Damn, I thought Thanksgiving was the 29th because Thanksgiving is usually the last Thursday in November. Oh, boy, this is the trick of the trick or treat for real; the ultimate “Ha ha…you better get your ass in gear!” moment. I think Superstorm Sandy left me a little off-kilter, but I’ll get to that later.
You see, for this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge, which is all about brining meat and/or vegetables, then roasting them, which I’m late to as usual, I decided to brine a whole turkey breast, then layer it with more flavors, like a compound butter rub, then stuff, roll, and tie it up for a lovely, delicious Thanksgiving treat for those who don’t want to roast a whole turkey.
Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!
I didn’t have a bowl or bag big enough to fit the turkey breast and brine, see left, so I ended up using a huge pot..right.
Well, well, well, this is dinner Friday night, the 16th, and in less than one week..we will have turkey again; a whole 20 lb turkey. Because of this turkey breast, I would love to just roast some chickens and be done with it.
“Why did you buy such small turkeys?”, They might ask.
Okay, no one in my family is that dumb.
There is no way I can break tradition here, so more turkey it is. Yippee.
I wasn’t able to pound the breast down as flat as it needed to be to make it easier to roll, so next time I will remove the skin first (in one piece), then butterfly each breast and pound it as flat as I can, wrapping it back up in the skin once it’s stuffed and rolled.
I love to brine meat, from chicken to pork, and I most always brine turkeys. The well-seasoned juicy factor from brining is incredible, and I can’t think of another method that can give you meat this juicy, unless Thomas Keller is in your kitchen. (Ha ha! I just read the Thomas Keller/Juicy Meat blurb again and realized how it sounds!)
This turkey breast is so loaded with flavor that I don’t know how I can match it, and I wish I could make it again for Thanksgiving. First you’ve got the salty and sweet maple brown sugar brine with bay leaves, garlic and peppercorns, seasoning it to perfection. Then you have a garlic-scallion-ancho pepper butter rub beneath and on top of the skin. The stuffing is the crème de la crème with apples, buttered and toasted pecans, and of course, the usual sauté of onions, herbs and whatever else you want to add to your ‘custom’ mirepoix. It’s not always celery, carrots and onions IF you don’t want it to be.
So what are ancho peppers? Ancho peppers are dried poblano peppers, and they taste like spicy raisins but impart such a lovely, slightly spicy/smoky undertone to dishes. You can find them in plastic packages in many supermarkets.
Now get ready to gasp. I nixed celery in my stuffing.
I almost always nix celery in stuffing, or just add a small amount.
I like celery raw and crisp just to eat out of hand, but I don’t flip over it cooked (or chopped in salads). I don’t think it adds much to dishes flavor-wise when cooked, except chicken soup..and that’s only because I’m superstitious and believe it’s part of the secret penicillin that makes you feel better.
With all that said, tied up, smothered with ancho butter, and roasted, this turkey breast is a picnic on the palate (did I really just type that?) and as juicy as a warm peach right off the tree (did I really type that too?) so all you really need is a side of rice or mashed potatoes and a vegetable.
Of course you can add as many sides as you want, and we all have our traditions and favorites. I cannot have a Thanksgiving without candied sweets (yams/sweet potatoes) with toasted marshmallows, and cannot even fathom the thought of them not being part of the meal!
As for the stuffing for this rolled turkey breast aka turkey roll, there will be extra stuffing after you roll it, but use any stuffing you like for this roast! I’m just giving you the recipe for mine because I think it’s perfect for this rolled turkey breast, even though I saturated it with chicken stock so the breast would be easier to roll; another reason why I should have kept pounding it down flatter!
Just to let you know, I’ve never wimped out on a good meat pounding, but this time my arm really hurt, so I wimped out. Ha, ha, a good meat pounding. I just can’t stop with the unintended innuendos today!
Who says ugly can’t be delicious? I’ve had ‘beautiful’ that’s flavorless or tastes like pond scum, or how I imagine pond scum would taste.
OK, here’s another GASP moment. Once again, this turkey breast is so juicy due to brining, it doesn’t need gravy, the holy grail of Thanksgiving. But, you could make a pan gravy out of the drippings with some butter, flour, white wine and/or stock, because I’m sure at least one person might protest. In fact, several did here, so I made it. They only poured it over the mashed potatoes because, like I mentioned, this turkey doesn’t need it. It’s simply tradition..like my candied sweets/yams with marshmallows.
