When we were kids my step mom Jennie made fantastic turkey, wrapped in bacon and roasted to juicy perfection. Jennie is a great cook – following instincts and sense of flavor rather than recipes, and I don’t remember her ever making a bad meal. This is my version of her bacon bird – I used a 14 pounder but if you want larger or smaller then just adjust the amounts and times accordingly—this is your bird! —aargersi
TEST KITCHEN NOTES
WHO: aargersi is a Food52er who you may remember from our Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey contest!
WHAT: A subtly smoky bird that is swathed in sage and bacon before being served with a turkey neck gravy.
HOW: Wrap the turkey up in bacon, then the oven does the work for you. Ours roasted for 3 hours, and we removed it when the thigh meat read 160 on a thermometer.
For the turkey:
14 pounds turkey
1 pound thick sliced bacon (You won’t use the whole thing but when is extra bacon ever a bad thing? I use applewood smoked)
1 granny smith apple
1 largeish yellow onion
8 sage leaves, plus 1 leafy sprig
3 sprigs marjoram, more to taste
1 pinch Salt and pepper, more to taste
1 bottle dry white wine
For the gravy:
1 cooked turkey neck
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1/2 cup milk (maybe a bit more)
1 cup turkey or chicken stock (maybe a bit more)
2 1/2 tablespoons brandy (or sherry for a bit of a sweeter gravy)
1 pinch salt and pepper
- For the turkey:
- Heat the oven to 325°F. Remove the neck and giblets. I only use the neck for gravy but if you want to add giblets too I say go for it! Rinse the turkey inside and out. Liberally salt and pepper the inside. Put him on a rack in a turkey pan and tuck the wings behind his head. Or, where his head used to be.
- Cut the apple in 4, remove the core, the quarter each quarter. Peel the onion and cut it into similar sized pieces. Put the leafy sprig of sage, the marjoram, and a few hunks of apple and onion inside the bird. Also hide a bit of apple and onion under the neck skin and tuck it in. Scatter the rest around the pan. Put the neck in the pan too.
- Generously pepper the turkey and then salt him too—the bacon adds salt too so don’t go too crazy. Arrange the sage leaves across the breast and on each leg (see picture). Now lay strips of bacon all over the turkey so he is encased. I work the long way – you may need to trim some bacon to get him covered (see next picture)—don’t forget the legs and wings! Pour the bottle of wine into the pan and pop him in the oven.
- You can now mostly relax for about three hours—the bacon is basting for you. Do check now and again and if it’s getting too dry add some water to the pan. Once the bacon has cooked completely, it’s job is done. Take the turkey out of the oven and remove the bacon. If some of it wants to stick, just leave it. Mostly it should come right off. Remove the neck from the pan and set both aside. Keep the kitchen vultures off the neck—whether or not you let them eat the bacon is up to you. Give the turkey a good basting and put him back in the oven to finish cooking. The common thought is thigh meat needs to be 180—I stop before that (around 165-170) because it will keep cooking as it rests. My turkey took just under 4 hours. When he is finished cooking and golden brown, take him out and make the gravy while he rests.
- For the gravy:
- Pick the meat off the turkey neck and chop it up. You can also chop some of that crisp bacon if you want to, and if any is left.
- Get the drippings from the turkey pan and put them in a separator—I use a baster to make the transfer.
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan and whisk in the flour. Cook for a few minutes until it just starts to get a little golden. Whisk in the chopped sage. Now whisk the milk in slowly – it’s going to get super thick – don’t worry. Start whisking in the broth and brandy, and the gravy will relax again. Now start pouring in the drippings carefully from the separator (try not to get too much of the plain old fat in there – a little is OK)—this is where you add a little, whisk a little, taste a little. Decide if you want more salt and pepper, or maybe a bit more drippings or broth. Get the thickness the way you like it—this is your gravy not mine! Finally—stir in the chopped turkey neck (and giblets and bacon if you want) and stir until warm. That’s it! Carve that turkey and serve up!