Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Roast Turkey with Pears & Sage

My friends and I like to have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with one another so we can enjoy each other's company and that of our families. It is also a great excuse to have two separate Thanksgiving dinners and prolong the delightful leftovers twice as long. I decided to go all out on the turkey this year and spent the entire week leading up to the dinner party researching various turkey-roasting methods. I decided to brine the turkey and roast it at a high temperature for the first 30 minutes of cooking to seal in the juices, then lower the heat a bit for the rest of the cooking time. I don't know if it was the brining or brief high cooking temperature or both, but everyone remarked on how juicy and moist the white meat was, which made me very, very happy. I really loved the pear aspect of the meal, it was slightly sweet but not too sweet, complementing the turkey meat in just the right way. And the pear-laced pan drippings made, honest to God, the best gravy I've ever had. I was also able to finally give my new Wusthof knife set a run on a solid block of meat, and...just...whoa. These made carving the turkey so, SO much easier. And chopping the onions was a dream! I just had to push down gently and it went right through them, no nasty sawing back and forth for eons with my old target brand knife set and using all my body weight to get the knife down though root vegetables which, looking back, could have resulted in the loss of many a finger if I wasn't more careful. Now that I have a quality set of knives and recently got a large sharpening stone, I'm never going back to the days of dull-blade cooking. It makes my prep and carving work faster, safer, and much, much less frustrating.

Now that I've wrapped up my knife-rant, I want to wish all of you the happiest of Thanksgivings and let you know that the thing I am most thankful for this year is you. Thank you for continuing to read my little side stories and participate in my life through your readership and comments. It is deeply appreciated.


Roast Turkey

1 Whole Turkey, innards removed
1 Cup Duck Fat or Butter
1 Teaspoon Sage
1/4 Teaspoon Thyme
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
6 Bosc Pears, cut in half
1 Sweet Onion, diced
4 Cups Turkey or Chicken Broth

Pear Glaze

3/4 Cup White Wine
3/4 Cup Honey
3/4 Cup Turkey or Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Duck Fat or Butter
1 Very Ripe Bosc Pear, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

Pear & Sage Stuffing

(1) 10 Oz Package Herbed Dried Stuffing Cubes
1 Yellow Onion, diced
1 Bosc Pear, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1 Egg, whisked
2 and 1/2 Cups Milk
1/4 Cup Duck Fat or Butter
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme

Pan Dripping Gravy

3 Cups Pan Drippings
2-4 Tablespoons Corn Starch
2-4 Tablespoons Flour

If you want to brine the turkey, (I recommend it!), place it in a brining or turkey-sized oven bag or large stockpot and fill the bag/pot with a brining solution that contains 1 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of dried sage for every gallon of water. Make sure the bird is completely submerged in the brining solution and place it in the refrigerator to soak overnight. I recommend placing the bag in a pan to make it easier to get it in and out of the refrigerator.

The next morning, make the glaze by bringing all the ingredients to a boil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Bring the heat down to medium low and continue to boil for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, and then puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Set aside.

Next, make the stuffing. Pour the milk over the dried stuffing cubes in a large bowl and allow them to soak, stirring a couple times to help evenly soak the cubes. Meanwhile, saute the onions in the duck fat or butter over medium-high heat until translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring every couple minutes. Remove the onions from the heat and scrape the onions and duck fat or butter into the bowl with the stuffing. Add the egg, pear, seasonings, and 2 tablespoons of the pear glaze and toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.

Now you can begin preparing the turkey. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it, and pat dry. Mix together the duck fat or butter with the sage, thyme, salt, and pepper until it is fairly soft and spreadable. Rub the mixture all over the outside of the bird, the inside of the bird, and underneath the skin on the entire front (breast) of the bird. I was able to peel the skin up slightly and then push my way under the entire breast skin with my hands, rubbing the fat and spice mixture everywhere.

Evenly distribute the chopped onion on the bottom of the roasting pan. Once the bird is coated inside and out with the fat mixture, set it in the roasting pan, breast facing up. Stuff the bird until full and set aside whatever stuffing you have left in a separate oven-safe pan. Tie together the turkey's legs with cooking twine. Whisk together the 4 cups of broth with 1/2 cup of the pear glaze, then pour the mixture into the roasting pan, pouring around, not over, the turkey. Arrange the 6 halved pears around the bird.

Place the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes per pound of turkey. Baste the bird every 20 minutes with the pan drippings, but every third basting (i.e. once per hour) baste the bird with the pear glaze. Rotate the roasting pan once per hour to help the bird cook evenly (since you will be opening the oven every 20 minutes to baste the bird, the side facing the oven will always loose a bit of heat).

If the bird is browning too quickly, tent tin foil over the roasting pan (do not allow the turkey skin to touch the tin foil otherwise it will cook onto it and the skin will get pulled off when you take off the tin foil, which would make your turkey look sad).

