Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 2 tablespoons of salt, the minced thyme, and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well, and pat it all over with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity of the turkey with plain kosher salt and rub the salt and lemon mixture all over the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish just large enough to hold it and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one or two days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave the turkey in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the turkey in a medium roasting pan, discarding any juices in the dish. Place the lemon and thyme sprigs in the cavity. With kitchen string, tie the legs together and the wings close to the body. Distribute the onions around the turkey. Brush the turkey and onions with the butter and sprinkle it with pepper.
Roast the turkey for 1¼ to 1½ hours, until the breast meat registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a platter. Cut off the legs and thighs and put them back into the roasting pan. Cover the breast tightly with aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dark meat registers 180 degrees on the instant-read thermometer. Remove the dark meat to the platter with the rest of the turkey, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and set aside to rest for 15 to 30 minutes.
Pour a ¼-inch of Make-Ahead Gravy into a medium, ovenproof serving platter (make sure it’s oven-proof!). Carve the turkey and arrange it artfully on top of the gravy. Place the platter uncovered into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is very hot. Serve hot with extra gravy on the side.
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions & Sage (Makes 2 cups)
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onion becomes browned and starts to caramelize. Sprinkle on the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1½ minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, brandy, sage leaves, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper, depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour and strain, pressing the solids lightly, and then discarding them. Refrigerate until ready to use.
After the turkey is cooked, remove it to a carving board to rest while you finish the gravy. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over a medium heat and add the white wine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring and scraping up all the bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Slowly whisk the gravy base into the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the gravy is smooth and slightly thickened. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.
To make ahead, make the gravy base and refrigerate for up to a week. Finish with the turkey pan juices from the turkey plus the wine, season to taste, and serve hot.
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