November 02, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Roast Turkey Breast, Potatoes and Gravy, Stuffing.

Juli and I both love turkey.  We love this time of year because it's easy to find good turkeys, and because it's cool enough that roasting a turkey results in a warm kitchen, not a too-hot-to-stand house.  So, as autumn has arrived, we've been looking forward to making our first turkey of the season.  On Sunday, that time came.  I suppose one might regard it as sort of a pre-Thanksgiving, because we sure were thankful for the bountiful meal.

Instead of a full turkey, I prepared a turkey breast.  I mixed together fresh rosemary, orange zest and some other seasonings with softened butter and applesauce, loosened the skin over the breast meat, spooned the butter mixture under the skin, and then pressed on the skin to spread the butter mixture around.   After spreading a bit more of the seasoned butter over the skin, I pierced an orange several times and stuck it into the breast cavity.   Next I cut up some onions, apples, celery and carrots and put them in the roaster, then put a V-rack in the roaster and the turkey in the rack.   After not quite two hours in the oven, the turkey breast was ready.

It turned out great.  The skin was perfectly crisped, the meat was flavorful and moist, and the butter, seasonings and fruit and vegetable juices combined with the drippings from the turkey to make the base of a really tasty gravy.  I should note that Juli made the gravy.   She's got a knack for making gravy that I haven't yet been able to match.  She doesn't think she does anything special with it; all I know is that she does a consistently great job with gravy.  The results are almost invariably rich, flavorful and smooth, with exactly the right texture.

Along with the turkey, I made up a batch of cranberry sauce and some stuffing, as well as heating up some frozen peas and dinner rolls and reheating the Mashed Potato Casserole we'd made to go along with Saturday's steak dinner.   I must say, the casserole was much more impressive the second night, warmed up and topped with Juli's turkey gravy. 

The cranberry sauce came from one of our favorite blogs, Closet Cooking.  Kevin lives in Toronto, and his blog features lots of great recipes and beautiful food photography.  You can check it out here.  As I was planning this meal, I recalled one of the recipes I'd seen on Kevin's blog recently:  Gingered Cranberry Sauce.  Fresh cranberries are cooked up with grated ginger, orange juice and sugar.   Given my love of ginger and that I'd already planned to include a citrus element in the turkey seasonings, I couldn't pass it up... and I'm glad I didn't!  It was delicious.   I think we'll be making this one as part of our contribution to Thanksgiving at Juli's folks' place this year, though I think I'll probably dial down the ginger a bit, as not everyone likes it quite as much as we do. 

You can see Kevin's recipe here.  And if you aren't a regular to the blog, check out the rest of the recipes while you're there.  You'll be glad you did.

I hadn't originally planned to make stuffing with Sunday's dinner, but Juli requiested it, and it wasn't too difficult to add it to the table.  All I did was make up  two boxes of store-bought turkey stovetop stuffing mix, tossing in a cup of fresh, chopped cranberries, a half-cup of applesauce and two tablespoons of crushed pecans.  It turned out great, and really helped make the meal.  Plus, it made for great leftovers.  I prepared six servings of sliced turkey topped with cranberry sauce, stuffing topped with turkey gravy and some peas.  Juli and I had that for lunch on Monday, and I froze the rest so we can revisit the meal down the road when we're in the mood for a hearty lunch.

For bread, I turned to our go-to brand of toss-in-the-oven dinner rolls, Sister Schubert's Dinner Yeast Rolls.  You can pick them up in the frozen section of Wal-Mart.  They're fast and tasty, and highly recommended.

Below is the recipe I used in preparing the turkey breast.  Sunday was my first time preparing turkey this way, but since it turned out great, I don't think it will be the last.

Roasted Turkey Breast with Apple, Orange and Rosemary

yield = approx. 8 servings

1       Orange
4       tablespoons of butter, softened
1       tablespoon applesauce
1       tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2    teaspoon paprika
1/2    teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2    teaspoon salt
1       bone-in whole turkey breast (thawed, if frozen)
2       tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2       carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2       stalks celery, halved
2       large onions, peeled and cut into thick slices

Pan Gravy:

chicken broth (as needed)
chicken soup base (as needed)
cornstarch (as needed)
salt and pepper (to taste)

Grate 1 teaspoon of zest off the orange.  Set the orange aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix butter, applesauce, rosemary, garlic, orange zest, paprika, black pepper and salt in a small bowl. 

Loosen the skin on both sides of the turkey breast by sliding your hands between the skin and the meat, being careful to not tear the skin.   Set aside 1 teaspoon of the butter mixture.  Use a spoon to push half of the rest of the butter mixture under the skin on each side of the turkey breast.  Using your hands, rub the turkey skin around to spread the butter mixture evenly over the turkey breast meat.  Spread the reseved teaspoon of butter mixture over the skin of the turkey.

Pierce the partly-zested orange several times with a fork and place it within the breast cavity.

Place the sliced apples, carrots, celery and onions in a roasting pan.  Spray a V-rack with nonstick cooking spray and place it in the roaster, then place the turkey breast on the rack.

Roast the turkey in the oven until a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees.   Remove the roaster from the oven, lift out the V-rack to set the turkey aside atop some foil and loosely cover it with more foil.  Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before slicing. 

Meanwhile, strain the liquid in the roaster into a large measuring cup.  If you have less than 3 cups of juice, add enough chicken broth to bring the amount of liquid to about 3 cups.   If you end up adding more than 1/2 cup of broth, add 1 tbsp of chicken soup base per cup of broth. 

Heat the juices and broth in a large saucepan or small skillet over medium heat.  Heat until simmering, stirring often. 

Dissolve 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch in an equal amount of cold water.  Stir in a bit of the cornstarch mixture (about 1 tsp at a time) until the gravy thickens to the desired texture.  Make sure to keep stirring the gravy almost constantly in order to avoid lumps.   Cook until bubbling.

Taste the gravy, add salt and/or pepper if desired, and serve. 

This gravy is great atop the turkey, potatoes or stuffing.

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