Country House Roasted Turkey with Sage and Sausage Stuffing

Ingredients

One turkey, brand and size of your liking (I prefer a fresh, organic bird if at all possible; just order a few days ahead of time from your butcher)

¼ cup olive oil

Ample kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

¾ pound loose sausage

1 stick unsalted butter

1 bag stuffing croutons

½ large onion, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, washed and finely chopped

6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

½ cup whole milk

6 to 8 slices thick-cut bacon

Directions

If you’re using a frozen turkey, thaw it completely before starting.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove the turkey from its plastic wrap in the kitchen sink. Find and reserve the turkey neck and giblets for later. Rinse the tur­key very well with cool water, outside and inside both the neck and abdomen cavities. Pat dry. Oil a large, sturdy roasting pan. Place a roasting rack in the pan, one that sits about an inch above the bottom, and place the turkey on the rack. (The rack helps the bird cook more evenly.) Using your hands, massage the olive oil all over the outside of the turkey, then liberally apply salt and pepper.

For the stuffing: Cook the sausage in a nonstick pan, breaking it up into small pieces as it browns, then set aside. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over low heat. Add the onion, celery, and sage, and cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until soft but not browned; remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Dump the croutons into a large bowl (we use the bag that says it will stuff a 15- to 18-pound turkey). Scatter the onion mixture, sausage, and milk evenly over the croutons. Using your hands, mix the stuffing well.

With the turkey in the roasting pan, stuff the neck portion of the bird first. Don’t be shy, push the stuffing vigorously into the cavity, then use cut-down wooden skewers to secure the skin flap over the stuffing. Flip the bird over and repeat with the large body cavity; I find that pushing with a closed fist is very efficient at getting the most stuffing in the turkey. Don’t worry if stuffing/sausage falls into the roasting pan, it will enhance the gravy. When the turkey is stuffed and once again breast-side-up on the rack, drape the bacon over the bird evenly, situate your roasting rack in the middle of the roasting pan…and in she goes!

The general rule of thumb for turkey is 15 minutes per pound. In the first hour or so the bacon is rendering its fat, so basting is really not needed. After that, baste with your basting liquid (giblets, onion, carrot, celery, and a quart or so of water simmering on the stovetop) about every half hour. If you see that the breast or drumsticks are browning too quickly, cover them with tin foil to slow the cooking.

Some ovens cook faster than others, so check the bird at least an hour before the turkey’s estimated finish time. Use a probe thermometer in the breast (you’re looking for a temperature of 165° to 170°F) and in the thickest part of the thigh (175° to 180°F).

When it’s done, place the turkey on a large cutting board with a “moat” on the borders to catch the juices that will run out. Re­move the stuffing to a serving dish right away and cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil as well and let it rest at least 15 minutes before carving.

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