Recipe: How To Make The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

Recipe: How To Make The Best Thanksgiving Turkey


Adapting the Turkey

ACE_November_201513by Chef Tom

I was at the farmers’ market on a cool gray morning with low hanging clouds spitting a damp mist. It was dead. I stopped by Bray’s Farm stand to chat with a friend. It was far from ideal market weather.

After passing by familiar vendors on the way to my car, it happened. While marveling over wonderfully aromatic individually-bundled baby celery stalks from Elmwood Farm, I reached across the table and grabbed an acorn squash from a heaping basket of squash. At that very moment, I crossed the line. I officially surrendered my lusty desires for vibrant fresh summer produce, replacing them with  more languid yearnings for mellow soft-hued autumn produce. Until then, I’d resisted the temptation by clinging to the final bright vestiges of summer. I finally acquiesced.

Inspired by that humble acorn squash, I decided to pull a full monty, throw convention to the wind, and roast a turkey for our Sunday supper.

Well…kind of.

Feel free to adapt for your Thanksgiving table.

A dear friend recently gave us a pound of gorgeous bacon from her family’s farm. I used and abused it for our roasted turkey.

turkeyAfter unfurling the bacon from its packaging, I overlapped several strips of the bacon on parchment paper before plopping a three-pound boneless turkey breast on top of the bacon shingles, seasoning it with fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. I carefully pulled the bacon slices around the turkey breast, secured it with kitchen twine, and placed the larded breast into a roasting pan along with wedged candy onions and whole baby celery stalks.

I sprinkled additional fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper over the bacon harness, poured a cup of chicken stock into the roasting pan,  and slid the bacon-bundled turkey into a 350 degree oven to roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature was 165 degrees.

While the turkey made merry in the oven, I sliced the acorn squash into quarters and removed the seeds.

After seasoning it with salt, pepper, and olive oil, I slid the squash into the oven to par-roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes before pulling it out and dousing it with butter, brown sugar, orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice, and fresh thyme sprigs.

I covered the squash with aluminum foil and placed it back into the oven to roast/braise for an additional 45 minutes.  When the squash was thoroughly cooked, I pulled it from the oven and let it warm on the stovetop while the turkey finished roasting. The aromas wafting from our kitchen were ridiculous. Turkey.  Bacon. Rosemary. Brown sugar. Squash. Heaven.

I melted into my tufted chenille parlor chair for a few glasses of wine while we anticipated our Sunday supper.

turkey2Eventually, I pulled the turkey from the oven and checked the temperature. It was perfect. The bacon had crisped and caramelized into a salty sweet aromatic bacon shell. I tented the turkey and let it rest for ten minutes.

Before slicing the turkey, I removed it to a cutting board, placed the roasting pan over medium heat, added a pinch of flour, and whisked together a quick pan sauce from the roasted turkey and bacon drippings.

Using the bacon slices as a guide, I sliced the turkey into medallions, drizzled them with pan gravy, and feathered fresh rosemary leaves over the top. I dropped the candied squash around the turkey.The turkey was incredibly moist and tender with succulent juices trapped and sealed within the crispy bacon skin.

turkey3While the bacon provided salty crunch, the oozing buttery sweet roasted acorn squash balanced it with soft earthy undertones.

It’s a new season at the market.

One I’ll embrace with open arms.

This article also appears on page 13 of the November 2015 printed issue of  Ace.

Subscribe to the Ace e-dition for Lexington news, arts, culture, and entertainment, delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.