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In the Kitchen: The best roasted turkey and gravy

Can you believe Thanksgiving Day is next week? Christmas will be here before we know it. 

So, in this past Wednesday’s column, I told you all about why you should take the extra step and brine your turkey for the big day. Now, I am going to share my all-time favorite recipe for roasting the star of the day. 

Stay tuned for next week’s food column when I give you some awesome recipes and tips to use up your Thanksgiving Day leftovers.


Herb roasted turkey

1 onion, quartered

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

12 sage leaves

3 sprigs thyme

4 sprigs rosemary

4 sprigs Italian parsley

1 lemon, juiced

1 brined turkey, preferably 12-14 pounds

3/4 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the onion, garlic cloves, 6 sage leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of rosemary, all of the parsley, lemon juice and the lemon halves. 

Mince the remaining sage leaves, thyme and rosemary leaves and combine them with the melted butter. Using your fingers, gently separate the turkey skin from the meat and then pour the herb butter under the skin and on top of the skin. 

Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper. Truss turkey with some twine. I usually just tie the legs together. Place on a rack inside a roasting pan and pour in the chicken broth and white wine. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Roast turkey for 30 minutes and then turn down the oven to 350 degrees. 

Baste the turkey every 30 minutes or so, adding more chicken broth and white wine as needed. If the breast is getting too brown, cover with a bit of aluminum foil. Roast until thermometer inserted in thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven and loosely tent turkey with foil for 15 to 30 minutes.

Turkey roasting times

Weight                    Unstuffed                    Stuffed

10-12 pounds          1 ¾ to 2 hours             2-2 ¼ hours

12-14 pounds          2 to 2 ½ hours             2 ¼ to 3 hours

14-18 pounds          2 ½ to 3 hours             2 ¾ to 3 ½ hours

Garnishing the turkey

Whether you bring your turkey to the table whole or already carved, garnishes matter. I like to garnish with things I used to flavor the turkey, such as fresh rosemary, thyme, sage leaves, parsley sprigs, lemons, etc. I also love to use seasonal items, such as kumquats and fresh cranberries. Orange slices and apples are also lovely.

Secrets to making perfect gravy

•  If you have a fat separator, pour the turkey drippings into it after the turkey is done. If you don’t have one, just pour the drippings into a glass container and once the fat rises to the top, spoon as much off as possible.

• Use the best quality chicken stock — if possible, make homemade stock ahead of time.

• To make gravy, melt ½ stick of butter over medium high heat. Sprinkle on ½ cup flour, stirring constantly. Add ¼ cup dry white wine and 3 cups of chicken stock, whisking constantly. Add turkey drippings and continue stirring until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add some minced herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme leaves.

Other turkey tricks

• Save the turkey carcass to make delicious turkey stock. Just put the carcass in plastic zipper baggies and freeze until you are ready to make stock. For stock, place turkey carcass in a large stockpot. Add a few coarsely chopped carrots, onions, celery, fresh herbs, a handful of peppercorns, and a few bay leaves. 

Cover with cold water and then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Alternatively, you could throw everything into a slow cooker and simmer on low all day.

• Freeze leftover turkey meat in several plastic zipper baggies so you can pull out one at a time to make dishes with the leftover meat.

•  Label the baggies and date them. You might want to go ahead and chop up some of the turkey so it can easily come together in a soup or enchilada recipe. Just make sure you label!