braised turkey breast, sourdough stuffing & citrus gravy

this recipe, with many other delicious treats for thanksgiving, appears in the parlato design studio seasonal eats recipe guide! pick up your copy today in the parlato design studio store, and follow the thanksgiving2011 tag for more recipes as they become available. enjoy & thanks for being awesome!

i’ll just come out and say it: i’ve never been a fan of preparing a whole turkey. as much as i am a fan of using the whole animal, and the benefits of getting to make turkey stock once the meat is eaten off the bone, i don’t like wrestling with a carcass the size of a small child or tying up the oven for hours, wondering if it will come out just right. what i do like is this manageable alternative of braising, which takes only 2 hours, can be done in the oven or on the stove, and allows the chance to flavor the meat with the braising liquid, turning out a really tender and delicious turkey breast.

wrapped turkey breast
wrapped turkey breast

start by sourcing a naturally-raised, free-range turkey breast [whole foods or your local, independent butcher is a good place to start]. the one i’m using is 3.5 pounds.

open turkey breast, skin-side up
open turkey breast, skin-side up

unlike chicken breasts, turkey breasts are sold together. cut away the netting and unfold it, and you’ll see you have a symmetrical set.

stuffing your turkey breast
stuffing your turkey breast

place the turkey skin-side down on a work surface and rub the insides down with olive oil. now is a good time to stuff the center with fruit, aromatic herbs, or flavorful items [like prosciutto or salami slices]. i have chosen orange slices and some of the cherry relish i’ve prepared. the idea here is that you’ll fold the breasts back up, tie them up to keep them in place [and to create the final shape for the breasts, since they will firm up when cooked], and infuse some of the meat with flavor. what you’ll end up doing is folding the right side over the left to tie it up, so if you have items that will move a lot [like oranges] put them on the left side. you can put everything on one side if you’re afraid it will move too much.

tying up your turkey breast is a little challenging. i find starting with it on one side is easiest, tie butcher’s twine around the top and start tying it up. the video above is a very straightforward way to do it. if you prefer written instructions, these work well too. you may find this gets a little messy. mine was messy too, but it won’t affect the final result. say the serenity prayer and accept your messy stuffed turkey breast.

add some oil to a dutch oven and place the tied turkey breast on its side to brown for a minute or two. flip to the top-side down, and finish up with the other side so your last browning side is the back. once the turkey breast is back-side down, add the mirepoix, cover and sweat a few minutes.

braising the turkey breast
braising the turkey breast

once all the browning and sweating is done, add the white wine, vegetable or chicken stock and orange juice. the liquids should not entirely cover the meat, but rather come up somewhere more than halfway up the sides. i decided to top mine with orange zest so the orange oil could steam out and into the meat. turn up the heat to get the liquids to boil, and then turn down to medium-low and cover to braise about 2 hours. alternately, you can finish in the oven at 350º for about 2 hours. make sure to check liquid levels periodically and add water if they’re boiling away.

braised turkey breast

1 3.5-lb turkey breast
mirepoix: 1 onion, 3 med. carrots, 1 heart celery, all chopped to medium dice
2 cups white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
juice and zest of 2 oranges
optional stuffing: 2 oranges, sliced & 3 tbsp cherry relish

cut netting from turkey breast and place the open breasts on a work surface, skin-side down. rub the inside of each with olive oil and line each with any fruit or herbs you’d like to infuse into the turkey [i chose orange slices and cherry relish]. fold one side over the other and tie up as a roast with kitchen string.

in a dutch oven, brown the sides and top of the turkey breast. finally, place the back side down and add the mirepoix, cover and sweat the vegetables 3 minutes. add the wine, stock, orange juice & zest,
and bring to a boil. turn down to low, cover and simmer 2 hours, or place a 350º oven for 2 hours.

vegan options

don’t bother with trying to replicate turkey on a vegan diet. ditch tradition [you’re probably not into it anyway] and take the opportunity to make your all-time favorite entrée to celebrate with your friends & family.


obviously, there are hundreds of whole-turkey recipes online, but if you’re looking for a different option for a turkey breast, try evan kleiman’s suggestions for roasting a turkey breast.

citrus gravy
citrus gravy

it’s a myth that you need actual turkey drippings to make gravy. i used some reduced braising liquid and a little butter, and it’s delicious!

citrus gravy

2 cups turkey braising liquid
1⁄3 cup flour
1 tb butter

place 2 cups of the turkey braising liquid in a saucepan, or simmer to reduce the turkey braising liquid down to 2 cups. add the butter and whisk to incorporate. while whisking, add flour in 1 tbsp increments and whisk to incorporate. continue whisking as gravy thickens to desired consistency.

this recipe makes about 2 cups of gravy. if you plan to double it, use the desired amount of turkey braising liquid to start [you may add stock, water or wine to increase], and add 1 tablespoon butter for every 2 cups liquid. when whisking in flour, take more time between additions, as the gravy will thicken more slowly, and likely won’t need double the amount of flour.

vegan options

i’m finding so many interesting options for vegan gravy, i thought i’d share some tasty ideas:
vegan gravy using mushrooms
awesome mushroom gravy
cashew gravy
miso gravy
tasty onion gravy

sourdough stuffing
sourdough stuffing

i love stuffing, but when i thought about making my own recipe, i thought about how i could make it more tasty with interesting bread, and not entirely and all-out carb-fest by adding some nuts and seeds. i chose whole grain sourdough, and worked in mushrooms and a mix of pepitas, pine nuts and sliced almonds. make it with some of your turkey braising liquid, or keep it vegan with vegetable stock.

sourdough stuffing

2 tb olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, sliced
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
2 cups turkey braising liquid or vegetable stock
1⁄2 cup white wine
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
1⁄2 lb sourdough loaf, cubed & toasted
1⁄3 cup each of toasted pepitas, pine nuts & sliced almonds

preheat oven to 350º. sauté onion on medium-high heat in 2 tbs olive oil, 3 minutes, add celery and mushrooms, saute 2 minutes. add wine, simmer and reduce, 5 min. turn off heat, add the turkey braising liquid or stock, thyme, sage, salt and pepper to taste.

add toasted sourdough cubes to a 9 x 12” baking dish and pour vegetable mix over. toss to coat and soak sourdough through. sprinkle nuts over the top. bake 40 minutes at 350º until heated through.

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