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The Neelys Thanksgiving Turkey with Lemony Thyme Butter

Lemony Thyme Butter

  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  • One 14- to 16-pound turkey, rinsed, patted dry inside and out (neck, heart, and gizzard reserved for stock)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 lemons, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups turkey stock, Chicken Stock or water


      • 2 cups (or more) turkey or chicken stock
      • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
      • 2 shallots, finely chopped
      • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      • 2 tablespoons Lemony Thyme Butter
      • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      • 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
      • Kosher salt
      • Freshly ground black pepper


Thyme butter: Blend the lemon zest and garlic in a mini-processor (or a regular food processor) until finely chopped.  Add the butter, mustard, lemon juice, scallions, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper, and process to blend.  The butter can be made 2 days ahead.  Bring it to room temperature before using.

To roast the turkey, set the rack at the lowest position in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

Transfer 2 tablespoons of the Lemony Thyme Butter to a small bowl; reserve for gravy.  Generously season the main turkey cavity with salt and pepper and, using your fingers, coat the cavity with 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Starting at the neck end of the turkey, carefully slide your hand between skin and meat of the breast, thighs, and upper drumsticks to loosen the skin.  Spread the Lemony Thyme Butter over the meat of the thighs and drumsticks, below the skin, on both sides.  Arrange a few lemon slices under the skin.  Spread the remaining butter over the breast meat, below the skin.  Fill the main cavity with any remaining lemon slices, the parsley, and the rosemary sprigs.  Tie the legs together loosely to hold shape.  Tuck the wing tips under.

Place the turkey on a rack set in a large roasting pan.  Rub the outside of the turkey all over with the oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour the stock in the pan. Roast the turkey until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh resisters 165 to 170°F, about 3 hours.  Tilt the turkey so the juices from the main cavity run into the pan.  Transfer the turkey to a platter.  Tent it very loosely with foil, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes (the internal temperature will rise 5 to 10°).  Reserve the juices in the pan.

To make the gravy, scrape the juices and browned bits from the roasting pan into a large glass measuring cup.  Spoon off the fat, reserving 2 tablespoons.  If necessary, add enough stock to the juices to measure 1 2/3 cups.

Heat the reserved 2 tablespoons fat in a heavy, large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and shallots; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the flour; whisk until golden, about 4 minutes.  Add the degreased pan juices and 2 cups stock.  Bring to a boil, whisking until smooth.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the gravy is reduced to the desired consistency about 4 minutes.  Whisk in the 2 tablespoons reserved Lemony Thyme Butter, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and the sour cream, if desired.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serves: 10 to 12

Reprinted with permission from Down Home with The Neelys, by ©Patrick Neely and Gina Neely, published by Alfred A. Knopf   click for book review

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