How To Cook A Thanksgiving Turkey à la Julia Child

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with family and friends, and nothing says festive like a golden, juicy turkey on the table. But how do you cook a turkey without letting it be dry and bland? Follow these steps inspired by Julia Child, the queen of French cooking, and you’ll have a turkey that’s tender, moist, and full of flavor.

Step 1: Choose and Thaw Your Turkey

The first thing you need to do is to choose the right turkey for your needs. Julia Child recommends buying a fresh turkey, preferably free-range or organic, for the best quality and taste. However, if you can only find a frozen turkey, make sure to thaw it properly in the refrigerator, allowing one day for every five pounds of turkey. You can also speed up the process by submerging the turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, and allowing 30 minutes per pound.

Step 2: Brine Your Turkey

Brining is a process of soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution, which helps to season the meat and keep it moist during cooking. Julia Child suggests brining the turkey for 12 to 24 hours in a large pot or bucket, using a ratio of one cup of salt to one gallon of water. You can also add aromatics like bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, and herbs to the brine for extra flavor.

Step 3: Prepare Your Turkey

After brining, rinse the turkey well and pat it dry with paper towels. Then, stuff the cavity with a mixture of chopped onion, celery, carrot, parsley, thyme, sage, and butter. You can also add some bread cubes or rice if you like. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings under the body. Rub the skin with more butter and season with salt and pepper.

Step 4: Roast Your Turkey

Preheat your oven to 425°F and place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Pour some chicken broth or water into the pan to prevent the drippings from burning. Roast the turkey for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to roast, basting occasionally with the pan juices, until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F on a meat thermometer. This will take about 3 to 4 hours for a 12 to 14 pound turkey.

Step 5: Rest and Carve Your Turkey

When the turkey is done, transfer it to a cutting board and tent it loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute and the meat to relax. To carve the turkey, remove the twine and the stuffing and place them in a bowl. Cut off the legs and the wings and slice the breast meat. Arrange the slices on a platter and garnish with more herbs if desired.

Step 6: Make the Gravy

While the turkey is resting, you can make the gravy from the pan drippings. Skim off the excess fat and transfer the drippings to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and whisk in some flour to thicken the gravy. You can also add some white wine, cognac, or cream for extra richness and flavor. Season with salt and pepper and strain the gravy into a gravy boat.

Step 7: Enjoy Your Turkey

Now you’re ready to enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey à la Julia Child. Serve it with your favorite side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and stuffing. Don’t forget to save some turkey for leftovers, which you can use to make sandwiches, salads, soups, and more. Bon appétit!