Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy

This is cookbook author Rick Rodgers' recipe for a traditional turkey and stuffing. Instructions are for an average-size 18 lb. turkey, but the recipe can be adapted to the size of your bird.

Ingredients
1 18 lb. fresh turkey
About 10 C. bread stuffing
1/2 C. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Salt, freshly milled black pepper
2 1/2 quarts good-quality chicken stock or homemade turkey stock
Melted unsalted butter, if needed
3/4 C. flour
1/3 C. bourbon, port or dry sherry, optional

Directions

Position rack in lowest position of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Reserve turkey neck and giblets to use in gravy or stock. Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat turkey skin dry. Turn turkey on its breast. Loosely fill neck cavity with stuffing. Using thin wooden or metal skewer, pin neck skin to back. Fold turkey's wings akimbo behind back or tie to body with kitchen string. Loosely fill large body cavity with stuffing. Place any remaining stuffing in lightly buttered casserole. Cover and refrigerate to bake as a side dish.

Tie drumsticks together with kitchen string. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan. Rub all over with softened butter. Season with salt and pepper. Tightly cover breast area with aluminum foil. Pour 2 C. turkey stock into bottom of pan. Roast turkey, basting all over every 30 minutes with juices on bottom of pan (lift up foil to reach breast area), until meat thermometer inserted in meaty part of thigh (but not touching any bones) reads 180 degrees and stuffing is at least 160 degrees, about 4
1/4 hours.

Whenever drippings evaporate, add stock to moisten them, about 1 1/2 C. at a time. Remove foil during last hour to allow breast skin to brown. Transfer turkey to large serving platter and let it stand at least 20 minutes before carving. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake stuffing.

Meanwhile, pour drippings from roasting pan into heat-proof glass bowl or large measuring cup. Let stand 5 minutes, then skim off and reserve clear yellow fat that has risen to top. Measure 3/4 C. fat, adding melted butter, if needed. Add enough turkey stock to skimmed drippings to make 8 C. total. Place roasting pan on 2 stove burners over low heat and add turkey fat. Whisk in flour, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk in turkey stock and bourbon. Cook, whisking often, until gravy has thickened and no trace of raw flour taste remains, about 5 minutes. Transfer gravy to warmed gravy boat. Carve turkey and serve gravy and stuffing alongside.

Yield: 18 servings, with about 7 cups gravy