A holiday recipe for Herb-Roasted Turkey With Fragrant Pan Gravy

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Makes 8 servings with leftovers

For the Turkey:

1 (12 pound) turkey

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus butter for the roasting pan

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1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the Gravy:

Reserved giblets and neck bones from the turkey

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

1 stalk celery with leaves, roughly chopped

1 small onion with its skin, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1 whole clove

4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, divided

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. To roast the turkey, preheat oven to 325 degrees and thoroughly butter the roasting pan. Remove the neck and giblets from body and neck cavities of turkey; discard the liver or reserve it for another use, then put the remaining giblets and neck bone in a saucepan to make the turkey broth for the gravy.

2. Using your fingers, a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, gently separate the skin from the breast. Be careful not to tear the skin and do not remove it from the bird, just loosen it from the meat.

3. Combine butter, salt, sage, thyme, pepper and nutmeg and rub this mixture onto the meat under the skin. Tuck the wings behind the bird to secure the neck skin against the back of the turkey, then place the turkey, breast-side-down, in the buttered roasting pan, and transfer the roasting pan to the oven and set a timer for 2 hours.

4. To make the turkey stock for the gravy, combine the reserved giblets and neck bone with the carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf and clove and cover with 4 cups water. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until it comes to a full rolling boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 2 1/2 hours to make a strong stock.

5. When the turkey has roasted for 2 hours, remove the pan from the oven, and using two sturdy spatulas, or heavy heat-resistant kitchen mitts, turn the turkey over so that it is breast-side-up in the pan. Return the turkey to the oven and continue roasting for another hour or until it is well-browned and a thermometer inserted into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast registers a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

6. Transfer the roasted turkey from the pan to a serving platter; cover the turkey with a tent of aluminum foil and allow it to stand at room temperature while you make the gravy.

7. To make the pan gravy, strain the turkey stock from the saucepan into the roasting pan. Using a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, stir the stock around the pan to free up any baked-on juices. Strain the stock from the roasting pan back into the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a full rolling boil. Soften the cornstarch in the remaining 3 tablespoons water and whisk the mixture into the strained stock, stirring and cooking until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Note: To keep the breast meat moist, we rubbed the meat under the skin with a mixture of butter and seasonings and roasted the turkey upside-down for the first 2 hours, turning the turkey over to brown the skin and cook it through.

Turning a hot turkey over from breast to back can be tricky, but a sturdy pair of spatulas and/or heavy heat-resistant kitchen mitts plus a dose of confidence will insure success. This technique works best with smaller turkeys in the 12- to 16-pound range. For larger birds, a special V-rack can be purchased at most kitchen-supply stores. Be sure to save the giblets and neck from inside the body and neck cavities to make turkey stock while the bird is roasting. The stock will become the pan gravy.

From Greg Atkinson, Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central Community College

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