Over the last twenty-five or thirty years, I’d guess we’ve given this roast turkey recipe to literally hundreds of people.
You see, my wife and I have hosted a Friendsgiving dinner more years than not since we were married. Before it became such a thing in our culture, we always called it the Orphan’s Thanksgiving. Not to imply you didn’t have parents but rather you were merely somewhere away from family. And people always ask for the recipe.
I know the memories we have, the people we’ve met, and the tables we’ve shared always outshone the food. But let me tell you: it really is an excellent recipe!
(This is the roast turkey recipe I used and later turned into stock and then my soup I told you about last week.)
Yes, everyone has their own family recipe. And yes, everyone thinks theirs is the best. That’s fine, no worries. If you’re in that crowd, perfectly content with your way, then thanks for stopping by and I hope we’ll see you again, happy holidays, and enjoy! That’s what it’s all about.
But I know a lot of people who say they just don’t like turkey. Because they’ve had some pretty bad ones. Epically dry.
Myself, I too have family who used to put that poor bird in the oven at 5am and would cook the ever-loving life out of it for six or seven hours.
Don’t do that.
Start with one box of cheap wine and a handful of friends at 10:00 am….
There was a time when we didn’t have a recipe either. And then this one was printed in our local paper (reprinted from the New York Times in teeny-tiny print) and we’ve never looked back. I dug out the original, now well-tattered and barely legible copy to give all due original credit to Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey. (I did a quick search and a more recent recipe sans the backstory /article is available on their website albeit apparently behind a paywall. If you have access you can find it here.)
Get the best turkey you can reasonably afford. These days we’re lucky enough to get a locally-raised bird from a farmer we know. But many years it was the best bargain from the nearest wholesale club.
After all, the most important part of the day sits at the table, not on it.
If the idea of rubbing the turkey with a butter-flour mixture seems unusual, it dates back to the 1896 Fannie Farmer Cook Book (p.226 in my copy).
Okay, enough already.
What follows is our recipe exactly as it’s been written down and shared so many times before.
Orphan's Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey is easy and doesn't take that long when done right. Remember, the most important part of the day sits at the table, not on it. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 11-12 pound turkey
- 1 large lemon
- 1 small apple, cored and stem removed
- 1 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 bay leaves, broken into smaller pieces
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 10 sprigs fresh
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoons water
Start with one box of cheap wine and a handful of friends at 10:00 am....
Cut off the wing tips off the turkey. They tend to burn. But save them for making stock later.
Cut both the lemon and apple in half lengthwise. Then cut the halves crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Combine lemon, apple, parsley, onion, bay leaves, thyme, and oil In a mixing bowl and stir well.
Sprinkle the turkey inside and out with salt and a generous grinding of pepper.
Fill the cavity of the turkey with the lemon and apple mixture.
Flex the thighs and wing joints of the turkey. You'll feel a bit silly -- it's okay, it's important so don't skip it.
Then tie the turkey's "feet" together with string to keep in the heat and seasoning.
Blend 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons of flour together in a smaller bowl. Just use your fingers.
- Rub the turkey all over with the butter-flour mixture, massaging it thoroughly for several minutes.
Place a rack inside a shallow roasting pan and arrange the turkey breast side up on the rack. Sprinkle the remaining flour around the bottom of the pan.
Let the turkey sit outside the oven for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the turkey in the oven and roast 45 minutes.
Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and stir in the water. Baste the turkey with this mixture.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue roasting the turkey, basting often for about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Remove the turkey and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.