Now for the dramatic part: this turkey breast is, hands down, the juiciest, moistest piece of meat I have ever eaten. EVER. But really. It is. Thanks to the brining process. I’ll get to that in a minute…
Prior to a couple years ago, the idea of roasting a turkey scared the hell out of me. I found it incredibly intimidating. I was thankful that I had never been asked to host Thanksgiving…that is, until last Thanksgiving. You may remember me talking about that conquest here. I served 15 people Thanksgiving dinner, and somehow, by some miracle, managed to pull it off without any major issues! Turkey included! My mom totally helped me pull it off, but still! It felt like such an accomplishment. Plus, getting to hold onto the majority of the leftovers was glorious. The perks of hosting!
The year before last, Dan and I started the tradition of having our own Thanksgiving dinner. Just the two of us. Two people did not require a full bird to be roasted. A turkey breast met our needs (and then some) perfectly. I was, however, nervous about roasting something that only had white meat. Drying it out was my biggest fear. I had heard of the magic of brining, and began researching my options. After roasting a few turkey breasts since then, and tweaking and adjusting the brine recipe just so, I finally developed my perfect brine. The brine recipe listed below is a basic one that could be used on a number of things: turkey breast, a whole turkey, chicken in any form, and even pork. I’ve brined pork chops in the past, too, with wonderful results. Basically, any meat that can potentially dry out on you can benefit from being brined before cooking. It’s a fool-proof method to cooking meat, and it takes the stress out of cooking that Thanksgiving main dish completely.
The one thing about brine is that it does require a little forethought and planning. You need to have your bird completely defrosted before brining can begin, which can take a couple days depending on the size of your turkey. The actual brining process can take up to a full day, so plan accordingly! The results are SO WORTH IT.
Once I had my brine recipe perfected, I needed to figure out how I wanted the turkey to be flavored and what components I wanted in the gravy. It couldn’t just be standard turkey and gravy after all. This was our special twist on Thanksgiving! I went with a traditional butter rub for the turkey itself and turned up the volume with one ingredient: truffle. It added a luxurious element to the meal without being overpowering in any way. It was a subtle but delish addition to a traditional roast turkey.
I echoed the truffle in the gravy. Along with a healthy glug (or five) of white wine. The gravy came out fabulous. It had the tang of white wine and the earthiness of truffle running through it, but it still tasted like turkey gravy. Which is exactly what I wanted. Tradition with a tiny twist.
This turned out to be our perfect Thanksgiving turkey. I made this meal last week so that I could share it with you all. Any excuse to have turkey and gravy, am I right? I mean it when I say that the turkey breast was the juiciest, most tender piece of meat…it practically cut with a fork! We’ve been working our way through the leftovers this past week, and even after the microwave treatment, the turkey is still super moist, tender, and juicy. And SO flavorful.
So, this Thanksgiving, set aside that extra time to try out a brine. You won’t be disappointed, I promise. It makes all the difference.
Brined & Roasted Turkey Breast with White Wine-Truffle Gravy (makes 6 servings)
For the Brine:
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup light brown sugar
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sliced fresh ginger (can leave unpeeled)
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 large onion, quartered
1 bunch of fresh sage, bundled
8 cups ice water
For the Turkey:
1 whole bone-in turkey breast (6-7 lb), defrosted
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped sage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons softened black truffle butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup dry white wine
For the Gravy:
1 shallot, sliced
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup of chicken or turkey stock, divided
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons black truffle butter
Black truffle oil, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Brine:
The day before you are going to eat the turkey, combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, ginger, allspice, onion, and sage in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat once the salt and sugar have dissolved and cool to room temperature. Keep in the fridge until ready to brine the turkey.
At least 8 hours before you are ready to roast the turkey (and up to 24 hours before), combine the chilled brine with the ice water in a large pot and place the thawed turkey breast in the mixture. Ensure that the entire turkey breast is submerged in the brine. Cover and refrigerate the pot for 8-24 hours (if it’s cold enough outside, you could also place it in a garage to save the fridge space).
For the Turkey:
A couple hours before you are ready to roast, remove the turkey breast from the brine and rinse thoroughly under cool water. Discard the brine. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and place on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours. This allows the turkey to dry enough to achieve a crispy and brown skin during the roasting process.
Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, butter, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently and spread half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Sprinkle the outside with more salt and pepper. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan. Place the turkey in the oven and immediately decrease the temperature to 325°F. The high temperature will help to crisp and brown the skin, but you don’t want to roast the meat at that high of a temperature for the whole time.
Roast the turkey for 1.5-2 hours, until the skin is crisped and brown and the internal temperature registers 160°F when inserted into the thickest areas of the breast (the temperature will increase to 165°F while the turkey is resting). When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
For the Gravy:
Drain the drippings out of the roasting pan, reserving a couple tablespoons in the pan. Place the pan over two burners and heat over medium. Add the shallot and stir, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. After a minute or so, deglaze the pan with the wine, continuing to scrape the bottom. Cook until most of the wine is evaporated and then whisk in ¾ cup of the stock. Fish out the shallots and discard. Bring the mixture in the pan to a simmer.
Meanwhile, whisk the remaining stock with the cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk into the gravy. Continue to simmer the gravy until thickened and smooth. Just before serving, whisk in the truffle butter and oil until smooth and check for seasonings.