In case you have forgotten, Thanksgiving is exactly ONE WEEK AWAY. No, I do not know how this happened. Yes, I am freaking out a little bit that I have seven days to prepare for the holiday (though I’ll be honest, the “preparation” this year basically consists of me and my big bad preggo self showing up at my parents’ Thanksgiving table, maybe helping out with making a couple of appetizers and sides, but more so making plans to faceplant into the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie). How are you doing?
If you’re in charge of the bird this year, may I highly suggest this bacon wrapped maple bourbon turkey breast? It’s the perfect main dish to serve for a smaller crowd that’s really into trying new things on Turkey Day while also keeping with tradition. I know this because I served this to my own family last week (as a pre-Thanksgiving dry run, if you will) and I swear there was applause — maybe it was just me. For myself. Hard to say.
Thanksgiving will actually be the third time in a week that I’ll be making/eating a turkey, a fact I’m definitely not mad about. It only makes sense for this Minnesotan, as Minnesota ranks No. 1 nationally in turkey farming — in fact, there are 450 turkey farm families raising 46 million turkeys each year just in this state alone. That’s why the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and I partnered together this Thanksgiving season to bring you one recipe for one of those turkeys. And I decided to go and make a maple bourbon butter rub and then wrap it in bacon. You’re welcome.
It’s no wonder these Minnesota turkey farmers keep busy year-round, since nowadays 95% of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving, according to the association. All turkeys in the U.S. are raised without any added growth hormones or steroids, too, as the FDA has made their use illegal since the 1950s. So when you buy and eat a U.S. turkey, you can be sure you’re getting a good bird.
Growing up, Thanksgiving was all about the tried-and-true classic 25 lb (or more) turkey carefully roasted and basted by my dad. We’d all wait around the carving board when the turkey finally came out of the oven hoping for scraps of meat before dinner and that precious wishbone, which we’d fight over deciding which two of us would snap it in half (the person with the bigger half won… pride. No really, we won nothing. And yet we would go crazy for this thing). Nowadays with my own family and a more hectic schedule, the holiday has looked different from year to year, and when it’s just been our little family, a turkey breast has done us well. We are having the big ol’ family Thanksgiving this year, but that won’t stop me from making this bacon wrapped breast again for funsies, and I’ll certainly keep it in mind for future Thanksgivings with smaller crowds. The flavors of the sweet maple and rich bourbon complement the crackling butter-roasted skin of the turkey breast, and the bacon wrapping gives it a hug of added saltiness that I love. The oranges on the bottom of the pan not only lift the breast from the pan to help it cook through, but their flavor mixes with the juices to create a simple syrup of sorts that you can and definitely should spoon over the sliced turkey breast just before serving. Gah. I can’t wait to make it again already.
In case you’re still leery of making the bird yourself this year, here are a few super helpful pro tips from Minnesota turkey farmers:
1. When selecting your turkey, allow 1 pound of turkey per person for a fresh or frozen bird.
2. Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of bird weight for thawing in the refrigerator.
3. Plan for 20 minutes per pound in a 350°F oven for a defrosted turkey and 10-15 minutes per pound for a fresh turkey.
4. Don’t take the turkey out of the oven until a meat thermometer reads 165°F at the breast and 175°F at the thigh.
5. Let a turkey stand for 20 minutes after removing from oven before carving to allow juices to set.
6. Reheat leftover turkey to 165°F before serving, and enjoy leftovers within 3 to 4 days (not that this should be a problem when bourbon and bacon are involved).
Whether you like to mix things up for the holiday or keep with tradition, this recipe is a winner for all turkey (and maple, and bourbon, and bacon) lovers.
P.S. Join the #ServeTurkeyChat on Twitter today from 12:30 to 2:00 pm CT, where Minnesota Turkey will join others to chat about all things Thanksgiving-related –- especially the bird! Follow the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more Thanksgiving tips and tricks, and join the conversation using #ServeTurkey.
- 4 to 6 navel oranges, quartered
- 5 to 6 lb turkey breast (thawed if frozen)
- 6 tablespoons butter, very soft
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons bourbon
- 1½ teaspoons pure maple syrup
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ lb maple-flavored bacon (regular bacon works fine, too)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place quartered oranges in single layer in bottom of large roasting pan. Place turkey on top, breast side-up. Pat skin dry with paper towels.
- In small bowl using fork, stir butter with bourbon and maple syrup until as well combined as possible (it may take a few minutes but it will get there). Spread and rub butter all over turkey skin and under skin, if possible. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over turkey skin.
- Carefully wrap bacon strips around breast, one strip at a time, until turkey is covered from front to back. Bake 2 hours 30 mins to 3 hours until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast reads 165 degrees F. Let turkey breast rest in pan 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove turkey breast from pan and carve into slices. Spoon juices from pan over turkey just before serving.
Disclosure: I received compensation from the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association for recipe development purposes. All opinions are my own.