Today we were in the mood for a turkey dinner, in memory of a much-loved one who thought that there was not much better than a roasted turkey — any time, anywhere. Because we were cooking for just the two of us, we roasted a bone-in turkey breast and made gravy while the turkey rested. We served the the turkey with butternut squash, smashed potatoes, and steamed green beans.
Brine the turkey breast in mixture of salt, honey and water. Brining helps to infuse the turkey with extra moisture and flavor and makes the roasted turkey so much more juicy (but not too juicy!) and delicious. This is a worthwhile extra step.
To make the brine, add the salt and honey (or sugar, if you don’t have any honey handy) to a few cups of hot water, and stir it all together so that the salt and honey dissolve. You don’t want to add your cold turkey to a hot brine, so add a generous amount of ice and cold water to the bowl before you bring on the turkey.
Unwrap the turkey breast and rinse it under cold water.
Any time you are cooking a turkey, the first step is to find the little plastic “pop up” indicator that tells you when the turkey is fully cooked. Remove it from the turkey and throw it away. These indicators are inaccurate and invariably end up resulting in an overcooked bird.
Cut the turkey breast in half along the breast bone. This will allow the turkey to cook more evenly in the roasting pan. Cutting a turkey breast in half is a big job, and so Dan broke out the cleaver. It’s best to stand back at this point (for no other reason than than to not hear the bone crunch. Ew.)
Add the turkey to the cold brine, breast side down so that the best parts of the turkey get a good bath in the brine.
Our turkey, brining happily in the refrigerator. After the turkey has brined for a few hours, rinse the turkey breasts under cold water and pat them dry with a few paper towels.
We’re big fans of butter here at FoodieLawyer, thus our turkey naturally has some butter in the recipe. Tonight, we used a few tablespoons of butter, flavored with parsley, salt and pepper. This will be a compound butter to place underneath and on top of the turkey skin.
In the roasting pan, add the “aromatics” — a roughly chopped onion, 3-4 sage leaves and a bay leaf, and a good glug of olive oil. These aromatics don’t add much flavor to the turkey, but they make sure that your pan gravy is jumping with flavor. (We had some baby carrots in the refrigerator for snacking, and so we added a few of those as well. You could also use celery if you have some already chillin’ in the fridge.)
Stir up the butter until it is well mixed.
Place some of the flavored butter underneath the turkey skin, and the rest will be spread over the top of the breasts.
You don’t really need to spread the flavored butter too much under the turkey skin because it will distribute naturally as the breasts cook in the oven.
The flavored butter on the outside of the turkey breasts helps the turkey develop a beautiful golden brown color and tastes fantastic.
Roast the turkey breast halves in a 375 degree oven. They should roast for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes.
Here are the turkey breasts after about a half hour. They are starting to develop a little browning on the top.
The best way to determine when the turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. The center of the breast should register 165 degrees, although we take the turkey out just a few degrees before it reaches that point because the internal temperature of the turkey continues to rise after it has been removed from the oven. This is a good rule of thumb to follow with cooking most meats — they continue to cook for a few minutes, even after you take them off the heat.
Whenever we roast anything in the oven we use a remote thermometer so that we can monitor the temperature as accurately as possible.
We also prepared smashed red potatoes tonight. Here they are in a pot ready to boil, then we will smash them.
Once the turkey breasts reach the desired temperature, remove them to a cutting board and tent with foil, then allow them to rest for approximately 10-15 minutes. (This gives you time to make a pan gravy and finish the side dishes.)
Place the roasting pan over a burner on the stove and turn the burner to medium-high. Remember that the roasting pan has been in a hot oven for more than an hour, and the handles of the pan are very, very hot.
Deglaze the pan with some white wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to release the delicious turkey flavor from the pan. See above — wooden spoon poised to scrape off those brown sticky bits that will give the gravy all its flavor.
Dan stirring the wine mixture to deglaze the pan. Note that Dan is using an oven mitt to hold onto the insanely-hot roasting pan.
After the wine has reduced, add about a cup of chicken broth and continue to cook for a few more minutes.
Pour the turkey juice/aromatics/chicken broth mixture through a strainer into a small pot to create the gravy. Turn the heat on high to boil the mixture.
Whisk a few teaspoons of corn starch in cold water and add to the gravy, which will help to thicken the gravy.
Stir the gravy well to make sure that no lumps develop.
We also prepared out favorite Thanksgiving side dish tonight — roasted butternut squash with gorgonzola. We’ll post this recipe in full as Turkey Day gets closer.
Roasted turkey breasts with pan gravy, smashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash with gorgonzola, and steamed green beans. It was a feast, deserving of our wedding china — hardly used since we got married 5+ years ago. Turkey dinner in August is a good reminder to do what you love just because you love it, and love your loved ones harder and better because you can.
Roasted Turkey Breast
1/2 cup kosher salt (or 1/4 cup table salt)
1/4 cup sugar (or 2 tablespoons of honey)
1 bone-in whole turkey breast
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 bay leaf
3 sage leaves
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons corn starch
The first step is to brine the turkey, which keeps it from drying out in the oven. Add two cups of hot water to a large container (big enough for the turkey breast), and add the salt and sugar, then stir until it dissolves. Add a few handfuls of ice and two quarts of water, stir to make sure that the brine is cold, then add the turkey breast. Place in the refrigerator for 2 to 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the turkey in half along the breast bone. Also cut off any noticeable fatty pieces and set them aside to add to your roasting pan for gravy good-ness later.
Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the softened butter, and mix it all together. (You can also add any fresh or dried herbs you like to the butter here — such as basil, oregano, parsley or rosemary. We often use fresh parsley.) Rub some of the flavored butter underneath the skin of turkey breasts, and rub the remaining flavored butter over the top of the breasts.
Place the onion chunks, bay leaf, sage leaves and any leftover fatty turkey bits in a large skillet or small roasting pan, and place the turkey on top. Roast in the oven until the temperature of the breast reaches 163 degrees — about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven and place on the stove. Remove the turkey breasts to a cutting board and tent with foil.
Over medium-high heat, deglaze the roasting pan with white wine. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the wine has reduced, then add chicken broth. Cook for a few more minutes, and pour into a small pan through a strainer. Heat until boiling, then add the cornstarch mixed well with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Stir while the gravy thickens. Serve over the turkey and enjoy!