Brushing a simple herb butter over the turkey before and during cooking is a straightforward, time-honored way of achieving great flavor and crisp skin.
- 1 (12-lb.) turkey
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 12 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped sage
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped thyme
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 2 tsp. packed light brown sugar
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 lemon, quartered
Heat oven to 500˚. Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Season turkey inside and out with salt and pepper and let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the sage, thyme, paprika, and sugar; set herb butter aside.
Transfer turkey to a rack set inside a roasting pan and stuff turkey with carrots, onions, celery, and lemons. Tuck wings behind turkey and tie legs together with kitchen twine. Brush turkey all over with herb butter, reserving some for basting. Pour 2 cups water into roasting pan and roast turkey, brushing once with more of the herb butter, for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350˚ and continue roasting, brushing occasionally with herb butter, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh, without touching the bone, reads 165˚, 2 1⁄2–3 hours. Transfer turkey to a cutting board, loosely cover with foil, and let sit for 30 minutes before carving.
Pairing Note The mixed herbs in this dish call for a sauvignon blanc, one with enough richness to stand up to the butter and brown sugar. New Zealand's 2008 Craggy Range "Te Muna Road Vineyard" ($18) from Martinborough fills the bill. — David Rosengarten