Our traditional prep for the turkey (a local farm free-range bird) is a maple-brine. When we lived in California, we would smoke-roast the turkey on the BBQ, but now that we live in a slightly cooler climate, outdoor cooking in November is not quite the same!
You need to start this dish 1 - 2 days in advance by brining the turkey. You'll also need a stockpot that can hold a 12 - 14-lb turkey and a clear space in the fridge to hold the pot.
For the Brine:
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup coarse salt
3 whole heads of garlic, cloves separated (but not peeled) and bruised
6 large bay leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh ginger, coarsely chopped, unpeeled
2 teaspoons dried chile flakes
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
3 quarts water
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
For the turkey:
Olive oil for brushing
12- to 14-lb fresh turkey
4 - 6 large bay leaves
To brine the turkey: Combine all the brine ingredients in an enamel or stainless steel pot big enough to hold the brine and the turkey. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let it cool completely.
When the brine is cool, prep the turkey by removing the neck and giblets, rinse the turkey well, and then put it in the cold brine. Add more water, if needed, to make sure the brine complete covers the bird. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, turning the bird in the pot twice a day.
To cook the turkey: Preheat the oven to 450°. Remove the bird from the brine and pat it dry. Carefully pull the breast skin loose but not off, so that you can slip the bay leaves under the skin over both breasts.
Place the turkey in an uncovered roasting pan. Brush with olive oil (or we sometimes just put multiple chunks of butter on top). Put the turkey in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. After the first half hour of cooking, baste frequently with the pan drippings.
Cooking time involves many factors, but generally for a 12- to 14-lb turkey, you'll allow 15 to 20 minutes per pound. For example, a 12-lb turkey will need to cook for about 3 hours. If you stuff the turkey, it will need more time. It is best to judge the doneness of your turkey with a meat thermometer. The internal temp, usually taken in the center of the inner thigh muscle, must reach 180° to 185°. The center of the stuffing should reach at least 165°.