“First and foremost you must buy an organic, fresh, hormone free, ‘happy’ free-range turkey. No exceptions.
Turn on the oven and preheat it to 300F or 150C. If you are stuffing the bird be sure to do this just prior to cooking and cook for 12 minutes per pound, so for instance a 16 pound bird will take around 3 and a bit hours. If you decide to stuff the cavity add an extra 30 minutes or so to the cooking time.
Here is where I might differ slightly from convention. Turn the bird onto it breasts and with both hands placed flat on top push down really firmly as if you are performing CPR until you hear some cracking of the smaller bones in the chest cavity. This will help the juices in the bones to baste the bird from the inside during cooking.
Roast the bird ‘upside down’ for the first 2 hours on parchment paper to prevent any sticking and therefore preserving the precious skin that will later be crisped and browned before carving.
After two hours or so dice some carrot, leek, celery and onions. Roughly tear some sage leaves, some bay leaves and a few sprigs of thyme and place in the roasting tray. Now flip your bird over, cover the whole turkey in good quality smoked streaky bacon and put back into the oven with the vegetables, having carefully removed the parchment paper.
Be sure to baste regularly with the juices that will after a couple of hours start to form in the pan being sure to coat the vegetables too. This is going to be the basis for really good gravy.
After 2 ½ hours turn your oven up to 450F or 230C, remove the bacon and carefully brown the skin whilst continuing to baste regularly. After 3 to 3 ½ hours depending on your oven check the turkey is just cooked through by inserting a sharp knife just into the thickest part of the dark leg meat. The juices should be running clear at this stage with no traces of bright red blood.
Once you are satisfied it is cooked thoroughly keep the Turkey hot by wrapping in heavy-duty aluminium foil.
Now for the gravy. Deglaze the roasting pan with half a bottle of good quality dry white wine and transfer the contents into a saucepan whilst straining out the roasted vegetables (keep these for making stock later) Up the heat and reduce this stock by half whilst straining off any unwanted fat from the surface. Add a good tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.
Now we are going to get a little ‘cheffy’, so bear with me, it’s worth it. To thicken the sauce you are going to ‘mount’ the sauce with something called ‘Monter au beurre’ which is basically a stabilized butter that won’t split with the heat of the sauce and will give you professional, glossy, wonderful gravy. To do this simply heat two to three tablespoons of water whilst whisking in cubes of cold butter carefully and 1 Tablespoon of plain flour so you end up with an emulsification of butter, flour and water. Go ahead and ‘mount’ the sauce with this mix and stir occasionally whilst the potatoes roast, the vegetables steam and the turkey takes a well-earned rest!
So there it is, turkey for another year, done”.