In this recipe, we borrowed a technique from www.marthastewart.com: a wine-and-butter soaked cheesecloth keeps the turkey breast moist and flavorful during cooking, and adds lots of flavor to pan juices to make delicious gravy.
1 fresh turkey, patted dry (brined turkeys are delicious; here is our recipe for Turkey Brine)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted, plus 1/8 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, or dry French vermouth
3 carrots, chopped into large chunks
2 celery stalks, chopped into large chunks
3 yellow onions, chopped into large chunks
Salt and pepper
1. Rest the turkey on a large platter while you set everything else up. (This will make everything easier.)
2. Stir together melted butter and wine in a medium bowl. Fold a very large piece of cheesecloth (see picture) into quarters so that when folded, it is large enough to cover breast and halfway down sides of turkey. Immerse cheesecloth in butter mixture; let soak while you prep the turkey.
3. Check to be sure the oven rack is in the lowest position. Preheat oven to 425°.
4. Set up a roasting pan with a rack for the turkey (but don't put the turkey in it yet). Put the chopped vegetables in the pan under the rack.
4. Keeping the turkey on the platter, rub it all over with the softened butter, then sprinkle salt and pepper over the skin.
5. If you are stuffing the turkey, fill both cavities loosely with stuffing like this: start by filling the neck cavity, and securing the skin with turkey lacers (see picture). Then, fill the main body cavity with stuffing. Note - do not pack the stuffing in tightly, because this will make it difficult for the turkey to roast all the way through.
6. Fold wing tips back and under the turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Place the turkey, breast side up, on the rack.
7. Remove cheesecloth from butter mixture, squeezing gently into bowl. Reserve butter mixture for brushing turkey during roasting. Lay cheesecloth over turkey, making sure the breast is completely covered (it can cover parts of the legs, etc. too).
6. Place turkey in oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then take the turkey out and brush cheesecloth and exposed turkey with butter mixture. Return turkey to the oven, reduce temperature to 350° and roast for another 30 minutes, then brush again. Continue roasting, brushing every 30 minutes with the butter mixture, until you run out of mixture or for about the first 2 ½ hours of cooking time.
7. During roasting, keep an eye on the roasting pan and do not allow it to completely dry out. Add a little more wine, water or broth as needed to keep it moist (so that you can use these delicious drippings to make gravy later on). Also, be sure to rotate the turkey for even cooking each time you take it out to brush it.
8. When you use up the final bit of mixture, put the turkey back in for another 30 minutes. When you take it out again, remove and discard cheesecloth, being very careful to avoid tearing the skin. At this point, baste turkey with pan juices and return it to the oven. Continue roasting, rotating pan and basting occasionally, until skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°. If your turkey is stuffed, insert the thermometer into the stuffing instead. Roast until the temperature in the stuffing is 165°. Total roasting time will be about 20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird, less for a bird that is not stuffed.
9. When done, remove turkey from roasting rack and set it on a platter or carving board, being careful not to tear skin. Allow the turkey to rest for at least a half-hour to allow the meat to achieve an even temperature and the juices to be reincorporated into the meat. Reserve the pan juices for making gravy.
10. If you stuffed the turkey, remove the stuffing and spoon it into a serving dish before you bring the turkey to the table. (We learned the hard way, doing this at the table looks a little strange).
11. Your Thanksgiving Turkey is ready!