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Slow-Roasted Herbed Turkey Breast

Updated June 03, 2016
This image courtesy of Quentin Bacon

As much as I enjoy roasting a whole turkey, there are occasions when I crave the taste of roast turkey but don’t want to bother with the whole bird. Fortunately, a single boneless turkey breast becomes a wonderful little roast, ideal for a small dinner party or a relaxed family supper. I will sometimes make this when there are only 2 or 3 of us at the table, knowing that I can look forward to superb turkey sandwiches later in the week. A single breast weighs between 2 and 3 pounds. For this recipe, you want one with the skin on, but no bones. This gives you a compact roast that will have a handsome, browned exterior and be a cinch to carve. There are two keys to keeping the turkey breast moist and flavorful. First, the turkey gets rubbed with an herb paste ahead of time, so the salt and seasonings can work into the meat. I use a full complement of herbs—sage, rosemary, and thyme—but you could certainly create your own combinations based on what’s growing on the windowsill or sitting in your refrigerator. Then you want to sear the breast in a skillet before roasting it in a low oven, where it can cook through without drying out. I like to serve this with roasted potatoes and something green, like string beans or a salad. The meat is so moist that it doesn’t need gravy. Trust me.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Time1 min

Cooking MethodRoasting

CostModerate

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Halal, Kosher, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free

MealDinner

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 boneless turkey breast half (about 2½ pounds), with skin

Instructions

  1. Make the Herb Paste: Combine the garlic and salt in a mortar and pound until you have a smooth paste. (If you don’t have a mortar, make the paste using a chefs knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, herbs, pepper, and celery seeds.

  2. Season and tie the turkey breast: Smear the turkey breast all over with the herb paste, using your fingers to slide some of the paste under the skin, being careful not to loosen the skin completely. Using your hands, arrange the turkey breast in a neat shape, tucking the edges under so the breast sits plumply on the cutting board. Now tie the breast, using 2 to 3 loops of kitchen string to secure it in a cylindrical shape and looping a longer string from end to end to keep the roast compact. Place the roast on a wire rack on a baking sheet or tray and refrigerate, preferably uncovered, for 6 to 24 hours. Let the roast sit at room temperature for about an hour before roasting.

  3. Heat the oven: Position a rack near the center of the oven and heat to 300 degrees (275 degrees convection).

  4. Sear the turkey: Heat a large skillet (11 to 12 inches) over medium-high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon oil and heat until the oil shimmers. Sear the turkey skin side down, maneuvering it and turning it from side to side with tongs so the skin side sears evenly, about 6 minutes. Turn the turkey skin side up and brown lightly on the bottom, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the turkey, skin side up, to a shallow roasting pan or baking dish not much larger than it is (about 8 by 12 inches).

  5. Roast: Slide the turkey into the oven and roast until the juices run mostly clear with a trace of pink and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers about 165 degrees, 1½ to 1¾ hours. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes.

  6. Carve and Serve: Remove the strings and carve the turkey across the grain into ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices. There will be few, if any, pan drippings (because of the preseasoning and slow cooking), but if there are a few, drizzle these over the meat.

Notes

  1. Method: Combination sear and low heat.

  2. Plan Ahead: The turkey needs to be rubbed with an herb paste 6 to 24 hours before roasting.

  3. Wine: One of the most versatile of all wine pairings-anything from fruity dry and off-dry whites, such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and Pinot Gris, to lighter reds, such as a young vintage of Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.

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