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James Beard roasted turkey

5D4B3207 - James Beard Roasted Turkey

When enthusiasm wanes for the traditional roast turkey recipe, reach for the tried and true recipes of renowned food greats. This James Beard roasted turkey recipe, inspired by James Beard, honors the great American cook’s gourmet-style approach to the Thanksgiving bird.

Not all roast turkey recipes are created equal. This Thanksgiving recipe is especially unique. James Beard’s turkey prepping technique includes a generous amount of lemon wedges and bunches of fresh herbs stuffed in the turkey cavity, massaging softened butter all over the exterior of the bird, lining the roasting rack with fresh salt pork strips, and rotating and buttering the turkey throughout the roasting process. Best yet, this unbeatable roasted turkey recipe comes with a lip-smacking good gravy made with roasting pan juices, turkey giblets, and cognac.

ALSO TRY: Tender and juicy grilled turkey breast

Cook’s note: Fresh salt pork is salted pork belly that looks like uncooked bacon. This cut of pork is salted but not smoked. Fresh salt pork is a fabulously flavorful old-fashioned American ingredient that, unfortunately, isn’t as readily available as bacon. Check with your local butcher or supermarket meat counter for salt pork, if you’re having trouble finding it.

Who is James Beard? Much can be said about this American food great, but we’ll give it to you in a nutshell. James Beard was a renowned American cook, captivating cookbook author and food writer, expert teacher, and pioneering food television personality. He was a hero of American cuisine with a passion for mentoring generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Some call Beard the “father of American-style gourmet cooking.” He died in 1985, but his legacy lives on in books, recipes, and his foundation’s annual James Beard awards—the Oscars of the food world.


Prep the turkey

Place the turkey on a large cutting board or clean surface. Rub the inside of the turkey with lemon halves. Stuff the turkey with lemon wedges, a bunch of fresh parsley, and a bunch of fresh tarragon. Tie the legs together with twine. Use your hands to massage softened butter all over the turkey.

5D4B2276 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - inserting lemon into turkey cavity


Roast the turkey

Season the turkey all over with salt and pepper. Line a roasting rack with the strips of fresh salt pork. Place the turkey breast-side down on the rack. You’ll be rotating the turkey every hour and brushing it with melted butter throughout the roasting process. The final rotation of the turkey will have its breast up and ready to carve. Roast the turkey at 350 F for 1 hour.

5D4B2323 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - placeing strips of fresh salt pork on rack


Start the gravy

It’s gravy-making time. You’ll make the gravy in two steps. For the first step, place the turkey neck, gizzard, and heart in a small saucepan. Add onion, cloves, extra parsley sprigs and tarragon leaves, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover the mixture with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover pan, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours.

5D4B2362 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - placing turkey neck and giblets in a sauce pan


Strain the solids

Strain out the onion, cloves, herbs, gizzard, heart, and neck. Remove the giblets—only the gizzard and heart—and chop into 1/4-inch pieces. Set the giblets aside until it’s time to add them to the gravy.

5D4B2556 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - straining turkey innards onions cloves salt parsley and tarrgon together


Rotate the turkey and brush with butter

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Carefully rotate turkey onto one side. Brush with melted butter and roast for 1 hour. Rotate the turkey onto its other side and brush with melted butter. Roast for 1 hour. Finally, rotate the turkey onto its back—breast-side up—and brush with melted butter. Roast until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165 F. Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and allow it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

5D4B2724 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - applying melted butter to turkey


Finish the gravy: separate the turkey juices and fat

Remove all the fat from the roasting pan and pour it into a gravy separator. Set aside 1/4-cup of fat.

5D4B3103 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - removing turkey fat


Make a roux

A roux is a mixture of fat and flour that helps thicken liquids, such as juices or broth for gravy. In the roasting pan set over the stovetop or in a skillet over medium heat, add the reserved turkey fat and flour. Stir until blended and golden.

5D4B3127 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - stirring turkey fat and flour together for roux


Finish the gravy

To the roux, add 2 cups of separated juices. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Add the chopped giblets and stir in the cognac. Simmer the gravy for 4 to 5 minutes to meld the flavors.

5D4B3136 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - pouring in turkey juices for gravy


Bring the roast turkey and homemade gravy to the table

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An impressively roasted turkey

5D4B3222 - James Beard Roasted Turkey


Succulent and juicy!

5D4B3278 - James Beard Roasted Turkey


Makes for a perfect holiday celebration!

5D4B3288 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - Makes for a perfect holiday celebration!


Savory and classic gravy to complete the meal!

5D4B3268 - James Beard Roasted Turkey - Savory and classic gravy to complete the meal!


James Beard roasted turkey

Yield 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey (neck, gizzard, and heart removed and reserved)
  • 3 lemons, 1 cut in half, 2 cut into quarters, divided
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley plus 1 sprig, divided
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon leaves plus 3 leaves, divided
  • 1/2 stick softened butter
  • 9 to 10 strips fresh salt pork
  • 4 teaspoons salt, divided in half
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, cut into eighths
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 stick butter, divided 1/4 stick, 1/4 stick, and 1/2 stick, melted
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cognac

Instructions

  1. Turkey: Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Rub the inside of the turkey with lemon halves. Stuff the inside of the turkey with lemon quarters and a small bunch each of parsley and tarragon.
  3. Tie the legs of the turkey together.
  4. Using a half-stick of butter, massage the turkey all over. Line a roasting rack with strips of fresh salt pork.
  5. Set the rack in a fairly shallow roasting pan, and place the turkey breast-side down on the rack. Season the turkey with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour.
  6. Gravy, Part I: Place the turkey neck, gizzard, and heart in a small saucepan.
  7. Add onion, cloves, 2 sprigs of parsley, extra tarragon, and 2 teaspoons of salt.
  8. Add water to cover the mixture.
  9. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 5 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer for approximately 1-1/2 hours.
  11. Strain out the onion, cloves, herbs, gizzard, heart, and neck. Reserve the gizzard and heart. Discard the neck.
  12. Chop the gizzard and heart into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside to add to the gravy.
  13. Turkey: Remove the pan from the oven. Rotate the turkey to 1 side, and brush with 1/4 stick of melted butter. Return the turkey to the oven and roast for another hour.
  14. Remove the pan, turn the turkey to the other side, and brush with 1/4 stick of melted butter. Roast for another hour.
  15. Turn the turkey onto its back and brush the breast with the remaining 1/2 stick of melted butter. Return the turkey to the oven and continue roasting until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165 F.
  16. Remove the turkey from the oven and place it on a serving platter. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
  17. Remove the twine from the legs.
  18. Gravy, Part II: Remove all the fat from the roasting pan and pour it into a gravy separator. Set aside 1/4 cup of fat.
  19. Place the roasting pan or a skillet over medium heat. Add the 1/4-cup of fat and the flour.
  20. Once blended, add 2 cups of separated juices from the turkey, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.
  21. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
  22. Stir in the chopped giblets and cognac. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
  23. Serve the turkey and gravy with your favorite side dishes.

Courses Main dish


5D4B3194 - James Beard Roasted Turkey

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