When it starts to look done, take the temperature of the turkey and once it reaches 165 degrees in the breast, stuffing cavity, and thigh, it is safe to eat. Allow the bird to rest for 30 minutes before carving. While the bird is resting, make the gravy. Heat 3 cups of the liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan in a small pot over low heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of corn starch and 2 tablespoons of flour until smooth. If you want your gravy to be thicker, continue adding tablespoons of flour and/or corn starch until your desired consistency is reached. Remove from heat and set aside.

Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy and the remaining pear glaze on the side for optional drizzling.


  1. Nom nom nom!!!
    It look so perfect baked!

  2. Thank you Nicole! It was well worth the effort :)

  3. That turkey is absolutely beautiful. And I LOVE that it has a pear glaze!!


  4. This may be the most gorgeous turkey ever! Will you make the turkey for my family next thanksgiving? :)

  5. I can't stop thinking of this beautiful turkey, it looks so delicious. I have added it to my Mouth Watering Mondays post. I would love for you to come over to see it at Cheers, Tara

  6. My husband would like me to write to you and thank you profusely for this recipe. And he's right, I should thank you profusely. I was perusing your blog a day before Christmas, when I was trying to consolidate the recipe I would use for a cider glazed turkey. Originally, I planned to spatch-cock the beast, but decided against it when I came across your recipe. As a result, ours was the most succulant, flavorful turkey my husband and I have ever had! Although we made ours with apples, I am excited for a repeat-performance with pears.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Wonderful! I am so happy you both enjoyed it :) Thank you for trying it, and a very Happy New Year to you both as well!

  7. Hello,

    What kind of white wine do you suggest using for the glaze?

    Thanks. I am going to try this for Thanksgiving this year. I've never cooked a Turkey! Wish me luck ;)

    1. Oh wonderful!! Any dry white wine would do, a pinot grigio would be an excellent choice :) Let me know how it turns out for you!

  8. Love the look of this turkey. I featured it on my Friday Five - Thanksgiving Turkey addition over at Feed Your Soul Too -

  9. What a mouth-watering turkey! I was wondering if roasting at two different temperatures would work for chicken, as well?!

    1. Hi Cara-Sophie! I think the technique would work, but you'd want to reduce the initial broiling time since the chicken is so much smaller. I'd say about 15 minutes at 450 and then bring it down to 350 for the rest of the cooking period, making sure to baste the chicken so it doesn't dry out, and use a thermometer to determine when it's done :)

  10. Hi! I really want to make this turkey recipe this year, but my Mom doesn't like pears. She said that she could handle a hint of pear, though, so I'm wondering if there's a distinct pear taste once the turkey is cooked? Also, could you substitute the white wine for apple cider? If not, do you recommend a non-alcoholic option? Thank You!!

    1. It's not a strong in-your-face pear flavor, but there is a hint of pears. I think apples would work wonderfully as a substitution for someone who isn't a pear fan. The flavors would still work great with the turkey and the glaze and the stuffing. And if you substitute apple cider, it would work well with the apple flavors, but I would recommend using 1/2 cup of apple cider with 2 tablespoons vinegar rather than 3/4 cup straight apple cider. That way it brings in some of the drier, complex flavors of the wine without the alcohol :) If you try it this way, let me know how it turns out. I'd love to try an apple version next year!

  11. I made this Last Christmas! It was the first time I EVER Cooked a turkey, and it was AMAZING!! Everyone loved it! It will be on the table Thursday!

    1. Awww thank you! I am so happy it turned out for you and that you all enjoyed it :D

  12. How much time does it take to make this recipe?

    1. Cooking time depends on the size of the bird, but as far as the prep time, I would say give yourself 3 hours for the glaze, stuffing, and bird rub-down. If you decide to brine the turkey it doesn't take much time at all to throw the brine together, the turkey does have to sit in the brine overnight though.

  13. I am going to make this turkey on Thursday- a couple of questions-
    should I rinse the brined turkey first? and can I make the glaze the day before and store in the fridge to save time in the morning?

    1. Hi Maureen! Yes, you should rinse the brined turkey (I will add that to the directions, thank you for asking!) and yes you can definitely make the glaze the day before and store in the fridge, just make sure to warm it up the next morning because the butter in the glaze will solidify and separate in the refrigerator, but if you just heat the glaze up a bit the next morning and give it a good stir it will be good as new.

  14. This is so incredibly beautiful! We happen to celebrate 2nd Thanksgiving with our friends, also! I just can't get over how gorgeous your bird was--however did you manage to keep people's hands off of it while you took photos!?

  15. I made this recipe for Thanksgiving this year and it was incredible! I am so glad I found it and chose this one over the other few I considered. I brined the turkey as you recommended and it turned out so moist and flavorful. It was actually difficult to carve because it was so moist it kept falling apart in the pan. (Which I thought was a huge plus!) The stuffing was also wonderful and complimented the turkey well and my husband and I both thought that the pan gravy was the best part of our entire meal. Thank you for such a great recipe!