I am known for my cooking skills. So when an eating holiday like Thanksgiving comes along, it brings out my best.
My best turkey approach (also used for chicken, capon and other poultry):
First off don't mess a lot with the meat. What I do is marinate a LOT to add flavor but I don't get fancy with the meat itself. Let it absorb, don't force anything.
STEP 1: "Brine" AT LEAST 24 hours in VERY strong Wisotsky brand Cherry/Black tea (I have found no other tea that works as well). This adds moisture and gives it a VERY subtle, almost "smoked" flavor. The overall flavor difference seems very subtle, but the difference in overall effect is actually surprisingly important. This is my "secret" that made my turkey taste good even to people who don't like turkey. But it HAS to be done with the next step. BOTH are necessary, not just one.
STEP 2: Then "brine" the bird in a mushroom/herb soup mix for another (AT LEAST) 24 hours. The more intense the mushroom flavor, the better. You can add any herbs (or even spices) you like. This again adds moisture and really boosts flavor. It is one case where I tend to mainly go for herbs, though for most of my cooking I emphasize spices. If you want to emphasize the cherry tea you can also use it as a base for the mushroom/herb broth. But the key is at least 48 hours of marinating using some combination of cherry tea, mushroom, and herb flavors. Butter comes in the next step. which also adds a lot. The combination of all these flavors, plus the moisture of 48 or more hours marinating does wonders. Note that garlic both inside and out the bird is good, but not necessary.
Note for both brining steps: I do add salt to the second but not the first step. Salt is traditional for brining, but my main focus is not salt like traditional brining, but first the cherry tea then the broth flavors. That is why both have to be very intense. This works amazingly well both to make the meat moist and give lots of good flavor. Salt is according to your taste.
Cover turkey (particularly the breast) with lots of butter (as well as other flavors like nutmeg, poultry seasoning, etc...) and several layers of foil (a few extra layers on the breast) for early stages of cooking. This allows the turkey to marinate as it slowly cooks. Uncover (take off foil) when ready to brown the meat. This is the last phase and depends on the size of the turkey. Save the foil because you should also cover it completely when you take it out of the oven at the end and let it rest at least 30 minutes before cutting. This preserves the moisture. Take it out at least 5 minutes before recommended by any recipe, wrap up with the foil from earlier stages, and let sit at least 30 minutes (resting) before cutting. This should give very moist meat. If the meat is dry, next time do the following: use more butter, baste more with the tea and/or broth, cover with more layers of foil, take out 10 rather than 5 minutes earlier than recommended, and let sit wrapped in foil for 40 rather than 30 minutes.
While cooking the turkey, marinate from time to time with one or both of the "brines" previously used (tea and/or mushroom soup) and also occasionally coat with butter. The more you do each of these treatments the more flavor you will get. If you are adding garlic you can do so during this basting phase as well, but focus on the tea and/or mushroom and the butter for the basting, not so much something really strong like garlic.
Don't over cook, but I find the use of tea followed by broth followed by butter tends to produce a VERY moist turkey even if you over cook a bit. But don't push it. Keep adding these as you cook and you reduce any chance of dryness.
For my grandmother's stuffing, see below...
STUFFING: Works for chicken, turkey, even layered with flank steak...Wherever you decide to put it, my grandmother had it right...Good bread, nuts, and lots of butter.
Slice and toast a really good Challah. No other bread wii do. Get your challah where the local Hassids get their challah. It really makes a difference. Toasting it is also critical. It adds both texture and flavor.
Mix torn up, toasted Challah with crushed walnuts (pecans also work quite well) and a lot of butter and poultry seasoning. Mushroom gravy also works well though this isn't what my grandmother used. Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. If you add celery or onions my grandmother with come back from the grave and slap you really hard so don't do it. I love celery and onion but in this case I defer to my grandmother. Stuff bird with this mix or add lots of extra butter and chicken or mushroom gravy and wrap in foil if it isn't going into a bird. Bake inside or outside of the bird. If outside make sure you add butter and gravy while cooking to keep it moist.
My Mushroom gravy:
Chop up lots (LOTS!) of mushrooms. Heat up lots of butter. Saute some garlic, onion and particularly shallots in the butter. Shallots work particularly well. I like garlic. Onion is the most optional. Add the chopped mushrooms once the garlic/onion/shallot starts browning. Add nutmeg, wine, sherry, etc. to taste. Saute until the smell is overwhelming and amazing. Add flour to thicken if desired. If you do add flour brown to make a roux with extra butter. If not the sauce will be thiner but still tasty.
Cook down to a thick but still pourable consistency.
I should note I once cooked a vegan substitute for turkey with a vegan version of this mushroom gravy (margarine not butter) for someone and not only did THEY like it, but my meat loving step-daughter loved it. SO the mushroom flavor works well with real turkey and with fake turkey. The key is concentrating the mushroom flavor.
I cook all of this with VERY simple sliced potatoes and sliced sweet potatoes (cooked with the turkey or fake turkey so they both brown crisply and absorb the flavors you add to the turkey or fake turkey), and I make green beans (with butter or margarine and sage, for example). Cranberry sauce (from REAL cranberries, VERY easy to do though you have to add sweet stuff) tops it off. Shallots can go really well with the potatoes. If you are so inclined strong ginger and/or candied pecans can go really well with either the potatoes/sweet potatoes or the cranberry sauce.
This year adds Chanukah to Thanksgiving. We aren;t sure how we will handle that. Latkes are a must for Chanukah. Latkes and turkey...maybe. It would work but my gut suggests we should try and keep the holidays apart. But we are still debating.