Monday, November 23, 2015

How do you improve on roast turkey? Add bacon, of course...

Anything's better with bacon, right?

Yesterday I attended a Thanksgiving potluck and was asked to roast a turkey. Thanks to my mother and Vincent Price, my turkeys always turn out moist and flavorful, and yesterdays was no exception.

There are two reasons why my holiday turkey is consistently delicious.  The first, and biggest, is that I always use a fresh organic, free-ranging turkey.  There's just no comparison.  Of course, pasture-raised animals are high in those all-important anti-inflammation omega-3's and that alone is the best reason to eat them.  But not only that, you can taste the difference, too.

The second reason: bacon.  I always use my mother's favorite recipe which actually came originally from an old Vincent Price cookbook.  This is a fantastic recipe and includes a few small extra steps that really add flavor to the turkey itself and ultimately, the gravy which gets made from the pan drippings.  Once you learn how to make gravy, it only takes a few extra minutes to whisk it up and doing so adds so much deliciousness and crowd satisfaction to the meal!

In 1965, the actor Vincent Price and his wife Mary made a beautiful cookbook called A Treasury of Great Recipes which was recently re-released and is currently available on

In case you're not sure who Vincent Price was ... famous as one of the original horror movie stars, he was known for his creepy laugh which was later featured in the Michael Jackson Thriller video:

Anyway, his Turkey Wayside Inn recipe includes a generous rubbing of the turkey in butter as well as a topping of several strips of bacon.  What's not to love about that?! Here's our version of his recipe with a few slight anti-inflammation adaptations:

Turkey Wayside Inn

Note: It used to be that the turkey was done when the turkey breast reached 175 degrees.  Newer thinking has it at 165 degrees. Experience has taught me that the bigger the bird, the faster it cooks.  I think this may have something to do with the larger bones conducting more heat faster.  Even very large turkeys cook for me in about 4 hours or so.  When I first began roasting turkeys for a large gathering, this would mess up my timing as I would use charts that would have the roasting time increase with the bird's size.  I would plan to be pulling the turkey out of the oven in 6 hours only to have it be ready two hours before we were ready to sit down and eat!

Use the best ingredients you can.  Pay the extra dollars for that pasture-raised turkey and nitrate-free organic bacon.  Use fresh herbs or the most pungent dried herbs available.  Use sea salt (not table salt) and buy fresh organic vegetables and butter and cream from pasture-raised cows.  This will all pay off in the final taste and quality of your meal.  It also provides optimum healing power. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Season--  Rub the inside of a ready to cook 12 lb. turkey with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper.  (Increase quantities for a larger bird.)

Stuff and truss-- Stuff the body and neck cavity with your favorite stuffing recipe.  Truss the legs and wings close to the body.

Fatten up-- Rub the turkey's skin with 1/2 cup of butter and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and a little pepper.  Place breast up in a shallow roasting pan and arrange 2 slices of bacon over the breast. (Note: I find that using an old fashioned enameled roasting pan rather than the store-bought aluminum disposable pans makes for tastier pan drippings and better "scraps" (you know those wonderful caramelized bits that stick to the bottom of the pan that make the gravy taste magnificent?)  Place 2 slices of antibiotic, hormone and nitrate-free bacon on top of the turkey breast.

Flavor up-- Add to the roasting pan: 2 cups water, 1 onion stuck with 3 cloves, 1 stalk celery, 2 carrots, 2 bay leaves, 5 sprigs fresh parsley and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

Roast-- Cook the turkey in the oven 10-20 minutes per lb. (3 1/2 - 4 hours) or until rich and evenly brown, basting every 30 minutes with the drippings in the pan.

And finally, I have found over the years that this gravy recipe usually gets raves:

Madeira Cream Sauce

Make stock-- While cooking the turkey, make a stock using the neck and, if you prefer, the giblets.  (Add an onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and black pepper and salt to the water to boil and then simmer for several hours.  Cook down until you have several cups of  highly flavored broth. Pour the broth through a sieve.

Skim and deglaze--  Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and skim the fat from the turkey drippings.  Add 1 cup Madeira wine to the pan and deglaze over high heat.  Add the stock  and raise the heat to high.

Thicken-- Add 3/4 cup heavy organic or raw organic cream.  Immediately add 4 teaspoons arrowroot dissolved in 1/4 cup of cold water.

Simmer for 5 minutes or until the gravy is thickened.  Add additional arrowroot if necessary.

Adjust seasonings--  Add sea salt and white pepper as needed.   You may also finely chop fresh herbs such as parsley or thyme to sprinkle over the gravy (remember there is a lot of healing power in herbs).

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