1 (21- to 25-pound) fresh turkey, preferably a free-range organic bird
Salt and black pepper
4 large sprigs fresh sage
6 large sprigs fresh thyme
6-8 fresh bay leaves
as many peeled garlic cloves as you can stuff inside the turkey’s cavities
2 cups cold rendered duck fat – or better, fat from duck confit (see Note)
The day before, remove the turkey from its plastic wrapper. Remove the giblets and neck and set them aside. Wash the turkey inside and out; dry thoroughly and put it in the refrigerator overnight to dry out the skin and cavity. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the interior cavity and neck cavity liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide the sage, thyme and bay leaves between the body cavity and neck cavity. Shove as many cloves of peeled garlic into each cavity as possible; secure the neck skin with a skewer or toothpick and reposition the legs or tie them with butcher’s twine.
Using your hands, slather duck fat on all the exposed skin of the turkey until well coated. Season liberally with salt and pepper and position the bird in a roasting pan, breast-side down. Place the neck in the immediate proximity of its original location; reserve the remaining giblets for another use.
Roast the turkey, breast-side down, for 45 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Remove from the oven and, with an assistant, turn the bird breast-side up. Using a pastry brush, baste all surfaces of the bird with melted duck fat from the roasting pan.
Return the turkey to the oven and roast for 10 minutes per pound, basting thoroughly every 20 to 30 minutes with the duck fat renderings in the roasting pan. Be careful not to overcook; test doneness by inserting a skewer into the inner thigh muscle; juices should be barely pinkish and the flesh still moist.
Remove the turkey to a cutting board to rest for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30. Extract the garlic cloves from the cavity and complete the gravy. Pour off all fat from the roasting pan; set the neck on a plate to snack on while finishing the gravy. (The neck will be meltingly tender and thoroughly infused with the duck fat flavor; it is the cook’s prize, but be generous and insist that everyone taste “a little bit.”) Deglaze the roasting pan with a little chicken stock so you can add the juices to the gravy.
Carve the turkey and transfer the meat to a platter.
Note: Chef Ben Barker says butter, strained bacon fat or olive oil should create similar golden-brown and delicious bird results.
Makes 20 servings.
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