Here’s an speedy approach to preparing a home-cooked turkey for Thanksgiving for a small group. Everyone likes a home-cooked meal but who wants the all the work. This recipe is simplifies things quite a bit. The secret is use only the turkey breast, de-bone it and fill it with a savory Leek and Spinach Stuffing. This speeds up the cooking time and my turkey breast was cooked in just over one hour. It was tender and flavorful. The leek and spinach stuffing adds a different twist to the entree. Plus, you will really “wow” your guests and family when you carve the de-boned breast. Don’t tell them. Just slice the breast at table and see their reactions. We’ve had some good times with this! It really isn’t difficult to de-bone a turkey. Here’s what we did.
De-bone a Turkey?
I think everyone likes to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. The person who gets to cook the turkey is the hero, but often he or she winds up spending alot of the day in the kitchen. And cooking a whole turkey isn’t that easy. The lean breast meat can turn out dry or alternately the thighs and legs might be under-cooked. And whether you soak the turkey in a brine, marinate the turkey, cook in a roaster or fry it — this can be a time consuming and challenging project, especially getting things timed just right for the big feast.We discovered a technique some years ago which involves de-boning the entire turkey and filling the cavity with a stuffing. The turkey cooks quickly and evenly. If you are somewhat skeptical about de-boning a turkey, it does work. We’re not completely crazy. The technique is to use a sharp, small knife and start at the back bone at the tail end of the turkey, cut away the rib cage meat, break the joint of the thigh and then carefully cut around the breast bone. Stuff the turkey and tie shut the neck and breast openings. This also works with a chicken and we made a wonder Chinese dish called “Eight Jewel Chicken” with a de-boned chicken. So, we practiced on alot of chickens before progressing to a turkey.
An even quicker method is to purchase just a turkey breast and de-bone it. This five pound breast is about the right amount to feed six people — a small group. And it cooked in one hour and 15 minutes. Leave it alone while it roasts — no need to keep checking on it — and enjoy the day.
My husband gets the job of de-boning the turkey. Start along the back bone and gently cut the meat and tendons away from the ribs. Carefully cut out the breastbone. Remove the tendons. The breast will be flat as a pancake, but once you add the stuffing it will retain it’s original shape.
While the breast roasts, take the rib cage carcass, add an onion, celery, carrot and the tops of the leeks and and water to cover the turkey bones to make a flavorful turkey stock. Yes, do two things at once! The aromatic broth makes a great soup the next day — such as Turkey Noodle Soup. Or I will freeze this broth for a couple of weeks and thaw it out to make a flavorful gumbo around Christmas time. (See upcoming post on Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.)
Leek and Spinach Stuffing
While my husband de-boned the turkey breast, I made the leek and spinach stuffing (which really is the best part of the entree). I love cornbread stuffing, but sometimes it is time to try something new. My original turkey recipe used a stuffing of leeks, spinach and veal. I’m omitting the veal and adding succulent raisins soaked in wine. Yum.
Place in roasting pan and surround with sweet potato and russet potato chunks. Rub butter, mashed garlic and Cajun spices on the turkey. I added olive oil and salt to the potatoes. The potatoes, cut into chunks, cook in the same amount of time as the turkey breast. Another way to save both time and pots and pans!Roast, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Check and cook 15 minutes longer if needed. It is essential to use a thermometer so you know when the breast is properly cooked. Remove from the oven when the temperature reaches 160 degrees. The temperature should continue to rise to 180 degrees after the breast is removed from the oven. This little chef’s thermometer is a great kitchen gadget and everyone should have one. When inserted into the breast, it quickly rises to the temperature of the food so it becomes easy to tell exactly when the breast is cooked to just the right temperature.
This turkey breast is tender and succulent. Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner this year without the fuss! We cooked this turkey breast a few days early — for our anniversary. Another celebration.
Roast Turkey Breast with Leek & Spinach Stuffing
- 5 lb bone-in turkey breast, defrosted
- 4 Tbsp butter, divided
- 1/2 cup cooking wine
- 1/2 cup golden raisins, with additional for garnish
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only (about 2 cups)
- 1 medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 4 large garlic cloves, mashed, divided
- 8 oz fresh baby leaf spinach, sorted and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp Italian parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning mix (see below)
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
- 4 small russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 4 cups)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
Method and Steps:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- De-bone the turkey breast. Using a small sharp knife, start along the back bone and gently cut the meat and tendons away from the ribs. Carefully cut out the breastbone. Remove the tendons. The breast will be flat as a pancake, but once the stuffing is added it will retain it’s original shape. Set aside.
- Add cooking wine to golden raisins in small bowl and set aside to soak.
- Make the stuffing. In large pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add leeks, onion, celery and 2 garlic cloves. Bring to medium-high heat, stirring, until vegetables are coated. Reduce heat, cover and gently cook 10 minutes until wilted. Stir frequently.
- Over low heat, add spinach in batches and stir to combine. Cover and cook 10 additional minutes.
- Remove lid, add parsley, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Sir in raisins and wine. Cook an additional 10 minutes, uncovered, until the liquid evaporates.
- Place de-boned turkey breast on a cutting board with skin side down. Fill cavity with the stuffing mix. Bring turkey meat up and around the stuffing and tie shut with chef’s twine.
- Transfer to a roasting pan and place sweet potato and russet potato chunks around the turkey breast.
- Melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter in microwave in small bowl. Add in 1 Tbsp Cajun spice mix, 1 tsp salt and remaining 2 mashed garlic cloves. Brush about 1/2 of the seasoned butter on the turkey breast.
- Douse the potatoes with olive oil and the remaining 1 tsp salt.
- Place in 350 degree oven and roast for one hour. Baste the turkey breast with remaining seasoned butter after 30 minutes.
- After one hour, insert chef’s thermometer into turkey meat. The temperature should be 160 degrees. Roast 15 to 30 minutes longer if needed. (After removing from oven, internal temperature should increase to 180 degrees.)
- Remove from oven, transfer turkey breast to a well-cleaned and sanitized cutting board. Let set for 15 to 30 minutes. Remove twine and carve breast, cutting crosswise through meat and dressing.
- Transfer to serving platter. Surround with sweet potato and russet potato chunks.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and golden raisins.
Ingredients for Cajun Spice Blend:
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp dried ground oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1-1/2 tsp lemon pepper (or 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp course black pepper)
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Method and Steps:
- Combine all ingredients in small bowl and combine well.
- Use 1 Tbsp for turkey breast and save remaining spice blend in air-tight jar for other uses.
And for our anniversary, we like to take a visit to the lakes close to LSU to view the flocks of American While Pelicans. The birds stop here along the Mississippi Flyway during their journey from the Rocky Mountains to further south and breeding grounds in warmer weather. The flocks of birds don’t stop here every year, but when they land here for a few weeks, they put on quite a show. Well, by the time we arrived, the white pelicans had left, but we saw other birds. These must be egrets.
These birds fly majestically overhead, too.