I know I say this a lot, but I’m going to say it again and I can’t say it enough. This is one of the best stuffed turkey breasts I’ve ever had. You know when something tastes so good that no matter how full you are, you keep eating it? This is one of those.
Finally, I’m extremely disappointed that it turned out so ugly. Sloppy rolling on my part, plus, again, I should have pounded the whole breast a lot flatter before stuffing and rolling; like a MEGA lot – like super flat, as it’s supposed to be. Regardless, I’m sure yours will be pounded sufficiently and look a lot more beautiful than mine!
Ancho-Scallion Turkey Breast Roll with Apple-Butter Pecan Stuffing
If you want something smaller, use a whole chicken breast for a chicken roulade for two! Just cut the stuffing in half.
- One 3 to 3½ lb whole, boneless turkey breast with skin removed in one whole piece, wrapped and refrigerated until time to roll the breast, then butterflied and pounded to about ½-inch to 1-inch thickness.*
- 3 quarts water
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¾ cup kosher salt
- 2 Turkish bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 ancho peppers, stemmed and seeded **
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves
- 6 scallions, chopped
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons, divided 4, 4 and 2.
- 1½ cups chopped pecans
- 5 cups day old bread of your choice (I used ciabatta, crust removed), hand torn or cut into 2-inch cubes. If not a day old, oven-dry at 200 F for about an hour, after tearing or cutting into cubes.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 leek, cleaned well and chopped
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- A few leaves of fresh sage, julienned
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
- ¼ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 to 1½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring all the ingredients, except the turkey breast, to a boil in a pot on the stove..until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely, then refrigerate until cold.
- Pour brine into a pot or gallon bag and add turkey breast to cold brine. Let brine in the refrigerator 4 to 6 hours, but no more than 8!
- Remove turkey breast from brine and rinse well under cold, running water. Pat completely dry and continue with recipe.
- In a small skillet, toast the ancho chiles until they just start to blister, about 4 minutes. Place the chiles in a small bowl and pour boiling water on top of them to cover. Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
- In a food processor, combine the chiles, butter, garlic and the chopped scallions and purée until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper. Carefully loosen the turkey breast skin and rub half of the ancho-scallion butter over the breast meat. I decided not to loosen the turkey skin since I didn't want to risk tearing it. You need the skin to cover as much as the breast as possible when rolling it, so I rubbed some on the pounded breast meat before spreading the stuffing on top. Let sit until ready to stuff, roll and tie. OR, if you remove the skin in one piece to wrap around the stuffed and rolled turkey breast when ready to roast, of course you'll have no problem saturing the breast with the rub, inside-out.
- Preheat oven to 350F, or don't if you are toasting the pecans in a skillet.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and stir together with the chopped pecans until fully coated. Spread the butter coated pecans in an even layer on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake at 350° for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring them around once half way through. until pecans are toasted (you'll be able to smell them). Remove from oven, and let cool.
- Alternatively, In a pan or skillet, melt the 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add pecans and cook until toasted and fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes. Spread across sheet of foil or parchment to cool.
- Place bread cubes or pieces in a large bowl. Melt the other 4 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan and add the onions, leeks and garlic. Saute until soft. Pour on top of bread. Melt the last two tablespoons of butter in the same pan and sauté the apples until lightly browned. Add the herbs and sauté for another two minutes. Scrape it all into bowl with the bread, onions, leeks and garlic. Stir in buttered pecans.
- Stir together chicken broth or stock and cream. Warm in a pot on the stove,. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then pour over stuffing mixture in bowl. IMPORTANT - the juices from the turkey will moisten the stuffing, so if you like a really moist stuffing, add all the chicken broth-cream mixture like I did, which makes the turkey breast easier to roll. If not, add liquid until it's the consistency you prefer, and use less in the turkey.
- Let cool completely before stuffing turkey breast ( I refrigerate it for 1 hour after it cools to room temperature)..or, you can bake this stuffing on its own. Spoon into a lightly buttered baking dish, cover with buttered foil, and bake in a 350 F preheated oven for about 35 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10-15 minutes more to brown the top. Since you will have leftover stuffing, you'll need to do this anyway.
