Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Bird

For the past few years, the husband has been in charge of deep-frying the turkey on Thanksgiving.  He gets a kick out of doing it and, bonus, it's delicious.  Last year, however, our trusty turkey fryer sprung a leak.  So, for Thanksgiving 2010, I'll be roasting my bird in the oven.

Since I have a small kitchen, the oven gets pretty darn crowded on Thanksgiving.  In attempts to move the turkey along more quickly, I'm going to roast a turkey breast instead of the whole darn thing.  So, below you'll find my recipe for roast turkey breast.  But it all starts with the brine.

Let's be honest, turkey tends to be dry.  In order to add moisture, try brining it first.  For me, turkey is just a vehicle for cranberry sauce, so I was dubious that a brine would really help.  Well, you can call me a monkey's uncle, 'cause this brine was the business.  It will turn your turkey into juicy, delcious awesomeness.  Trust me.  And you can use the Turkey Brine recipe wether you're roasting the whole bird or just the breast.  (One additional note about brining: according to the good folks at America's Test Kitchen, "Do not brine kosher poultry, frozen injected turkeys (such as Butterball), or enhanced pork."  These are already treated with salt, so brining will make them taste nasty.)

After you roast your turkey, it's gravy time.  I must admit, I was terrified to make my own gravy.  I'm not sure why it scared me so much, I knew the husband wouldn't leave me if there was a lump or two in my sauce, but I did NOT want to try it.  Well, again, I was pleasantly surprised.  First of all, it wasn't hard!  Second of all, it tasted delicious!  I'm still going to keep a packet of Knorr gravy mix on hand this Thanksgiving, but it will only be in case I run out of the real stuff.

Without further ado...

Turkey Brine
Adapted from epicurious.com

1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup honey
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons peppercorns
2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 head garlic, halved (don't worry about removing the paper)
3 quarts water (approximately)

In a very large bowl or pot, combine salt, honey, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice berries, and garlic.  Add a few cups of water and stir the brine to start dissolving the salt and honey.  (You want to stir the brine now because it will be difficult to stir once you add the turkey.)

Add the turkey and then add water to cover.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.  

Once the turkey has been in it's brine for 4-6 hours, remove it from the liquid and rinse it well under running water.  Then, dry your turkey thoroughly with paper towels.  Now you're ready for the roasting steps!

Roast Turkey Breast
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serves: 8-10

1 whole turkey breast, about 5-6 pounds, preferably brined
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (I use Penzeys Poultry Seasoning), plus extra for sprinkling
1 onion, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 rib celery, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Set a roasting rack inside a large roasting pan.

Mix 3 tablespoons softened butter with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.  Using your fingers, separate the skin from the turkey breast, creating a sort of pocket between the skin and the breast.  (I know this sounds gross, but it will help flavor your bird and crisp up the skin.)  Rub the butter-seasoning mix all over the meat under the skin.  Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and brush it over the breast.  Sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.

Place the turkey on the roasting rack in the prepared pan.  Place onion, carrot and celery in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Pour 1/2 cup of the wine in the bottom of the pan as well.  (This will help prevent the vegetables and turkey drippings from burning.)  Place the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Lower the heat to 325 degrees.  Continue to roast the turkey until it registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer.  ***Keep an eye on the turkey while it is roasting.  If the vegetables on the bottom of the pan look like they're burning, add the extra 1/2 cup wine.  If they STILL look like they're burning, add water, 1/4 cup at a time as needed, to prevent burning.  Also, if the breast looks like it's getting too brown, tent it with aluminum foil.***

Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.  While the turkey is resting, move on to the gravy!

Quick Turkey Gravy
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Serves: 8-10

1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the onion, carrot, and celery from the roasting pan.  Using a spoon, skim any fat from the pan drippings and discard it.  Place the roasting pan over two burners turned to medium heat.

Add 1/2 cup wine to the pan and whisk about 1 minute to begin scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Whisk in 4 cups chicken broth and bring to a simmer.  Continue whisking until all the browned bits are incorporated into your gravy.  Reduce heat and simmer slowly for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/4 cup water and 3 tablespoons cornstarch to form a smooth paste.  Whisking constantly, gradually pour the cornstarch mixture into the simmering broth.  Cook for 1 more minute and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Strain the gravy (if you're feeling ambitions), and serve along side the turkey, and the potatoes, and the stuffing, and the...well, you get my drift.

***Have a turkey conundrum?  Leave a comment or e-mail me at hotdinnerhappyhome [at] gmail [dot] com.  Even if I don't know the answer, I'll make up something that sounds good.


  1. Sorry to hear about your fryer! I have never actually had a fried turkey but my friends swear they are the best; me, I'm more of a brine/roast girl. Usually I just use salt brines but I like the additions of garlic and spices! I'll have to try it this year!

  2. Let me know how the brine turns out for you, Meg! And as for the fry vs. brine/roast dilemma, after making the turkey above, I fall squarely in the brine/roast camp! (But don't tell the husband...)