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It’s Thanksgiving Week! Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy

You didn’t think I’d leave ya hanging for Thanksgiving, did ya? I’d never do a thing like that! I figured it wouldn’t do you very much good if I waited until the day after Thanksgiving to share all of the delicious things I ate, so I’ve decided to officially declare this Thanksgiving Week on The Gourmand Mom.

We’ll start with the basics; turkey and gravy; and go from there. We’ll work our way through a fantastic Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel. Our mouths will water over some homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce. Then we’ll take a look back at my favorite stuffing recipe and a few other previously posted dishes which would make perfect additions to any Thanksgiving table. After that, we’ll try out a new doughy dinner rolls recipe I’ve got my eyes on. Finally, we’ll move on to the desserts; my mom’s Pumpkin Coconut Pie and my favorite Chocolate Pecan Pie. After that, well, we’ll just have to see where it goes from there.

Today, we’re starting with the turkey. I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret. I haven’t roasted a whole turkey in years. For the past fews years, I’ve been roasting a bone-in whole turkey breast separate from the drumsticks. Some people may claim that this is Thanksgiving culinary sacrilege. I claim that it produces the best end result. Here’s the deal… when you cook the turkey whole, you’re forced to continue cooking that big ole turkey until the slowest cooking parts come up to a safe temperature. In the mean time, this often results in overcooking and drying out the faster cooking breast. And who likes dried out turkey breast?? Not me!

By cooking the turkey breast separate from the drumsticks, you can cook each part to perfection. The roasted turkey breast continues to make a stunning presentation on the Thanksgiving table.  Serve it with roasted drumsticks on the side and you’ll hardly notice the difference. Besides, how long does everyone really sit and gaze at the whole turkey before it gets carved and served anyway? The roasted turkey breast is big, golden brown, and perfectly moist. Your guests will have nothing to complain about.

Because the turkey breast is smaller, it will require less cooking time. Furthermore, the smaller size is easier to handle overall. So, my recommendation is to cook a large turkey breast separate from the drumsticks. My grocery store carries whole turkey breasts right alongside the whole turkeys. One large turkey breast should serve at least 6-8 people with some leftovers. If you’re serving a large crowd, buy two. For dark meat lovers, grab a couple drumsticks. Go crazy. Buy more than two. Then roast (or braise) the drumsticks separately and serve with your perfectly roasted turkey breast.

There are many creative recipes out there for turkey. Food Network is consistently a wonderful source for turkey recipes and other Thanksgiving menu ideas. Today, we’re sticking with a basic herb-roasted preparation. We’ll rub the turkey with an herbed butter, then begin by roasting at a high temperature to achieve a nice brown color on the skin while searing the exterior to lock in the juices. Then, we’ll lower the heat and let the turkey finish cooking to perfection. As the turkey cooks, delicious juices will collect on the bottom of the roasting pan. We’ll enrich the flavor of those juices by placing a few aromatics, in the form of celery, carrots, and onions, in the bottom of the roasting pan. While the turkey is resting, we’ll be able to turn those juices and a bit of chicken stock into a simple and delicious pan-gravy.

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1 6-7 pound Turkey Breast (bone in)
  • 1/2 stick Butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Rosemary
  • 3/4 cup Carrots, coarse chopped
  • 1 Onion, quartered
  • 3/4 cup Celery, coarse chopped
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock

Directions

The night before, remove the turkey breast from it’s packaging. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and sit, uncovered in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the butter, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Rub the herbed butter all over the turkey. Working from the edges, try to loosen the skin and rub some of the butter directly onto the turkey breast. In the bottom of the roasting pan, scatter the carrots, celery, and onion. Add the chicken stock to the bottom of the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. The skin should take on a nice golden browned color. Baste the turkey with the pan juices. Then, lower the heat to 325 degrees. Periodically, baste the turkey with the juices from the bottom of the pan. (If the bottom of the pan becomes too dry during cooking, add a little more stock.) Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Use an instant read meat thermometer, inserted into a deep part of the breast, to check the temperature. A 7 pound turkey will take approximately 2 hours at 325 degrees, after the initial 25 minutes at 475 degrees. When the turkey is cooked, remove the pan from the oven. Loosely cover the turkey with foil and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the gravy and side dishes.

