Simple And Terrific Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

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About ten years ago, right before Thanksgiving, I was chatting on the phone with my friend Sue. As she told me her favorite way to make the holiday turkey, I was quickly scribbling the instructions down on a scrap of paper. This recipe (along with my five favorite side dishes) has been my 'go-to' whenever I'm cooking the Thanksgiving meal. It's easy to prepare and the turkey always turns out moist and flavorful..  

Don't miss my wine suggestions following the recipe.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Serves 8-10 people with leftovers

Ingredients:

1 (12-14 pound) turkey, thawed

1 XL Ziploc Big Bag (or any extra large food grade plastic bag)

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoon each of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

4 bay leaves, torn

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1 large onion, chopped

1 large piece of celery, chopped

1 lemon, cut into quarters

1 stick of butter, softened

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE NIGHT BEFORE:

1. Rinse turkey in cool running water.  Pull fat out of cavity and place turkey in plastic bag.

2. Mix the salt with 1 tablespoon each of rosemary, sage and thyme, 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, 2 bay leaves and 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel. Sprinkle the turkey inside and out with the salt mixture.  Place in refrigerator overnight.  Cover and put aside the rest of the herbs, peppercorn, bay leaves and lemon peel in the refrigerator overnight.

IN THE MORNING:

 Get the turkey ready while you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV!

Get the turkey ready while you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV!

1. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Place onion, celery, lemon and remaining rosemary, sage and thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves and lemon zest in the turkey's cavity and spread the butter all over the turkey.  Let sit for an hour before placing in oven preheated to 350 degrees F.

3. Baste the turkey every 45 minutes for 3 & 1/2 to 4 hours or until the thigh (the thickest part near the bone) registers 180 degrees F.  Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

THE GRAVY:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons turkey fat 

4 tablespoons flour

4 cups unsalted chicken broth 

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Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter and turkey fat over medium high heat in medium saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring frequently, until golden blonde, about 2 minutes.

2. Gradually whisk in chicken broth in a steady stream. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until reduced to 3 cups, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

A FEW WINE PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:

The Thanksgiving meal is typically one of indulgence.  I suggest wines that are lively and fresh and not too heavy on the palate. Wines of finesse and elegance are the way to go instead of big, tannic and high alcohol wines. You may be desperately wishing for more alcohol to deal with those difficult relatives but you really don't want the wine filling you up when you have all that food to get through!  I'm going to recommend wines made in the U.S. for this most American of holidays.

WHITE: Dry Rieslings are great with turkey. The high acidity in these wines cut through all the fat in the dishes and leave your palate feeling refreshed:

  You won't go wrong with this 2015  Kung fu Girl Dry Riesling  by Charles Smith from Washington State.  So juicy, refreshing and delicious with big flavors that will stand up to all of your Thanksgiving dishes.  And your guests will love the label! ($12)

You won't go wrong with this 2015 Kung fu Girl Dry Riesling by Charles Smith from Washington State.  So juicy, refreshing and delicious with big flavors that will stand up to all of your Thanksgiving dishes.  And your guests will love the label! ($12)

  This  Wagner  2015 Dry Riesling comes from the Finger Lakes where some of my favorite rieslings are made.  Bright and elegant, it will complement whatever is on your Thanksgiving table with its silky mouthfeel and fresh fruit (peaches!) flavor.  Mouthwateringly delicious ($13)!

This Wagner 2015 Dry Riesling comes from the Finger Lakes where some of my favorite rieslings are made.  Bright and elegant, it will complement whatever is on your Thanksgiving table with its silky mouthfeel and fresh fruit (peaches!) flavor.  Mouthwateringly delicious ($13)!

ROSÉ: I drink rosé all year round and it's great with turkey.  Try either of these two.

  That's Steve  Matthiasson  (above) with his 2016 Dry Rose Wine.  It's made in California from a combination of Grenache, Syrah, Mouvèdre, and Counoise and has lots of juicy, fresh fruit flavors and it will go fabulouly with your turkey!! ($25) 

That's Steve Matthiasson (above) with his 2016 Dry Rose Wine.  It's made in California from a combination of Grenache, Syrah, Mouvèdre, and Counoise and has lots of juicy, fresh fruit flavors and it will go fabulouly with your turkey!! ($25) 

  I tasted the 2016  Scribe  Rosé from Sonoma, California for the first time recently and I was very impressed. Made from Pinot Noir grapes, this wine has a lot of red berry flavor and it's delicious! ($32)

I tasted the 2016 Scribe Rosé from Sonoma, California for the first time recently and I was very impressed. Made from Pinot Noir grapes, this wine has a lot of red berry flavor and it's delicious! ($32)

REDS: Gamay and Pinot Noir are both classic combinations with the Thanksgiving meal. Bright and full of fresh fruit flavors without any harsh tannins, these two wines are for the red wine lovers out there!

  The 2016  Sheldrake Point  Gamay Noir is Medium-bodied with soft aromatics of dried flowers and fresh red berries, It's the wine I hope to be drinking with my Thanksgiving Turkey.  Another Finger Lakes Favorite!! ($15-a true bargain!)

The 2016 Sheldrake Point Gamay Noir is Medium-bodied with soft aromatics of dried flowers and fresh red berries, It's the wine I hope to be drinking with my Thanksgiving Turkey.  Another Finger Lakes Favorite!! ($15-a true bargain!)

  I love this 2013  Domaine Eden  Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.  It's soft and silky on the palate but bold enough to stand up to all your rich Thanksgiving dishes.  Yummy! ($38)

I love this 2013 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.  It's soft and silky on the palate but bold enough to stand up to all your rich Thanksgiving dishes.  Yummy! ($38)