Talkin' Turkey

What does 3AM, one turkey breast, my cute husband and a cooler filled with beer have in common?


It’s the makings of my early Thanksgiving! I did something bold this past weekend my friends. My bestie Lindsey (of Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies) and I made an entire Thanksgiving dinner. And then we ate it with Shaun and her bf Eric. I’m not going to lie to you...it was fantastic. Moist, flavorful turkey breast with mouthwatering pan gravy made this a turkey I'll make again and again. While my favorite part of Thanksgiving is seeing our families, it was nice to enjoy the goods while relaxing at home and savoring every last bite of traditional grub. Oh and having lots of leftovers didn’t hurt either. So this week I’ll be wrapping up our Thanksgiving for four, starting with, what else - the turkey!

So aren’t you wondering where the 3AM and cooler filled with beer come in? After a night o’fun on Friday with Shaun’s brother, his future wife and our friends Nikki and Brandon, I realized that I had yet to brine my turkey for Saturday’s dinner. And as any Alton Brown fan knows, turkey sans brining a delicious Thanksgiving does not make. So towards the end of the party (after lots of pizza dip and Prosecco), Shaun, his brother Steve and I decided it was time to brine my little turkey breast. Using Alton’s famous brining recipe, I halved it since my bird was just over 7 lbs, while the recipe was for a 14-16 lb bird. After I made the brine around midnight, we placed it in the cooler out on the terrace to properly chill before adding the bird.

 

Of course this meant that the guys had to make some additional room in the cooler by polishing off a few Miller Lites in the process. Once cooled - and 3AM rolled around - it took all 3 of us to get the bird and brine set up in garbage bag that we made 3 layers deep. You know, to prevent leakage overnight. In fact, we placed the turkey and brine in a double bagged layer, ensuring that the entire bird was submerged in the brine, then secured the top with duct tape. We then put that into a third bag, once again securing with duct tape. Then, we lowered the wrapped bird into an ice bath in the cooler where it would sit for the next 12 hours.

After its long, juicy bath, the turkey was ready for cooking. We placed the brine bag in a giant mixing bowl and brought it straight to the sink where Shaun cut it all open. I rinsed it with cold water, patted it dry with paper towels and set it up on my roasting pan (a sweet pick up from Bed Bath & Beyond last Thanksgiving for a mere $10!). I then stuffed the turkey breast with apple slices, onions, rosemary, thyme and sage (see below for details).

 

Next, I rubbed some olive oil, thyme, sage, and kosher salt on top of and underneath the skin, which I pulled apart very gently with a paring knife and my own two hands.

 

After letting the oven preheat, my turkey breast was ready for roasting!

 

Here's the full rundown:

Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy
*Adapted from Alton Brown
1 fresh or frozen young turkey breast (I used a Shady Brook Farms 7 lb bone-in turkey breast)
for the brine:
½ C kosher salt
¼ C brown sugar
½ gallon vegetable stock
½ tbsp black peppercorns
¾ tsp allspice berries
¾ tsp chopped candied ginger
½ gallon iced water
for roasting the turkey:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
8 leaves sage, divided
6 sprigs thyme, divided
2+ cans low sodium chicken broth
Canola oil
for the gravy:
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 C white wine
3+ tbsp Wondra flour (you can use all-purpose but this made lump-free gravy a snap!)

Make sure your turkey is defrosted. In a large stock pot over medium heat, bring the vegetable stock, salt, sugar, water, peppercorns, berries and ginger to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature, refrigerate until cold, and submerge the turkey in the brine, breast side down. Place brined turkey in your refrigerator or in a cooler filled with ice and cold water (as I did). Let sit for at least 8 hours - mine sat for about 12.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Remove from the brine, rinse with cold water, pat dry and place on your roasting rack. In a bowl, combine the apple slices, onion, cinnamon stick, and water. Microwave for 5 minutes. Stuff the turkey’s cavity with the mixture, along with the rosemary, 6 sage leaves and 4 sprigs of thyme. Coat the outside and inside of the turkey skin with an oil, salt, thyme, sage mixture. Pour the liquid and 1 can of chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue roasting until a probe thermometer reads 165 degrees. I never trust the little button the comes on the turkey, which is supposed to pop when it’s done since it usually doesn’t work! Pick up a thermometer for a few dollars and get ‘er done right! I took a silicon brush to add some of the pan liquid to the top of the turkey about every 20 minutes or so. If the liquid on the bottom dries up, add another can of broth and continue to brush or baste your turkey so it doesn’t dry out. My little guy was done in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Next, carve that bad boy! Shaun was in charge of this, while I made the gravy.

To make your delicious gravy that's full of flavor, take the roasting pan and put over two burners and turn them on low. As it heats, add half a can of chicken broth and white wine (I gave you my measurements, but you may need more or less depending on how much of the drippings are left in the pan), bring to a boil and scrape up the bits of deliciousness from the pan. Whisk in the flour. If it's too thick, add more broth. If it's too thin, add more flour. Do a taste test with some of the turkey that your husband is working very hard to carve next to you...Is it gravy perfection yet?

 

Serve the turkey on a big platter and pour gravy into that infamous gravy boat that you never use. Easy peasy!

 

So there you have it. A tale our of golden brown, moist and delicious turkey. The skin was perfectly crisped and flavorful while the meat was tender and tasty. While it seems like a difficult task, it was actually very easy! The extra steps were worth every moment to make this bird one for the record books. So what I want to know is: How do you like your turkey? Drowned in gravy? Dark meat only? You know nothing makes me happier than hearing from you so dish up some Thanksgiving tidbits in the comments!