey” column.  
In less than a week, we will all be sitting down to what is, for most of us, the biggest meal of the year.
While the side dishes are the favorites for many of us (definitely mine), the star of the meal is the turkey. How many times have we eaten dry turkey? Many people think that is why gravy was invented.
So, is it possible to produce a succulent, juicy turkey that will have everybody coming back for seconds? Absolutely. As with all good cooking, there are steps to take and corners that shouldn’t be cut.
My No. 1 tip for a moist and flavorful turkey is something that must be done the night before cooking the bird -- brining. My regular readers may be saying, “she says this every year.” While that’s true, it’s because I know it works.
And just so readers know, every year I hear from people who tell me they finally tried brining and it resulted in the best turkey they have ever cooked.
This goes for whether roasting the turkey the traditional way, or if deep-frying the bird. Brining involves submerging the turkey in a seasoned salt water bath, refrigerating overnight, patting dry and proceeding to prep and cook. The meat will be seasoned all the way through and the meat will be moist and tender. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey isn’t under- or over-cooked. Also, always let the turkey rest before carving. That allows the juices to redistribute inside the turkey before it’s cut into.
I know many folks feel brining is just one more step for which there’s not enough time. But I must say that every year after turkey day, I hear from readers who tell me they tried brining for the first time and it made a tremendous difference with regards to flavor and texture. Please give it a try and let me know how it works.

Brining instructions
The main component in a brine is salt. I like to use sea salt since it tastes clean and dissolves quickly. I add about ¾ cup of salt, ½ cup of sugar, a handful of peppercorns, a teaspoon of whole cloves, a few cinnamon sticks, some bay leaves, and an apple or pear. I also often throw in a few lemons and an orange after juicing them into the brine. Herbs are great to add as well. Fresh is my preference.
There is no hard and fast amount, so feel free to add anything that might go well. At the very minimum, add salt and sugar.
Make sure the turkey is completely thawed. I  buy a fresh one instead of having to worry about thawing. Mix the brine with cold water until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Make sure to have a pot or container big enough to hold the bird. Let the turkey brine overnight in the refrigerator for at least eight hours.
When ready to roast, remove turkey from brine and drain well. Place turkey on a plastic cutting board and using paper towels, pat until it is dry. Let the turkey sit outside of the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour to take the chill off of it before cooking. Proceed with a favorite recipe.

Herb-roasted turkey with white wine pan gravy
1 turkey, preferably fresh, brined and patted very dry (12 to 14 pounds)
1 onion, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
Bunch of fresh thyme sprigs
3 sprigs fresh rosemary sprigs
1 lemon, juiced and cut in half
Salt and pepper
8 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
5 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Italian parsley, minced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush turkey with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the bird with onion, celery, thyme, rosemary, lemon and lemon juice. Lightly truss turkey with kitchen twine, just to hold it together and keep the “stuffing” inside the bird. Cover the breast of the turkey with aluminum foil. Pour ½ cup of chicken stock and ½ cup of wine into the bottom of the roasting pan. In microwave, melt 3 tablespoons butter with 2 cups chicken stock and set aside as a basting sauce. Roast turkey for 30 minutes, and then baste with butter and stock mixture. Lower temperature to 325 degrees, basting every half hour or so with the butter/stock mixture until thermometer registers 180 degrees when inserted in thickest part of the thigh. Uncover the breast after about 1 ½ hours of cooking, but watch carefully if it begins to get too brown, replace foil.
Remove turkey from oven and tent with foil. Do not wrap tightly with foil. Allow turkey to rest for 30 minutes.
Pour turkey drippings into a fat separator or a glass bowl. Place roasting pan over two burners. Add some of the fat from the turkey drippings to the pan, along with enough butter to measure about 4 or 5 tablespoons. Melt butter and then sprinkle on the flour. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat up a bit and carefully add the remaining 1 ½ cups of dry white wine and ½ cup of chicken stock. Add ½ cup or so of heavy cream and boil for five to 10 minutes, tasting for seasoning. Stir in parsley. Taste again for seasoning.