Tue Nov 20, 2012
I have a fair amount of friends who stay put for Thanksgiving, making holiday meals for just two or three people. I'm so accustomed to cooking for a crowd, I wondered what it would be like to make a Thanksgiving dinner that was a reasonable size for a couple. A whole turkey would probably be overkill, and ensure you'd be eating nothing but bird for at least a week straight. Thinking smaller, but not venturing into "Thanksgiving chicken" territory, I thought why not just cook the turkey breasts, but that seemed a little lackluster with no allure of holiday flare. So then I went a step further and created this turkey breasts with cranberry stuffing.
I went to the store looking for a single boneless, skinless turkey breast to purchase, but while I've definitely seen them before, they were nowhere to be found that day. So instead, I picked up this whole turkey breasts and simply cut them off the bone.
As with any grocery poultry, turkey breasts will benefit hugely from a brine. Unlike a whole turkey, which I brine for twelve hours, these breasts only soaked for an hour in the most basic of a salt, sugar, and water brine. This was sufficient time to ensure brine did its magic in adding moisture into the meat.
I have an all-time favorite sausage-cornbread stuffing I make every year at Thanksgiving. I played off this recipe to devise the stuffing for these turkey breasts, substituting the sausage for dried cranberries to add another staple of the holiday meal into over flavor of the main course.
This stuffing is so delicious, I wanted to make sure as much made it into the breasts as possible. So once the turkey was done with the brine, I butterflied them open, creating more surface area and an even thickness. The stuffing was then spread across the entire breast, leaving about a half inch border around the edges so the stuffing didn't overflow out when rolling.
Each breast was then rolled and tied shut. I was only too pleased to be able to bring my love for meat rolls like this to the Thanksgiving meal.
Then comes the most amazing part of these rolls, while a full turkey would take at least a couple hours from the time it started cooking until it was ready for the table, these were done in less than twenty minutes.
Quickness by no means signifies any diminishment of quality though, as these were truly fit for a grand holiday meal. Thanks to the brine, the meat came out moist and tender, while the stuffing fulfilled on the rich and flavorful notes you want in Thanksgiving dinner, spanning the requirements of turkey, stuffing, and cranberries. These two breasts made enough food for at least four people, but simply halving the recipe would get you down to two, which I know is the number of people around the Thanksgiving table for some of my friends, but a small crowd doesn't mean you have sacrifice any of the holiday splender.
Turkey Breast with Cranberry Stuffing
- Prep Time:
- 45 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 1 Hour
- Cook Time:
- 30 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 2 Hours 15 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Brine
- 2 quarts ice cold water
- 1/3 cup Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2 skinless, boneless turkey breasts
- For the Stuffing
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 cups crumbled cornbread
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
- To make the brine, combine water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to dissolve. Place turkey breasts in brine and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
- While turkey is brining, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Place onions in a large bowl along with cornbread, cranberries, chicken stock, pecans, sage, 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine.
- Remove turkey breasts from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Butterfly turkey breasts open and pound out to a rectangle of even thickness. Spread half of the stuffing in an even thickness over each of the breasts, leaving about 1/2 an inch edge with no stuffing. Starting with the long end of the turkey breast, roll tightly into a cylinder. Tie closed with butchers twine about every 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Season turkey breasts all over with salt and pepper and brush lightly with olive oil.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Sear turkey breasts over hot side of grill until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Move turkey to cool side of the grill, cover, and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 160 degrees when inserted into the center of the turkey. Remove from grill, let stand for 15 minutes. Slice turkey between each piece of twine, remove twine, and serve.