HAPPY NOVEMBER. How. Is. It. Here.
Since Thanksgiving is just three weeks away (how.is.it.here.), we have to start prepping our menu ASAP! Our plans are pretty up in the air this year due to newborn status (basically, if anyone has so much as a sniffle we aren’t going), but our tentative plan is to have a day with Jay’s family and a day with mine and the rest of the weekend for Jay to parent HARD because he has to travel for work the following Monday. At five seconds postpartum, almost identical to when Beck was born.
Luckily I’m super tough and not ever overwhelmed or weepy so I’ll be fiiiine. Translation: Beck loves movies and we have lots of family in town.
So Thanksgiving! I have almost an entire meal of new sides and leftover ideas all ready for you, but the bird itself is something that I find not as many people use a “new” recipe on. Some families do, sure, but mostly people just kind of roast a turkey and hope for the best and it takes half a day and is maybe never as good as we want it to be? I’m much more into sides than meat in general, but good turkey definitely has a place on a Thanksgiving plate. The keys, I’ve found, are PLENTY of salt and pepper (to make the turkey taste good, you know), butter or olive oil (to prevent drying), and not overcooking. The not overcooking is huge, people are mostly so scared to serve raw poultry that they overcook chicken and turkey 80% of the time. A cheap meat thermometer will solve this problem, and if the turkey does get dry we have a super simple gravy to get us through.
Here, I’m advocating just a turkey breast, for a few reasons. First….I don’t love turkey, so don’t need a ton of it. Second, and most importantly, cooking dark meat and white meat separately speeds up the process and ensures that everyone gets what they want. You can buy thighs, legs, and breasts all separately, and I like this split breast (half of a turkey breast, basically) because it cooks quickly and evenly but still serves four or more people. You can absolutely use this method with legs and thighs, use a large roasting pan or two if you need to. The cook time will still be much less than a whole turkey, and you can take the white meat out of the oven first so it doesn’t dry out.
So: to cook! The oven goes to 350F, and the whole piece of meat gets coated in salt, pepper, and softened butter. Rub the butter under any pockets of skin, and press the salt and pepper lightly into the meat. Pour some stock in the bottom of the pan to amp up the drippings that we’ll use for gravy later on.
Roast the turkey for 25-45 minutes until a thermometer measures 160F, then remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes while you make the gravy. This will bring the temperature of the turkey up to 165F or so, which is the agreed-upon safe-to-eat temp.
The gravy is super simple, more butter and some flour in a small skillet, whisked together to make a roux. Then, very slowly pour the drippings from the pan into the flour mixture, whisking as you go, to make a smooth gravy. Add extra stock if you need to; I always use all the drippings from the roasting pan first and then extra if I run out. Taste the gravy, add more salt and pepper, and done! Gravy is one of those things that is best when served fresh, so I make it right at the last minute. If it gets too thick just add some more stock and whisk really well to thin it out and reheat it before you serve.
To carve the turkey, I use a small paring knife to take off the bones, then slice the entire breast against the grain, leaving the skin ON because it’s the best part. If people are super health-conscious they can always take it off on their own plates, but removing all of the turkey skin before serving it, to me, is like stealing from loved ones. Not to be dramatic about it or anything.
Here’s your turkey! We eliminate the big bird presentation, but does anyone actually do that anymore? We haven’t in our family for literal decades, and this is so much less pressure than an entire turkey that takes up the entire oven. The flavor is perfect, the meat is juicy, and the gravy is exactly what you need for some epic mashed potatoes – coming next week.
Save this for your menu planning, or test it out before the big day! Nothing wrong with turkey any day of the week.
Take the pressure out of big meals with turkey pieces instead of a whole bird. This turns out perfectly each time with only a few ingredients.
- 1 bone-in, skin-on split turkey breast (half the breast), about 2 ½ pounds
- ½ stick butter, softened
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Arrange the turkey in a shallow baking dish. Rub all over with the softened butter, including rubbing some butter gently under the skin of the turkey, being careful not to tear the skin.
Wash your hands. Sprinkle the salt all over the turkey and add plenty of black pepper to the skin. Pour one cup of the stock in the bottom of the baking dish.
Roast the turkey uncovered in the oven for 35-45 minutes until an internal thermometer (placed at the thickest part of the meat but not touching the bone) registers 160F. Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest uncovered while you make the gravy.
Make the gravy. In a skillet over medium heat, whisk the oil and flour together to form a paste.
Let the flour cook into the oil for about 2 minutes, then very slowly pour in the last cup of stock, whisking as you go to incorporate the liquid into the flour mixture.
Continue to whisk the gravy until it bubbles and thickens. Add drippings from the turkey a few spoonfuls at a time to thin the gravy and add flavor. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your preference. Continue to add drippings or more stock to the gravy as needed to maintain a consistency that you enjoy.