Serves about 6-8, generously

Turkey Pan Gravy

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • Drippings from Turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock (approximately)

Directions

Pour out the turkey juices from the roasting pan. Strain to remove the vegetables. Allow the juices to sit for a few minutes. The fat will rise to the top. Pour off the fat and reserve the remaining juices. Add chicken stock to the juices to make a total of 2 cups liquid. In a saucepan, combine the butter and flour over medium heat, whisking continuously. Cook for a minute or two. Then, whisk in the turkey juice/chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.Cook for 2-3 minutes until the gravy begins to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.

Makes 2 cups

Now, if you’ve just got to create that beautiful, Norman Rockwell style, picture-perfect bird, here are a few tips for handling that whole turkey:

  • Do not stuff your turkey. Stuffing your turkey presents a food safety and moist turkey challenge. Since the stuffing is in contact with the raw turkey, it will need to reach a temperature of 165 degrees to be safe. In order to reach this safe temperature, you’ll often end up cooking the turkey longer than necessary. Instead, bake your stuffing separately and throw a few herbs and aromatics into the turkey cavity; celery, onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, rosemary, etc.
  • Allow your turkey to sit uncovered in the fridge overnight before roasting. This will help to produce a crispier skin.
  • Start your turkey at a high temperature (475 – 500 degrees) for the first 20-30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 or 350 degrees to finish cooking.
  • Don’t bother with that flipping the turkey technique you may have seen. In my opinion, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  • To brine or not to brine? Brining your turkey in a solution of salt, water, and other seasonings is said to produce a juicier and more flavorful turkey. There are people who swear by brining to produce the best turkey. I’m not one of those people. I’ve brined and I’ve not brined. In my opinion, the difference is minimal. But if you’ve got the time  and space to do it, go for it. Click here for a useful resource on brining.
  • Loosely tenting the turkey with foil during cooking can help to prevent over-browning and keep the turkey moist. Be sure to remove the foil during the last 45 minutes to achieve a nicely browned skin.
  • To be safe, all parts of your turkey should register 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Some resources list 180 degrees as the minimal temperature. The USDA recommends 165 degrees as measured in the  innermost part of the thigh and wing and the deepest part of the breast.
  • Let your turkey rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. This is a good time to make the gravy and finish reheating your side dishes.
  • After dinner, throw the whole turkey carcass into a large pit of simmering water. Follow my procedure for chicken soup to make a tasty turkey soup. Click here for my chicken soup procedure.

A few excellent resources for turkey info:

FDA – Let’s Talk Turkey

Food Network – Top Ten Turkey Tips

Food Network – Turkey Recipes and Turkey Calculator

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Thanksgiving in June

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If we’re going to celebrate Christmas in July, then we’d better have Thanksgiving in June. But, don’t worry. I have no intention ofspending all day in a hot kitchen on a smoldering summer day. Tonight’s meal will have all of the flavor and satisfaction of a Thanksgiving feast, but we’re going to keep the ingredient list short, the preparation simple, and serve it up open-faced sandwich style.

Let’s talk turkey… Thanksgiving day is the only day of the year when I’ll even think about dealing with a whole turkey.  And even on Thanksgiving, I’ve been cooking the breasts separate from the drumsticks for the past few years. (I’ll explain in November.) For turkey on any other day of the year, I use boneless, skinless turkey breasts or turkey tenderloins. They’re lighter, cook faster, and will work perfectly for our open-faced Thanksgiving sandwiches.

Let’s gab gravy? As far as the gravy goes, I’d normally incorporate the turkey drippings for a flavorful sauce. But, the tenderloins I’m using today are so lean that they’re not going to generate much in terms of drippings.  So, to capture some of the turkey essence in the gravy, I’m searing the turkey, then baking it in the oven in a bit of chicken stock. Then we’ll combine the turkey-infused chicken stock from the pan with a bit more chicken stock and thicken it with a simple flour-butter roux to make a full-flavored pan gravy.

Let’s speak stuffing… (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.) For the stuffing, we’re using a slightly simplified incarnation of my traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. I’ve been cooking some version of this sausage and apple stuffing for the past few years. I love it.  The original idea comes from a recipe I found on the Food Network website (click here for the original recipe), but I’ve cut down on the spices for simplicity and because I think there’s enough flavor in the sausage, apples, and leeks. I can’t get enough of this stuffing. It’s quick, incredibly flavorful, and delicious! The key is to not add too much chicken stock. You want the stuffing to be moist, but not mushy. Add the stock slowly and stop as soon as it just starts to get sticky. You should end up with a stuffing that is moist, but bakes with a firm crust.

For the mashed potatoes, I’m using leftover Roasted Garlic Smashed Red Potatoes from last night’s dinner. I’ll include the recipe below. Regular mashed potatoes, sans roasted garlic, would work wonderfully too!

