No doubt if you’ve looked at any food sites or read any editor’s letters, you’re in a freaking frenzy that you have waited TOO LONG and needed to start prepping the meal two weeks ago, and that you are a total domestic failure. Relax. Pour a glass of wine. Worst case, you may be a little late to make your own gravy, but if you are in Los Angeles, just grab some at Joans on Third and be done with it. Focus your attention on making the most flavorful bird that is dripping with juice and has perfectly crisp skin. Having worked for years at a food magazine myself, I’ve tried countless turkeys—wet brined, cider-brined, beer-brined, smoked, grilled, deep-fried, turkeys rubbed with compound butters, Cajun spices, turkeys glazed with maple, citrus, soy, you name it. But the best, hands down, is Russ Parson’s Judy Bird inspired by Judy Rogers’ legendary roast chicken at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Flip through any food magazine since Russ published the recipe in 2007, and you’ll find countless knock-offs. His original recipe is still the best.
Make it your own by adding a pinch of dried herbs to the salt—I like to pick up on one of the flavors from the stuffing like using dried sage or fennel—or citrus zest. The basic formula is 1 tablespoon of salt for every 5 lbs of bird. If you can start it tonight, perfect. But tomorrow will give you enough time to produce a bird like no other. I promise it will be the first Thanksgiving where people actually want to eat the turkey.