My first Friendsgiving
There are times when roasting a whole turkey doesn’t make sense. A perfect example is when you only have a few people coming to dinner, or you only have a few people who like turkey. The latter reason is so hard for me to comprehend! I live for Thanksgiving, and making a beautiful big bird is what I look forward to doing. However, this year, I found myself making a Friendsgiving for a small group whose traditional turkey day means eating ham.
At first, I fought against it. No way was I going to serve ham for my Thanksgiving dinner. After I calmed down, I realized that Friendsgiving is all about bringing a multitude of traditions and cultures together. I conceded to baking a ham. However, that didn’t mean that I had to abandon my tradition of turkey. It just meant downsizing.
Secret to a juicy, flavorful turkey breast
I have been using this recipe for years. As I mentioned, I love turkey, and a turkey breast makes a great Sunday dinner with leftovers for another meal or two. The challenge with roasting a turkey breast is keeping it moist and flavorful. This recipe is a fool-proof way to keep the meat juicy with delectable apple and citrus notes.
The secret is the apple cider brine. Now, please note — I don’t bring a whole turkey. It’s way too much effort, and frankly, it’s not necessary if roasted correctly. However, the brine does make a huge difference for a breast, which is all-white meat. I’m not an apple cider fan as a beverage, but WOW, does it ever produce a fabulous flavor when used as a brine. Rounding out the apple cider is an orange and a couple of handfuls of fresh herbs.
Kitchen hack #1 – herbs
I believe the fresh herbs are worth the expense and effort, especially for Thanksgiving. However, I’ve been making this recipe for years, and I’ve made it as many times with dried herbs as fresh herbs with no complaints. To substitute dried for fresh, use one teaspoon of each herb. There is no need for exact measurements for brine; you can eyeball it. Also, feel free to mix up the herbs based on what you have. Rosemary, oregano, and basil also add a great dimension.
Making the brine is a breeze, but it needs to cool before adding the turkey — about 20-30 minutes. I like making the brine the night before and letting the breast soak for 12-24 hours, but you can get away with 4 hours if needed. I brine the turkey in a ziplocked bag, but you can use a bowl or a pan. I find that a ziplocked bag takes up less space in the fridge.
Kitchen Hack #2 – Ziplocked bag
I HAVE AN EASY HACK when I’m short on fridge space, which happens during the holidays. Use a reliable cooler packed with ice to brine the bird. My definition of a reliable cooler is one in which the ice stays frozen for at least 8 hours. Check the cooler every 6 hours or so, and if necessary, add fresh ice.
Kitchen Hack #3 – Saving fridge space
When you’re ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Rub the skin with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
The 8-pound turkey breast takes approximately 2 hours to roast in a 325ºF oven. Another hack I use is lining a rimmed baking pan with foil. I placed the orange slices and herbs from the brine on top of the foil. Place a wire rack inside the pan to place the turkey breast. If the turkey skin starts getting too brown, cover with foil. While a good rule of thumb is 15 minutes per pound, this is not a substitute for a meat thermometer. Undercooked poultry is BAD! It causes food poisoning. While true chefs will gasp at this, I like using the pop-up thermometers that you can buy at the grocery store. The downside is that the error on the side of overcooking.
A digital thermometer is a worthwhile investment and gives quick, accurate readings. The textbook internal temperature is 165˚. Many cooks will take the roast out when it reaches 160˚, cover it with foil, knowing the internal temp will get to 165˚ while it rests.
Let the breast rest for a least 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
Apple Cider Turkey BreastCourse: MainCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
4 – 24Hours
This easy orange and herb-infused Apple Cider Turkey Breast is perfect for smaller Thanksgiving gatherings or when served along with ham or seafood at holiday events.
1 quart apple cider
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 sprigs of fresh sage
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 large shallot or small onion, quartered
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 orange, sliced
7 – 8 pounds fresh or thawed turkey breast
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
- Prep: Quarter onion, crush garlic, and slice orange.
- Heat the apple cider, sugar, salt, herbs, onion, garlic, and orange slices in a saucepot to dissolve sugar and salt then cool completely. Place turkey in 2.5-gallon plastic bag and add brine. Let rest several hours, preferably overnight.
- Set turkey on a metal rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet and pre-heat oven to 325ºF. Remove turkey from the brine and pat dry. Rub skin with oil and season with ground pepper. Roast 15 minutes per pound until the internal temperature reaches 165˚ on a meat thermometer. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
- Herbs: If fresh herbs are not available, substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs
- A meat thermometer is essential for cooking turkey! Don’t guess.