What Thanksgiving meal is complete without cranberry sauce?? You probably won’t find cranberries in the produce section during this time of year, but most supermarkets will carry them in the frozen foods section.  You can easily makes your own cranberry sauce with a bag of fresh, frozen cranberries, a bunch of sugar, and a little water or orange juice.  But, tonight I’m using canned, jellied cranberry sauce.  I can’t help it.  I love the stuff…especially the smooth end piece that has the mark of the can on it.  As a child, I remember calling dibs on that end slice and panicking that someone would get to it before I could. Ok, so the jellied stuff is completely loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Don’t eat it everyday. But it’s tasty and spreads beautifully, making it perfect for this sandwich!

Keep your grubby paws off of my slice!

All of the sandwich components can be prepared ahead of time, refrigerated and then reheated in the microwave when you’re ready to eat!

Let’s get cooking…

Thanksgiving in June

Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches

Open-Faced Thanksgiving Sandwich

Roast Turkey Tenderloins

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Turkey Tenderloins (approximately 4 tenderloins)*
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3/4 cup Chicken Stock

*You can substitute 2 boneless, skinless turkey breasts.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, in a pan large enough to fit the tenderloins. Lightly season the tenderloins with a bit of salt and pepper and place them in the pan. Cook for a minute or so on each side to sear the meat. Pour chicken stock into the pan. Most of the turkey should not be covered by the stock. Place the pan in the oven* and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the turkey is completely cooked. (An instant-read meat thermometer should read 165 degrees.) Remove the tenderloins. Keep the liquid in the pan for the gravy. When the tenderloins are cool enough to handle, cut into thin slices.

*If you do not have an oven-proof pan, you will need to transfer the seared tenderloins into a baking dish before adding the stock and baking.

Turkey Pan Gravy

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • Liquid Remaining from the turkey pan (should be about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
  • Salt and Pepper, if desired

Directions

Make a roux by melting 2 Tbsp butter in a small pan. Add the flour. Whisk to combine. Continue whisking over medium heat for a few minutes to cook off the raw-flour taste. You should have a pale off-white pasty mixture. Set the roux aside. (See my guide for making a roux, here.)

Add 1/2 cup chicken stock to the liquid in the turkey pan. (You should have about a cup of liquid altogether.) Bring to a simmer. Add about half of the roux and whisk vigorously until smooth. Continue simmering for a few minutes over medium heat until the gravy begins to thicken. For a thicker gravy, add more roux and simmer for a few more minutes. If the gravy becomes too thick, add a bit more stock. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if desired.

Roasted Garlic Smashed Red Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound bag of Baby Red Potatoes
  • 4 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 head Roasted Garlic*
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Milk
  • Salt and Pepper

*To see my guide for roasting garlic, click here.

Directions

Cut the potatoes in half or quarters, depending on size. Place in a pot and fill with cool water, just enough to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes or until a fork inserts easily. Drain. Return potatoes to the pot. Add butter and roasted garlic. Smash the potatoes, butter, and garlic to your desired smoothness. Mix in the milk. Start by adding 1/4 cup. Add more if desired, for creamier potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound Bulk Breakfast Sausage
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup Leeks, finely sliced (about 1 large leeks)*
  • 4 cups herb-seasoned bread cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • Salt and Pepper, if desired

*To see my photo guide on leeks, click here.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a pan, cook the sausage until fully cooked, about 8-10 minutes. As it cooks, use a spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces. Remove the cooked sausage and place it in a large bowl. In the same pan (no need to clean it out) melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the apples and leeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add them to the bowl with the sausage. Add bread cubes. Stir to combine. Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring between additions to give the bread a chance to absorb the stock. Continue adding stock until the stuffing is moistened but not mushy. Most of the bread cubes should still appear as cubes. (1 1/2 cups of stock should be about right, but add a little less or a little more, as needed to get the right consistency.) Place the stuffing in a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes, until heated through and the top feels firm.

To compose the sandwich:

You’ll need 4 large slices of bread. You can use any type of bread, but something thick and doughy, like rye or sourdough will work best. I used a big slice of Pain de Campagne. Spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce on each slice of bread.  Top with a scoop of mashed potatoes and a scoop of stuffing. Cover with slices of turkey. Pour a bit of gravy over the turkey. Serve hot, with creamed spinach or your favorite Thanksgiving vegetable.

Serves 4

Happy Thanksgiving in June! I’m thankful for all of you!

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