Turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, but it can be tricky to get the bird moist and fully cooked. One solution is wrapping the breast with bacon—it bastes the white meat as it roasts, infusing the flesh with delicious porky flavor. Pears add a note of fall and match up with pear cider for a sweet, full-flavored gravy. Note that a fresh, never-frozen turkey will end up juicier and tastier than one you’ve had to thaw. If you do go with a frozen bird, make sure it’s completely (and safely) thawed before roasting—this will take 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. As for the pear cider, choose one with restrained sweetness, such as Crispin or Wyder’s.
- Yield: 8 to 10 servings
- Difficulty: Medium
- Total: 4 hrs 15 mins
- Active: 50 mins
For the turkey:
- 1 (18- to 20-pound) fresh turkey
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium white onions, peeled and halved
- 3 medium celery stalks, halved crosswise
- 10 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 medium ripe pears, such as Anjou or Bosc
- 1 pound thinly sliced smoked bacon
For the gravy:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, at room temperature
- 8 fresh sage leaves
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups hard (i.e., alcoholic) pear cider (see note in intro)
To roast the turkey:
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Remove the giblets and neck; reserve the 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 the 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 piece, and 2 garlic cloves inside.
- Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Arrange the neck and remaining onions, celery pieces, and garlic cloves in the pan, and place in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F. Every 45 minutes, baste the bird with the pan drippings.
- About 45 minutes before the turkey is finished or when the internal temperature of the inner thigh reaches 145°F, cut the pears in half and remove the cores and stems. Brush each half with the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the turkey from the oven and overlap bacon strips across the breast and around the legs. If desired, secure the bacon strips about 1 inch from the edges with toothpicks. Arrange the pear halves in the roasting pan and return the turkey to the oven.
- Roast until the internal temperature of the inner thigh reaches 155°F (to get an accurate reading, make sure the thermometer is not touching bone). Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest uncovered while you prepare the gravy, or for at least 30 minutes before carving. Remove the pears to a serving platter, reserve the onions, and discard any remaining solids in the roasting pan.
To make 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 the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, add the flour and whisk continuously until well combined. Cook until the flour loses its raw flavor and starts to emit a toasty aroma, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth, add the herbs and reserved 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 the pear cider and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a flat spatula. Add the cider mixture to the gravy and stir to combine. Simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.