Salt-roasted turkey with lemon, thyme and oregano

Salt rub
1/2 cup coarse sea salt (1/4 cup if just cooking the breast)
Lemon thyme, chopped, 2 tbsp
Fresh oregano, chopped, 2 tbsp (I treat these amounts as suggestions)
Lemon peel, finely grated, 3 tbsp
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped, 4 tbsp
Black pepper, freshly ground, 1 tbsp
Everything else
Turkey, 14-16 lb (if you are feeling ambitious, you can save the neck, heart and gizzard for making turkey stock; if you are feeling less ambitious - and have a smaller party in mind - a 6 lb breast and two 1 lb legs also cooks beautifully)
Lemons, coarsely chopped, 3
Celery stalks, chopped, 2 (feel free to leave out, I don't think celery adds any flavor)
Medium yellow onion, chopped, 1
Fresh oregano, chopped 2 tbsp
Fresh lemon thyme, chopped, 3 tbsp (can be difficult to find, but so fabulous that I suggest buying a small plant and freezing portions all year).
Black pepper, freshly ground, 1 tbsp
Coarse sea salt, 1 tbsp
Extra-virgin olive oil, divided, 1/2 cup
Fresh lemon juice, divided, 6 tbsp or 2 lemons
Chicken or turkey stock, divided, 3-5 cups
Turkey-size oven bag (optional)

1. Mix all ingredients for salt rub in small bowl. Set aside for now.
2. Rinse turkey. 
3. Pull out metal insert that holds legs and remove fat pads from neck and main cavities. 
4. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons salt rub inside cavities. 
5. If using bag, slide bird into oven bag. 
6. Sprinkle remaining salt rub over bird. 
7. Place bag or bird alone on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 24 hours.
8. The next day: Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 350°F. 
9. Combine lemons, celery, onion, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 3 tbsp lemon juice in large bowl. 
10. Spoon into main cavity. 
11. Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil and 3 tbsp lemon juice in small bowl. 
12. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan (when I made the breast alone, I didn't own a roasting pan with a rack yet; I used a Le Creuset Dutch oven and it turned out delicious, although the bottom will not crisp as nicely) and brush with oil mixture.
13. Pour 2 cups stock into roasting pan. Roast turkey 1 hour. 
14. Brush all over with remaining lemon oil. Roast turkey 45 minutes (30 minutes for breast alone). 
15. Pour 1 cup stock into pan. Roast 45 minutes (30 minutes for breast alone). If making just the breast and leg, skip to step 18.  
16. Add 1/2 cup or more of stock to pan to maintain liquid level. Turn pan around (not necessary for breast alone). 
17. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F, about 45 minutes longer. 
18. Transfer turkey to platter; reserve pan with juices. 
19. Tent turkey loosely with foil; let rest 30 to 45 minutes before serving. 

The story:
This recipe was adapted from the November 2010 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit. For now at least, you can find the original recipe here. The most crucial change I've made is leaving the salt rub on throughout the entirety of the process (instead of rinsing it off). The salt rub is supposed to draw the moisture to the skin, giving a crisper skin and juicier meat; I think leaving the salt rub takes the crunch of the skin to the next level. 

The first time I made this recipe, I was going to be working over the Thanksgiving holiday, but my significant other at the time had his young daughter in town, and I didn't want her to miss out. Since I was working the entire week, each night, I came home at five or six and carefully prepared dishes (with painstaking, hand-written instructions) so that her father would be able to get everything in the oven on Thanksgiving Day and have it ready to it the moment I walked it the door. I made this turkey (the breast and leg variation), roasted cranberry sauce with lemon thyme (my favorite herb), Moroccan spiced carrots, sugar pumpkin and sweet potatoes, and apple-pancetta-fennel stuffing.

I had never cooked a turkey before, or made my own Thanksgiving dinner, for that matter. In fact, I would have said that, from a gastronomic standpoint, Thanksgiving was my least-favorite holiday and I didn't like turkey at all, truthfully...until this recipe. This is inarguably that best turkey recipe in the world. If you must have cranberry sauce, I highly recommend roasting cranberries, but truly, it does not need it. Crunchy, salty, savory, delicious... It does not get any better...or rather, it seems to get better each time we make it. I'm not exaggerating when I say that last winter, my mom and I roasted a whole turkey on three separate occasions that were not holidays. It is that good.

(Unfortunately, I can't really say the same for the carrots and sweet potatoes. The next day, I salvaged them via the immersion blender. They made a much tastier soup.)

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