Faith Middleton's Food Schmooze: Fine Cooking Magazine's Recipe For Moist Turkey

Fresh herb and salt-rubbed roasted turkey and perfect mashed potatoes

Scott Phillips
Faith Middleton's Food Schmooze: Fine Cooking Magazine's Recipe For Moist Turkey
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Faith Middleton's Food Schmooze: Fine Cooking Magazine's Recipe For Moist Turkey


Fresh Herb and Salt-Rubbed Roasted Turkey

by Maria Helm Sinskey

A dry brine (an herb and salt rub applied directly to the turkey) creates satiny leg meat and juicy, perfectly seasoned breast meat. Air-drying the turkey on the last day of the 4-day process will make its skin super crisp when roasted. This recipe can be adapted to turkeys of all sizes—use 1/8 oz. of kosher salt per pound.

Serves 8 to 10, with leftovers


2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme

2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

One 16-lb. turkey, preferably fresh (not kosher or self-basting)

2 oz. kosher salt (1/2 cup if using Diamond Crystal; 1/4 cup if using Morton)

Herb Gravy for a Brined Turkey (optional)


Dry brine the turkey

Four days before you plan to roast the turkey, mix the herbs and oil in a small bowl. Loosen the skin around the shoulders of the bird and around the cavity. Carefully slide your hands underneath the skin to loosen it from the breast, thighs, and drumsticks.

Rub the herb mixture on the meat, under the skin. Pat the skin back into place.

Rub the salt inside the cavity and on the skin. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Put the turkey in a large food-safe plastic bag (such as a turkey-size roasting bag) and tie. Put the bag inside a second bag and tie.

Refrigerate the turkey, turning it over every day, for 3 days.

Remove the turkey from the bags and pat dry. Put it in a flameproof roasting pan and refrigerate, unwrapped, to let the turkey air-dry overnight (for the fourth day).

Roast the turkey

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F. Continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F in the thickest part of a thigh, about 2 hours. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to settle. If making the gravy, do so while the turkey rests.


Store leftover meat and the turkey carcass in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.


nutrition information (per serving):

Calories (kcal): 510; Fat (g): 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 220; Saturated Fat (g): 7; Protein (g): 68; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 0; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6; Sodium (mg): 1500; Cholesterol (mg): 200; Fiber (g): 0


photo: Scott Phillips

From Fine Cooking 107, pp. 51

September 2, 2010

Herb Gravy for a Brined Turkey

by Maria Helm Sinskey

Pan juices from a brined turkey are full of salt, so if you use them in a traditional gravy recipe, your gravy is likely to come out far too salty. This gravy, which is based on a plain turkey broth and just a small amount of pan juices, can be used for any dry- or wet-brined bird.

Yields about 3-1/2 cups.


For the turkey broth

Turkey neck, gizzard, tail, and heart

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 celery stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 bay leaf

2 large sprigs each fresh thyme and parsley

10 black peppercorns

For the gravy

Drippings from a roasted brined turkey

6 Tbs. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. chopped fresh sage (save the stems)

1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (save the stems)

1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper


Make the broth

Chop the turkey neck into 3 or 4 pieces with a cleaver. Chop the gizzard in half. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the neck, gizzard, tail, and heart (do not use the liver) along with the onion. Stir to coat with oil, cover, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The meat will begin releasing lots of juice.

Add 4 cups cold water and the carrot, celery, herbs, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until the broth is flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes. Strain the broth and set aside until the fat rises to the top. Skim off and discard the fat. Use the broth immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Make the gravy

Heat the giblet broth until hot. Pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a heatproof measuring cup or fat separator. Allow the fat to rise to the top and then spoon 4 Tbs. back into the roasting pan. Separate and discard the remaining fat from the pan juices. Season the giblet broth with the pan juices, adding only enough to make the broth very flavorful but not too salty. If necessary, add water until you have 4 cups of liquid.

Place the roasting pan over two burners set on medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and use a flat whisk or wooden spoon to combine it with the fat. Cook for about 2 minutes.

To keep lumps from forming in the gravy, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the broth mixture into the pan while whisking vigorously to disperse the flour evenly into the liquid. The liquid should thicken quickly and get gluey. As soon as it thickens, add another 1/2 cup or so of broth while whisking. Repeat until the gravy starts looking more like a smooth sauce than glue. At this point, you can whisk in the remaining broth and bring the gravy to a simmer. Add the reserved herb stems and simmer for about 5minutes to develop the flavors. Strain the gravy through a medium sieve, add the sage, thyme, and lemon juice, and season to taste with pepper.

nutrition information (per serving):

Size: per 1/4 cup; Calories (kcal): 60; Fat (g): 2.5; Fat Calories (kcal): 25; Saturated Fat (g): 0; Protein (g): 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Carbohydrates (g): 3; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 230; Cholesterol (mg): 15; Fiber (g): 0

(Courtesy of Fine Cooking Magazine)



Basics Mashed Potatoes

4-5 large Idaho potatoes, weighing three pounds
2 cups heavy cream
¼ pound or 1 stick, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut into quarters. Put the potatoes in a 3-quart pot and cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Cover the pot and bring to a full boil over high heat, about five minutes. Always start the potatoes in cold water. Bringing the potato and water to a boil together helps prevent the starch from leaching out of the potato cells. As soon as the pot reaches the boil, lower heat to medium and reduce the boil to a slow boil. Cook the potatoes for 35 to 4o minutes until fork tender, which means a dinner fork jabbed into the potato encounters no resistance.

