Start to finish: 3½ hours (30 minutes active), plus cooling Servings: 10
Roasting a turkey, whether for Thanksgiving, Christmas or just because, can be an ordeal. The debate over brining alone is enough to make one consider going vegetarian. And, of course, there is the finicky business of how to get the thigh and breast meat to cook to perfect—yet different—temperatures simultaneously. We skipped the culinary gymnastics in favor of a tried-and-true method—basting. Then we made it better with beer.
We doused our turkey—but only twice, so no worries about having to babysit the bird–with a reduction of brown ale, onions, garlic and fresh herbs, which combined to form a rich, malty base. Avoid hoppy beers, which turned unpleasantly bitter when reduced. We also used a secret ingredient: fish sauce. It adds savory depth to the baste that is reflected in the umami-rich gravy made from pan drippings. Relax, it doesn’t taste at all fishy.
2 medium yellow onions (1 to 1¼ pounds), cut into 8 wedges each
4 large sprigs fresh thyme
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 large sprigs fresh sage
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Two 12-ounce bottles brown ale, such as Newcastle Brown Ale
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
¼ cup fish sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
12- to 14-pound turkey, neck and giblets discarded
2 stalks celery, quartered
Low-sodium chicken broth, as needed
¼ cup instant flour, such as Wondra
1. Heat the oven to 350ºF with a rack in the lower middle position. In a 12-inch skillet, combine the onions, thyme, rosemary, sage,bay leaves, garlic and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to ⅔ cup, about 20 minutes.
2. Strain the mixture into a large bowl, pressing on the solids. Reserve the solids. The liquid should measure ⅔ cup. If not, either reduce further or add water. Return reduction to the skillet, add the butter, and whisk until melted. Stir in the fish sauce and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
3. Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Tuck the wings underneath. Spread the reserved solids and celery in a large roasting pan and place the turkey breast side up over the mixture. Pour half of the beer reduction over the turkey; use your hands to coat it evenly. Cover loosely with foil, then roast for 1½ hours.
4. Remove the foil. Whisk the remaining beer reduction, then pour over the turkey. Roast until the breast registers 160°F and the thigh registers 175°F, 1 to 1 hour 45 minutes. If the turkey gets too dark, cover with foil.
5. Transfer the turkey to a platter or carving board, letting the juices run into the pan, then tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Strain the pan drippings into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids; discard the solids.
6. Skim the fat from the drippings. If you have less than 3 cups of defatted drippings, add stock to measure 3 cups, then return to the roasting pan. Whisk in the flour, then set the pan on the stovetop and bring to a boil over medium. Simmer, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom, until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the turkey, adding any accumulated juices to the gravy, then serve with gravy.