ROAST TURKEY WITH HERB STUFFING & GRAVY

By: Jennifer MacKenzie

If you’ve never tackled stuffing and roasting a whole turkey before, or if you just need a refresher on cooking that perfect bird, this 101cooking lesson is for you. The stuffing is simple yet flavourful and the turkey and gravy are classic preparations that let the natural flavours shine through. A fresh turkey really does have superior texture and flavour and it’s usually best to order ahead from your butcher or meat department to make sure you get the right size. If you’re using a frozen turkey, be sure to allow plenty of time to let it thaw in the refrigerator (never thaw at room temperature). The turkey called for here will take 2½ to 3 days to thaw completely. Any stuffing that doesn’t fit inside the turkey can be baked in a buttered casserole dish after the turkey comes out of the oven while you make the gravy and carve the turkey.

HERB STUFFING
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh sage
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp (2 mL) celery seeds
½ tsp (2 mL) dried savoury (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup (250 mL) approx. turkey or chicken stock
14 cups (3.5 L) cubed day-old bread

TURKEY
1 turkey, 12 to 14 lbs (5.5 to 6.5 kg)
¼ cup (60 mL) butter, melted
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh sage
¼ tsp (1 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper

GRAVY
2 cups (500 mL) approx. turkey
or chicken stock
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup (80 mL) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (80 mL) dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 For the stuffing, melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add celery, onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Add sage, rosemary, celery seeds, savoury (if using) and ½ tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper; sauté for 5 minutes or until onions start to turn golden. Pour in about ¼ cup (60 mL) of the stock and scrape up brown bits.

2 Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and mix with bread. Add enough of the stock to moisten stuffing (when you squeeze it, a handful should just hold together). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool completely.

3 Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).

4 Remove any giblets and parts tucked in the cavity of the turkey and reserve for stock, if desired (they can be frozen for later use). Rinse turkey inside and out with cool, running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Place with the breast-side up on a rack in a large roasting pan. You want at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) space between the turkey and the sides of the pan. Tuck wing tips under wings.

5 Fill cavity with stuffing, packing lightly, but not too tight, in order to leave room for expansion when it heats up. Bring legs together toward the opening of the cavity and tie together with kitchen string. Lift the flap of skin at the neck and stuff the smaller cavity, if desired. Replace the flap and skewer with toothpicks to close.

6 Combine melted butter, sage, rosemary and about ½ tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper (or to taste) in a small bowl. Brush all over the outside of the turkey.

7 Insert the probe of a meat thermometer between the leg and the breast with end of the probe into the thickest part of the thigh and without touching bone.

8 Roast for 3½ to 4 hours until meat thermometer reads 180°F (82°C). Using 2 large spatulas or heavy-duty tongs, transfer turkey to a large cutting board and cover loosely with a large piece of foil to “tent.”

9 For the gravy, remove rack from roasting pan. Pour pan drippings into a large liquid measuring cup. Let stand for 2 minutes. Spoon off fat that floats to the top of the cup, reserving ¼ cup (60 mL); discard remaining fat. Pour in enough of the stock to the remaining pan juices to make 3 cups (750 mL) total liquid.

10 Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat (use 2 burners if your roasting pan covers both). If your roasting pan is coated inside and not safe for the stovetop, scrape any bits from the pan into a wide saucepan and use that to make the gravy. Return the reserved fat to roasting pan and heat until sizzling. Add onion and sage and sauté for about 3 minutes or until softened and starting to lightly brown. Sprinkle with flour and cook, while whisking to make sure flour is incorporated with the fat, for 1minute. Gradually pour in wine, while whisking. Gradually pour in stock mixture, while whisking to prevent lumps, until incorporated. Bring to a boil, whisking often. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking often, for about 10 minutes or until thickened and reduced to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low to keep hot while you carve the turkey, then transfer to a warmed gravy boat.

11 To carve turkey, untie legs and remove toothpicks from neck flap. Spoon stuffing out of the cavities into a warmed serving bowl. Cover to keep warm in the oven.

12 Cut legs from turkey, inserting the knife between the thigh joint and the body and using the knife to cut the meat while slightly wiggling the leg to loosen at the joint. Carve meat from the thigh and serve drumsticks whole, if desired, or cut the small pieces of meat from the drumstick working parallel to the bone. Place on a warmed platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

13 To cut the breast meat, position the turkey so the neck end is farthest away from you. Make a cut along the right side of the breastbone down the centre of the turkey, starting at the neck and working toward you and keeping the knife blade as close to the bone as possible. Working along the breastbone as it curves down under the breast, carefully cut the meat away from the bone in 1 large piece. Transfer the large piece of breast to another cutting board, then cut crosswise into slices. Add to the warmed platter. Repeat on the left side. Cut wings from the body, wiggling loose as you did for the legs, and place on the platter.

14 Serve the turkey with the hot gravy and stuffing alongside. Refrigerate any leftovers within 1 hour.

Serves 8 to 10