- Make sure the whole breast is butterflied and pounded flat enough that the two breast halves come together. If proving difficult, have someone really strong or your butcher do this because I had a hell of a time and never got them pounded together or as flat as I wanted, not to mention, my arm still hurts. But, I forgot to butterfly the breast prior to pounding, so that's why.
- Rub the meat with half the ancho-scallion butter, then spread about two to three cups of stuffing all over the meat...pushing it to about 1-inch from the ends of the pounded meat. Make sure you don't spread it to the past that since it will ooze out when you roll it. Some will ooze out anyway..but don't worry about it.
- From the long end..start to roll the breast. Once rolled as much as you can roll it without losing half your stuffing...grab the whole piece of skin you set aside in the fridge and wrap it carefully around the turkey roll, making sure you cover as much area as possible without tearing it. Using cotton twine, tie the skin wrapped roll at 1 to 2-inch intervals. There are various methods of doing this...like THIS and THIS, but since my stuffing was oozing and the skin wasn't covering completely, I just made simple double knot ties 2-inches apart, using about 6 pieces of long twine. To make it more secure, I also tied it vertically by taking an extra long piece of twine and weaving it through the horizontal ties on both sides....tying both ends of the twine together, tightly, on one end. Preheat oven to 400F.
- Place rolled turkey breast on a lightly oiled rack in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet covered with foil. Rub the tied roast..all over..top and bottom, lifting as you go along, with the remaining ancho - scallion butter.
- Place on the middle rack of your oven, and roast for 20 minutes, or until it starts to brown. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and roast for another 35 to 40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 155 degrees F in the middle. If not stuffing the breast...roast until the thickest part of the breast registers 145 degrees F.
- Let rolled breast sit for 20 minutes before slicing..then slice into about ½ to 1-inch slices and arrange on a platter. Enjoy!
**Ancho chiles are fully ripened, dried Poblano chiles. They can be found in small cellophane bags in most supermarkets.
Now to Superstorm Sandy, originally dubbed ‘Frankenstorm’. By now you know the devastation it caused throughout the Northeast. We were lucky since we’re up on the Palisades, so the water couldn’t touch us, but it was scary. Branches and god knows what else were slamming against the side of my house hard and fast, and there were even points where I could feel the whole house shake, like it was going to be lifted off its foundation. I kept waiting for a tree to come through the roof, but thankfully, none did.
We were also lucky that we didn’t lose power. We had sporadic power losses, but by midnight, our power stayed on for good. The other side of my town lost power for almost two weeks.
However, the devastation around me and down the shore was of a magnitude I still can’t believe and it’s heartbreaking. Two friends did have trees smash down on their roofs and the sides of their houses, and in the weeks since the hurricane (well, super storm), I’m still hearing of acquaintances whose houses were destroyed or battered to the point of being unlivable, especially those who live on the Jersey Shore.
Speaking of the Jersey Shore, my heart is broken. Seaside Heights, the place where my Bad Boy First Love Story began and spanned, and the place of so many wonderful memories, is gone as I knew it. Yes they will rebuild, but for those of us who grew up spending summers (well, August for me) at the shore..it will never be the same. Most of Seaside was built before I was born, including the over 100-year-old carousel on the Casino Pier, which is gone forever.
At the top of this page in the right sidebar, I’ve provided a link to donate money to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy via the Red Cross. Here are some other places you can donate to..
Donations will be needed for a long, long time, so I urge you to give what you can. Any amount of money will help.
Speaking of the Jersey Shore, several people read my last draft of the last part of Bad Boy First Love and all agreed everything was squished together in short spurts to try to end it. “Needs more details” was the general consensus. SO, I’m adding more details, and there’s a good possibility the ‘end’ will come in two parts, so part 18 may not be the very last (Oy vey, right?) I will have part 18 up early next week at the latest. Thanks so much for your patience and understanding.
Finally, thank to Audax for a great Daring Cooks challenge (Sorry it’s 4 days late!). To see the recipes and read about methods of brining meats and vegetables, along with charts. click HERE.