Novelist Robb Forman Dew is a fabulous Southern cook who hails from Louisiana. (She might also deserve a medal for her nervy novel title, Being Polite to Hitler.) Dew’s republished cookbook, A Southern Thanksgiving, includes this terrific recipe for a dry-brined turkey that is cut up after the butcher removes the backbone, then roasted to super-crispy perfection. (Dry-brining is the easiest thing in the world, as you’ll see.) We know it’s pretty when the whole bird comes to the table, but, really, it usually gets whisked back into the kitchen to be carved to smithereens. Pass around magazine photos of whole birds if you must, because this is a good way to go, folks.
Edited instructions from A Southern Thanksgiving, by Robb Forman Dew, published by Bloomsbury 1992, 2015:
If you can have a butcher remove the backbone for you and flatten the bird there really is no easier cooking method, but if that’s not possible you can remove the backbone yourself using poultry shears and a good bit of force. […]
You will need a very large broiler pan, roughly 18″W × 13″D × 3″H. […] Rinse and dry the bird, and then put it in the pan skin-side down while you thoroughly salt the underside. Turn the bird skin-side up, tuck the wings akimbo-style under the breast, and salt again, being sure the salt is spread into crevices and on the drumsticks. Refrigerate for one to three days, but do not cover the bird! The whole point of salting the turkey at least one day ahead of time is to allow the salt to draw out the moisture and then for the juices to slowly be reabsorbed so that the skin is absolutely dry. If you’re bothered by its vulnerable nakedness, cover it with a long sheet of paper towels that barely touch the creature, but which will afford it a little dignity.
Take it out of the refrigerator at least an hour and a half before roasting the bird, and if you have a convection oven set the temperature at 375 degrees. In a standard oven the temperature should be between 400 and 425 degrees F. Do not baste the bird with anything at all before or during roasting, and check it after an hour. If the white meat has reached 155 to 160 degrees F it is time to take it out of the oven. […]
Remove the bird from the oven and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes uncovered before carving. The skin is astonishingly crisp, and the meat is evenly cooked throughout. In fact, the texture is so superior to what can be achieved using a whole bird that this is the only way I roast any poultry these days: A 3.5-lb. chicken requires about 45 minutes at 375 degrees F in a convection oven, or 400 to 425 degrees F. in a regular oven.