Roasting poultry is one of the best ways to flavor the meat while keeping it juicy. Cooking times vary depending on if the bird is stuffed, brined or what have you. Lately there have been many television and print chefs screaming about the dangers of stuffing. It has gotten to the point where a stuffed turkey is portrayed as a bacteria time bomb set to kill every person who even sees it. To all of them I say this: Nonsense you big wussies.
Granted stuffing a bird makes it take longer to cook, thus risking drying out the white meat before the darker is done. Luckily I have a way to solve that problem. I took a page from the French way of thinking and use a liberal dose of butter. Below is the recipe for herb butter. It can be made and then kept in the fridge where a tablespoon can be used at a time if desired. For this recipe you will need one stick. By separating the skin from the meat and generously rubbing butter into every bit of flesh you create a moisture barrier and bring extra flavor to the meat. The easiest way to do this is by sliding your hand between the skin lifting it gently to keep from removing it. Try to keep it as tight as possible so the skin will come back to shape after adding butter. Take a tablespoon of warm herb butter and rub it into the flesh. Continue until the whole bird is done. If any butter remains rub it into the cavity before adding stuffing.
- 4 tbsp assorted chopped fresh herbs ( I use 1/2 sage 1/2 rosemary)
- Salt/pepper to taste
- 1 stick butter (8 tbsp)
Bring butter to room temperature. Saving the wrapper, spoon butter into bowl. Add seasonings and mix well. Spoon butter back into wrapper and form into loaf. The herb butter can now be stored for later use in the refrigerator or used immediately.
Aside from the butter massage, a quick high heat at the start helps to crisp the skin and trap more moisture in the meat. I roast the bird covered in tin foil for 30 minutes at 415 degrees. I then reduce the heat to 345 degrees and remove the foil. Continue to bake the bird until it is done basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices. It also helps to add two cups of wine to the baking dish before setting the turkey in on a roasting rack. If you do not own a roasting rack, I recommend buying one since it provides air flow under the bird for even cooking and allows the fat to drip away completely. It also makes it easier to lift a 20-plus pound bird out of a hot roasting pan so that the pan juices can be collected for gravy.
Now, for the public service announcement. Don’t let this happen to your turkey: