Turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, but it can be tricky to get the bird both moist and fully cooked. Garnishing the breast with bacon bastes the white meat with fat while infusing it with porky flavor. Pears adds a note of autumn and partners up with the pear cider for sweet, full-flavored gravy.
What to buy: A fresh turkey will end up crispier and tastier. If you go with a frozen turkey, make sure it’s completely thawed before roasting (this will take several days in the refrigerator).
Game plan: To get an accurate reading, measure the temperature of the turkey on the inside of the thigh, and make sure the thermometer is not touching the bone.
For the turkey:
1 (18- to 20-pound) fresh turkey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium Bermuda or purple onions, peeled and halved
3 medium celery stalks, halved crosswise
10 medium garlic gloves, minced
6 medium ripe pears, such as Anjou or Asian
1 pound thinly sliced smoked bacon
For the gravy:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth, at room temperature
8 medium sage leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 medium dried bay leaf
1 1/2 cups hard pear cider, like Ace Pear Cider
For the turkey:
Heat the oven to 400°F. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
Remove giblets and neck; reserve neck. Rinse out the turkey’s cavity and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Trim most of the excess fat and skin from the neck and cavity, and make 3-inch slits through the skin where the legs meet the breast.
Rub turkey all over with 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, then season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, and place 1 onion half, 1 celery, and 1/5 of the minced garlic inside.
Place turkey in a large roasting pan. Arrange neck and remaining onions, celery pieces, and garlic cloves in the pan, and place in the oven. Roast turkey for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F. Every 45 minutes, baste bird with pan drippings.
About 45 minutes before turkey is finished or when the internal temperature of the inner thigh reaches 145°F, cut pears in half and remove cores and stems. Brush each half with remaining 1 TB vegetable oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove turkey from the oven and overlap bacon strips across breast and around legs. If desired, secure bacon strips about 1 inch from edges with toothpicks. Arrange pear halves in the roasting pan and return turkey to the oven.
Roast turkey until the internal temperature of the inner thigh reaches 155°F. Remove from the oven and let rest uncovered while you prepare the gravy, or at least 30 minutes before carving. Remove pears to a serving platter, reserve onions, and discard any remaining solids in the roasting pan.
For the gravy:
Place 4 reserved pear halves and 1 reserved onion half in a food processor and purée until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reserve.
Make a roux by melting butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter foams, add flour and whisk continuously until well combined. Cook until flour loses its raw flavor and starts to emit a toasty aroma, about 2 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth until smooth, add herbs and pear purée, and bring to a simmer.
Pour off as much grease as you can from the roasting pan without removing any of the pan juices and set the pan over two burners over medium heat. When the pan juices begin to sizzle, slowly pour in pear cider and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a flat spatula. Add cider mixture to gravy and stir to combine. Simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper; strain gravy through a fine mesh strainer. Carve the turkey and serve with gravy.
Enjoy the feast. I really like this dish with grilled sweet potato slices.