I love having Thanksgiving dinner at my house.  I don't love all of the last minute things that need to be done in order to get the meal on the table.  Since I am all about getting as much done ahead of time if I'm entertaining, you can imagine my excitement when when Ina Garten published her latest cookbook, Make it Ahead

And happily, she had included a method for making your turkey ahead of time, promising that the bird would come out moist and delicious.  I have to admit, I was somewhat skeptical but was determined to give it a try.  And believe me, we were not disappointed.  My husband and I had that turkey carved and ready to serve on an ovenproof platter before our guests even arrived!  I highly recommend the cookbook, and will be including various recipes I've made so far from it.  And they are all really good!

Note:  We let the turkey sit on the cutting board, tented with foil for almost an hour which made it really easy to carve.  If you try to carve it too quickly, it generally will fall apart but we were able to slice it into perfect pieces!


For the turkey:

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 12 -to-14-pound fresh turkey

1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut in eighths

1 lemon, quartered

8 sprigs fresh thyme

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Turkey Gravy (see below)

For the turkey gravy:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 large red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade

2 tablespoons cognac or brandy

10 large fresh sage leaves

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio




1.  Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 3 tablespoons salt, the minced thyme and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well and pat it all over with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt mixture in the cavity of the turkey and rub the rest on the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish just large enough to hold it and wrap the whole dish tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave the turkey in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.
2.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Put the turkey in a large roasting pan, discarding any juices in the dish. Place the onion, lemon and thyme sprigs in the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tie the wings close to the body. Brush the turkey with the butter and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
3.  Roast the turkey for 2 to 2 1/4 hours, until the breast meat registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer (put the thermometer in sideways). Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a carving board. Cut off the legs and thighs and put them back into the roasting pan, covering the breast and carcass tightly with aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dark meat registers 180 degrees F. Remove the dark meat to the carving board with the turkey, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.  (We didn't roast our dark meat any longer, our turkey doneness little popper thing had popped!)
4.  Pour a 1/4-inch layer of the gravy into a large (12-by-16-inch) ovenproof serving platter (make sure it's ovenproof!). Carve the turkey and arrange it artfully on top of the gravy. Place the platter uncovered into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is very hot. Serve hot with extra gravy on the side.

For the gravy:  (I made this the Monday before Thanksgiving)

1.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onion becomes browned and starts to caramelize. 2.  Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, cognac, sage leaves, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock) and 1 teaspoon pepper.
3.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour and strain, pressing the solids lightly and then discarding them. Refrigerate until ready to use.

After the turkey is cooked, remove it to a carving board to rest while you finish the gravy. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat and add the wine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring and scraping up all the bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Slowly whisk the gravy base into the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the gravy is smooth and slightly thickened. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.


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