In the meantime, pour 2 cups of heavy cream into a small 1- or 2-quart saucepan. Add ¼ pound or 1 stick of butter and cook on low heat until the cream warms and the butter melts completely. Do not boil. Using a towel or oven mitt, take the pot of potatoes from the stove and empty into a colander placed in the sink. You'll see lots of steam rise up - let it go, the steam is taking some of the water out of the potatoes. Some professional cooks, so intent on a dry spud, place the cooked potatoes on a cookie sheet and stick in a preheated 300-degree oven to get rid of the water. You'll know the potatoes are ready to mash when the steam begins to subside and the edges of the potato quarters begin to look dry and rather white.

Some people prefer their mashed potatoes passed through a ricer or a food mill for a smooth velvety paste. We like our mashed potatoes more rustic. Lumps? Lord no, but we like mashed potatoes with some texture, texture that means homemade. The best way to achieve this is with an old-fashioned potato masher. You just move the masher up and down, crumbling the potato into ever-smaller pieces. Potato mashers can be found everywhere, from fancy kitchen supply shops to hardware stores. Buy something sturdy, with a comfortable wooden handle. If your pot is big enough, mash the potatoes in it. Or, use a large, wide bowl. Place the quartered potatoes in the pot or bowl. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of salt. Place the pan with the warmed cream and melted butter close to the potatoes so you can reach it easily. Take your masher and go once, gently, around the bowl or pot to break up the potatoes. As the potatoes crumble, they should look as flakey and fluffy as new snow.

Pour in roughly ½ cup of the butter and cream mixture. Go around the bowl again to incorporate the cream mixture into the potatoes. Add a second ½ cup of the cream mixture. You want to add the liquid slowly; pouring it in all at once would mean sticky mashed potatoes. Remember, the potato is still releasing steam and looking for any moisture to absorb. You provide that when you add the cream mixture ½ cup at a time. Once this second ladle of cream is absorbed add the third and finally the fourth ½ cup. You want to mix in a total of 2 cups of the cream and butter mixture into the potatoes. As you mash, push the masher slowly to the bottom of the bowl or pot and then drag it slowly toward you to incorporate the cream in the potatoes. Don't mix hard, you don't want the starch cells to burst.

After you pour in the fourth and final ½ cup of the cream mixture, take a large spoon and slowly turn the mashed potatoes over once or twice to make sure the mixture has been fully absorbed. Taste carefully and sprinkle in more salt if necessary. You want just enough salt so you can taste it just under the sweet flavors of the cream and melted butter. Store any remaining butter or cream to use in reheating any leftover potatoes. Serve mashed potatoes immediately.

To make garlic potatoes just add cloves of roasted garlic at the end.

(Courtesy of Bill Daley and Christopher Prosperi)



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Cooking time

2.5 hours for an 18lb bird?

stuffing this turkey!

I woke up the other night, after I had already prepared the turkey as it says in the recipe. then I was wondering. Chances of stuffing this turkey is probably not a good idea because of the dry brine. Is this so? Can I rinse out the cavity and then stuff or no?


Thanks Eli. I had already decided to treat the turkey as the recipe calls, and then spatch the "day of". That's a very interesting idea to lay the bird right on th oven rack. I either lay mine on a bed of onions and fennel cut about an inch thick, or on a flat rack in my roaster. I find that it doesn't brown as well as I like--at least around the edges. Mine is also a muc smaller bird--only 13 pounds.

My spatchcock plans...

Beth. What I'm doing is going by the recipe through all the Brining steps. Then on Thanksgiving Day, I am going to spatchcock the turkey and convection roast it right on the oven rack with another rack right below it with a shallow pan to catch drippings. If my 25 LB bird is too wide to fit, then I plan to cut it up to separate the breast. There's a recipe on Epicurious for how to do this - search keywords "deconstructed turkey". I'm also using a couple pucks of More than Gourmet's Glace de Volaille Gold (classic roasted turkey stock) to jump start my gravy. I will add some of the pan drippings and giblets, as well.

Spatchcocked Turkey

Hi Faith--

Thank you for this recipe! I was wondering if you think this might work on a spatchcocked bird. I'm on a mission to free up space in the oven, by both flattening the bird and cooking it faster.

Thanks again--and I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving!

the herb and salt rubbed turkey

Does this recipe also work if you are convection cooking the turkey?

When preparing the turkey for

When preparing the turkey for thanksgiving, my brother and I generally use a lemon, garlic and herb rub that always comes out so juicy and delicious. I have been utterly surprised that we've never burnt the turkey and never made one that someone was unhappy with.

the Fine Cooking turkey

Faith, many thanks for bringing this bird to us. We anticipate trying it this year, and we are hopeful of having a bird that we will really enjoy. As we are now only two at the table, a turkey cooked becomes a long term comittment, not to be entered into lightly!
My personal standards are set high, as I grew up on a small central New York State farm during the 1930s and 40s. I knew where my food came from. I knew that FRESH eggs and milk and tomatoes were warm. And I learned that I must take a life with my own hands if we were to have roast chicken for supper. (And from our own pigs, my father smoked bacon that you would have lusted after.)
I want to thank you for the bigger picture, too. I am able to hear your Food Schmooze most weeks, and always enjoy it. While specific recipes can be of great interest, our shared attitudes about food, not to mention about the whole world out there, make your all your shows a valuable and joyful intellectual experience for me.