For as long as I can remember, my family has always wrapped our turkeys in bacon. No need for basting, because the fat from the bacon does it for you! It makes the skin and meat perfectly seasoned without really much work involved. As we start to think about holiday dinners soon (and American Thanksgiving is right around the corner), I thought I’d share my family’s tradition with all of you!
When I started going through the blog archives, it looks like I’ve posted lots of photos of our bacon covered turkeys over the last five years.
As I mentioned in this year’s Thanksgiving post, my dad is an expert turkey carver.
He does it with an electric carving knife, which makes it go quickly – and much more evenly than if you slice it by hand!
This past weekend, I made a little roast turkey dinner for Garrett and me. I found a frozen turkey on sale after Thanksgiving and tucked it away in the freezer for a Sunday night dinner. I let it thaw during the week and then got to work on Sunday morning prepping everything. It was a good chance to test out some new recipes – and do some old tried-and-true ones too. We had turkey, homemade gravy and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, carrots drizzled with honey (leftover from the wedding favours!), balsamic roasted brussels sprouts and homemade vegetarian stuffing.
I used the Holiday Meal Cooking Schedule I posted earlier this week as my guide.
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Bacon Wrapped Turkey
What you need:
- a fresh or thawed turkey
- roasting pan
- aluminum foil
Whenever I’m working with raw poultry, I completely clean the counter and sink area first, and then repeat the process again after the bird is in the oven. I can’t stand the thought of gross turkey germs anywhere.
Remove and discard any giblet bags or the neck, if they’ve been tucked inside. Give the whole bird a good rinse inside and out. Flip over and repeat with the other end. Use paper towel to pat the inside and outside until dry.
I love this picture from Thanksgiving 2010, when Whiskey was less than half the size of the bird…
…didn’t stop him from trying to take a lick.
Okay, so back to the turkey. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place it in a roasting pan on the rack and cover the outside of the bird in bacon. You can use as much or as little as you want here. As you can see from the photos above, my mom likes to cover maybe half the surface area with bacon, leaving some of the skin exposed to make it extra crispy for those who like it. My Great Aunt and I are both from a different school – we like to cover the whole thing in bacon. The more bacon the better. You’ll need it for when grabby fingers come along to pluck it off afterwards. Either way works great!
To prevent it from burning, fold long pieces of aluminum foil in half lengthwise and tuck them in around all the sides of the bird. If you aren’t stuffing it, add a piece of foil (or a halved onion!) to the cavity. Stitch it up with kitchen twine if needed.
Cook the bird for about 20 minutes per pound, so for this 12 lb turkey that is 4 hours. When you’re budgeting your time, don’t forget to include 30 minute after it’s out of the oven to rest before you carve it.
I love it when the whole house starts to smell like delicious roast turkey – and it’s even better when you see a perfectly golden bird come out of the oven!
It is practically mandatory to steal a piece of bacon off it, especially before everyone else comes along a steals a piece!
The turkey needs to rest on a carving board, tented in foil for about 30 minutes. If you carve it any sooner, you risk a dry bird. In the meantime you can pop your other dishes in the oven, and make up the gravy.
Homemade Vegetarian Stuffing
This is my family’s all-time favourite stuffing recipe. We keep it save for vegetarians by baking it in the oven or in the slow cooker, but it works for stuffing a turkey as well. For most of my life I was convinced that I hated stuffing. Then about five years ago, I gave it a little taste and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s one of the things I look forward to the most at any holiday dinner with my family. My sister openly admits that she doesn’t like that I eat it now because we have to fight for the leftovers (ha!), but thankfully it’s an easy recipe to double, triple or quadruple. For a dinner with 18 people, we typically do 3 batches, which fits in a casserole dish or the slow cooker.
- 4 cups soft breadcrumbs – rip up by hand, use a cheese grater or use the grate setting on a food processor.
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 1/3 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
In a medium frying pan, melt butter over medium-low. Saute onion and celery until translucent.
Allow mixture to cool and then toss with the bread and seasoning in a large bowl until well combined. Mix in one tbsp of vegetable broth or water at a time until the stuffing is moist.
Oven Method: Pour mixture into a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes
Slow Cooker Method: Cook in the slow cooker on high for 1 hour, then reduce heat to low and continue to cook 2-3 hours, stirring every hour.
I saved all the vegetable scraps from the dressing and carrots and tossed them in the freezer. I’ll use them with the turkey carcass to make a yummy turkey soup broth.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
This is my Great Aunt’s recipe and it is a simple, delicious classic. There is no reason to crack open a can of that store bought stuff when you can whip this up on the stove top in 5 minutes. I’ve posted about it before, but it’s worth repeating. You can make it ahead of time, store it in the fridge or freeze it. It is also great on toast or crackers with a little cream cheese…or poured over a baked brie as an appetizer. Yum!
Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
If you haven’t tried roasted brussels sprouts yet, you’re seriously missing out. They get crispy and tender – and way better than those boiled ones that haunt our childhoods. This version kicks it up a little with some tangy balsamic vinegar.
What you’ll need:
- 1-1/2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half through the core
- 3 tbsp cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp syrupy balsamic vinegar (or balsamic dressing in a pinch)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the brussels sprouts on a sheet pan, including some of the loose leaves, which get crispy when they’re roasted. Add olive oil, salt and pepper, toss with your hands, and spread out in a single layer.
Roast for 20-30 minutes, until they’re tender and nicely browned. Toss once during roasting. Remove from the oven, drizzle immediately with the balsamic vinegar, and toss again. Taste for seasonings, and serve hot.
Easy Homemade Gravy
When making homemade gravy, a fat separator like this one is so handy. After you tent the turkey in foil on a carving board and let it rest, put a little water in the pan and break up the drippings with a whisk. Pour all those drippings into a separator like this one. After it has sat for a few minutes, the fat will rise to the top. As you pour, the good pan drippings from the bottom will get into your saucepan and all the fat will stay in the container. Genius!
What you’ll need:
- turkey pan drippings
- flour or cornstarch
- salt and pepper
Heat the separated pan drippings into a small saucepan and heat up. Meanwhile, whisk the flour or cornstarch in a mug with some water, making a slurry, similar to a roux. Make a little more than you think you need in case you need to add more to thicken it up. If you were to add the flour to the hot dripping right away, they would cook into little dumplings…giving you lumpy gravy…and no one wants lumpy gravy.
(It always makes me think of the scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary – “sorry, lumpy gravy calls” “just stir it Una!”)
Whisk the slurry into the the hot drippings and allow it to thicken. Simmer gently about 10 minutes, whisking often. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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Our little festive impromptu Sunday night dinner was a success. It filled our fridge with yummy leftovers too!
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What are some of your family’s favourite family dinner recipes?
I’m always looking for new things to try!