Over time the enormous family reunion style Thanksgiving of my past has given way to a much smaller and more intimate holiday table. And although I miss the big, loud Thanksgivings of days gone by, I cannot say that I miss the marathon -like cooking and dirty dishes that goes along with it. I have had enough marathon cooking in my life, I would prefer that my holidays be just that – a holiday. So, off and on over the last few years we have taken to cooking just the turkey breast for Thanksgiving. This much smaller packaging gets right to the point of having turkey and, honestly, makes cooking the iconic bird so much easier and quicker.
The key to the perfect turkey (breast or otherwise) is a good overnight soak in a brine. Brining is a bit like a quick pickle to seal in the juices of the bird and keep everything tender and juicy and allow the cook a little more leniency on cooking times. Don’t be terrified of all of the salt and sugar in the brine. It’s not all going to go into the meat. Just remember, it’s a means to an end.
I also like to stuff the cavity of any bird (chicken included) with fruit and vegetables. Citrus and onion mainly, but also herbs and spices as well. It helps to perfume the meat and give it a little extra oomph. One last recommendation on cooking the centerpiece for the table, buy a digital thermometer. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it is essential to making sure that you neither under cook or overcook your hard work.
- 16 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 T pickling spices
- 1 lb turkey breast 5
- 1 stick butter softened
- 10 leaves fresh sage minced
- 1 T fresh rosemary minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1. t pepper
- 2 t . kosher salt
- 1 orange quartered
- 1 onion quartered
- 2 leaves bay
- All purpose flour
- quart Chicken stock about a
- Salt and pepper
- Heat half of the water in a large pot. Add in the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour the water into a large, clean bucket and stir in the remaining water, garlic and pickling spices. Submerge the turkey breast in the brine and refrigerate overnight.( If you don’t have room in your fridge, add a 10lb bag of ice to the brine and pour into a clean cooler, then add turkey to it.)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the turkey and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, sage, rosemary and garlic. Slide a couple of fingers underneath the skin of the turkey breasts to loosen, then spread the butter mixture underneath the skin as best you can. Smear any remaining butter on top of the skin and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the oranges, bay leaves and onion. Use a small piece of aluminum foil tucked under the bottom to keep them from falling out.
- Roast the bird for 20 minutes at 450 degrees, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and let it rest. Meanwhile, make the gravy from the pan drippings.
- Heat the roasting pan over medium heat on the stove top. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom with a whisk. Add an equal amount of flour to the fat in the pan. Cook for 1 minute then slowly add in chicken broth, whisking constantly, until the desired thickness is achieved. Season with salt and pepper. Strain if desired.
- Make a cut down the backbone and a cut across the ribs of the turkey in order to remove the breast from each side of the carcass whole. Slice the breast into serving pieces and serve with gravy.
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