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To dry-rub turkey: Grind bay leaves in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and combine with salt and pepper. Remove any giblets from the turkey. Loosen the skin over the breast, legs and thighs and rub the meat with the salt mixture. Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours.
To roast turkey: Position oven rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 475°F.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator. Combine butter and 1/4 cup sage in a small bowl. Rub the mixture under the skin over the breast, legs and thighs. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey and tie the legs together with kitchen string, if desired. Place the turkey on a roasting rack set in the roasting pan. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Roast the turkey for 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Pour hot water into the pan. Continue roasting, tenting the breast or legs with foil if the skin is getting too dark, until a thermometer inserted horizontally into the deepest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165°F, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (If your turkey is larger than 14 pounds, plan to add an extra 15 minutes of roasting time for each additional pound.)
Carefully transfer the turkey to a clean cutting board, loosely tent with foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
To prepare gravy: Pour pan juices from the roasting pan into a large glass measuring cup (leave any browned bits in the pan). Place the measuring cup in the freezer until the fat rises to the top, about 10 minutes. (Or pour into a fat separator and pour the defatted juices into a large measuring cup.)
Transfer 3 tablespoons of fat from the separated pan juices back to the roasting pan (discard any remaining fat). Add enough broth (or stock) to the defatted juices to total 4 cups liquid. Whisk 1/2 cup broth (or stock) with flour in a separate small bowl until smooth.
Set the roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Add shallots and the remaining 2 tablespoons sage; cook, whisking, until the shallots soften and the pan drippings are browning, about 2 minutes. Pour in brandy; cook, whisking to scrape up the browned bits, until almost evaporated, 1 to 3 minutes. Add the broth-juices mixture and bring to a boil; boil for 4 minutes. Whisk the flour mixture again and add to the pan. Cook, whisking constantly, until the gravy thickens, 1 to 3 minutes more. Carefully pour the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup. Taste and season with pepper. Transfer to a serving container. Serve the turkey with the gravy.