For the last couple of turkey seasons, I've made it a habit to put in a little extra work once I get back to the house by plucking some feathers. Who knows why, but as long as I can remember, I've cut the breasts out of the bird without saving the skin and that has been a huge mistake on my part. By taking literally an extra 10 minutes to pull out the breast feathers out, you're quite literally left with a different main ingredient to use. Turkey skin is a outstanding when crisped up right and adds another layer of complexity to your dish, regardless of how your preparing it. Now, don't worry if you didn't save the skin off of your last bird, you can make this dish without it and it will be just fine.
With Thanksgiving knocking on the door, I decided to head to the deep freeze this week, in search of a piece from this past springs gobbler to use. Whenever I decide to work on a new recipe which uses turkey as a main ingredient, I really try to introduce some kind of fat and saltiness to the dish to make it more exciting. As delicious as turkey is on its own, it usually leaves us wishing that it had some more flavor. Inspired by Porchetta, one of my very favorite Italian dishes, I use pieces of prosciutto and sausage to add fat, flavor and salt back to the turkey. This turkey breast recipe is a winner any time of the year and can even be dressed up to become a new addition to your Thanksgiving feast.
1 boneless turkey breast, skin on, about 2 pounds
1 medium shallot, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 pound of breakfast sausage
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 slices of prosciutto, torn
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons of EVOO(divided)
3 tablespoons of butter
1/4 of finely chopped pecans or 1/4 cup of 38 Pecans Cajun blend!
3 tablespoons of honey
Fresh cracked pepper
To start, add the chopped shallot and garlic to a hot skillet, along with a good bit (2 TBSP) of olive oil. Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and sauté. If your pan is good and hot, this will literally only take a couple of minutes. Once both the garlic and shallot are tender, add the ground sausage to the pan. I really like using breakfast sausage for this recipe(venison if you have it!), since it already is nicely spiced. But with that said, any ground sausage will do. And to give it just a bit of "zing", I also add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Once browned, stir in the chopped rosemary and pecans and remove from the heat.
Now that the stuffing is done, it's time to talk turkey. First and foremost, ensure the bird is good and clean before moving giving it a rinse in the sink. I know, I know, seems elementary, but there's nothing worse than getting a feather, a pellet or a piece of fat when you're eating. Once rinsed and dried, lay out the turkey on a cutting board. At this point, it really goes on a case by case basis. The goal is to make sure that the turkey breast is an even thickness the the whole way through and you might even need to butterfly part of it, depending on the thickness. On this particular bird, I actually butterflied a small section and then used a skillet to pound it to about a half inch thick throughout.
From here on out, everything is super simple. Season the inside(skinless) section of turkey with salt, cracked pepper and the zest of one lemon. You might think that the amount of lemon seems a bit aggressive, but trust me, it helps brighten the entire dish, especially once it's stuffed.
Once seasoned, tear pieces of prosciutto onto the turkey. Once most of the turkey breast is covered, add the sausage mixture on top. Now, you're ready to roll, literally. This next step can seem daunting, but because the turkey is thinner than it was when you started, it will be much easier to roll. Depending on the shape of everything, I try to flip the bottom(narrow end) of the breast to the inside. This helps the rolling process, as well as helps to keep the stuffing inside. Once rolled, take pieces of butchers twine and tie everything up so that it's good and secure for cooking. Season the outside with a good dose of salt and pepper. Also, don't worry about how much twine you use, just make sure that it's packaged together so that it won't fall apart.
Using that same skillet that you made the stuffing mixture in, heat over a medium-high flame and add the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Once hot, add the stuffed turkey to the pan. The goal here is to slowly brown the skin, without burning it. Let the pan and heat do the work, and once the turkey hits a good point, it will no longer stick to the pan, which is a good time to roll to the next side. Once the entire piece is browned nicely, transfer to a pre-heated 400 degree oven to finish cooking.
Depending on the size of the bird, it usually takes about 20-30 minutes to finish cooking. Cook until the internal temperature reads, 145F to 150F. When the bird hit this point, drizzle 3 tablespoons of honey to the top of the skin and flip the broiler on. At this point, it's crucial to keep an eye on everything because you can very quickly go from crisp to burned. The honey will become tacky and will begin to brown. Once it hits this point, remove from the oven and let rest. For me personally, I will let this sit on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!