Love it or hate it, the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving spread is the turkey! On this episode of "Cooking Up a Storm," we turn to a rising star of the culinary world, chef and writer Sohla El-Waylly, to offer her tips and tricks for making the crispiest and juiciest bird possible. She’ll share her turkey recipe, the aptly-named: Crisp & Juicy Herb Roasted Turkey, along with her recipe for a fresh take on gravy: Honey-Thyme Gravy. Both are sure to make this year’s holiday extra savory.
Technique tips: By removing the turkey's backbone, pressing it flat and dry brining it for at least 24 hours, your turkey will have the crispiest skin and juiciest meat. This recipe keeps the seasoning simple, with just salt and herbs, so any dishes can play well alongside. If you want to get creative, add up to six tablespoons of ground spices to your dry brine (too much can get in the way of the salt doing its thing). Try a mix of cumin, ancho chile powder and dried oregano for a Mexican spin or garam masala for some South Asian flair. Once you learn this technique, the options are endless.
For the turkey:1.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt, sugar and MSG (if using). Set a wire rack into a sheet tray. Line the rack with enough herb sprigs to cover.2.
Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity and reserve for gravy. Place the turkey, breast-side down, on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it (reserve the backbone for gravy). Flip over the turkey and press firmly onto the breast until it flattens and you hear the breastbone crack.3.
Using paper towels, pat the turkey and cutting board dry. Evenly sprinkle the salt mixture all over the turkey, taking care to get into the wing and leg joints. You want to be sure to use all of the salt mixture — if some falls off, scoop it up and pat it on.4.
Place the turkey, skin-side up, onto the prepared sheet tray. Chill turkey, uncovered, for at least 24 hours and preferably 48 hours.5.
Remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Heat oven to 425 F. Brush or rub turkey evenly with melted ghee or oil.6.
Place the turkey into the oven and pour 1½ cups water into the sheet tray.7.
Roast turkey, rotating occasionally, until the skin is deep golden-brown, an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers at least 150 F and the thighs register at least 165 F, about 90 minutes (if the skin is getting dark too quickly, reduce the heat to 375 F). Allow turkey to rest, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes before carving.
For the Honey-Thyme Gravy:1.
With a paper towel, pat giblets dry (if using). Cut giblets into 1/2-inch pieces.2.
In a medium saucepan or Dutch oven, heat ghee or oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add giblets, season lightly with salt and cook undisturbed until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss and cook until opaque, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer giblets to a plate and refrigerate, leaving the fat behind.3.
Return the pan to medium heat. Add the neck, backbone, carrots and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, thyme sprigs, peppercorns and broth, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Use a ladle to skim off any foamy scum that floats to the surface. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, partially covered, until everything is tender, about 45 minutes.4.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. You should have at least 1 quart of broth (top off with water if needed). The broth and giblets can be prepared 3 days in advance.5.
In a medium saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter until foamy. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until blonde and smells nutty, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the broth in a slow and steady stream until incorporated. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened and no raw flour taste remains, about 5 minutes (the gravy can be made up to this point up to 3 days in advance).6.
Stir in honey, chopped thyme leaves, ground pepper and cooked giblets. Taste and add more salt, pepper and honey as needed.