Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 283 - Stuffed Turkey Breast and Sausage and Sour-Cherry Stuffing

Christmas Eve - I have to make something festive and holiday-like, even if it is just Marcy and me.

And because it's the season of giving, I offered to make Marcy something she would actually enjoy, not just gamely endure. So we started our meal with Black Cod with Miso.

But then it was time for:

Stuffed Turkey Breast (p. 156)

This was a first for me, and I was excited to try it. Even though I've roasted several turkeys, the disembodied breast is foreign to me, seemingly from a completely different animal.

The breast I bought from Fairway had been trussed - to death - and there was some residual damage that concerned me. The twine was cutting right through the meat and the skin, and I wondered if I'd be able to pull this recipe off as written, given that my turkey breast was almost in strips.

The first order of business is butterflying the meat. This was a little confusing - I wasn't exactly sure where the best place to cut was - there seemed to be a few ways of going about it. Not to mention, the breast was naturally separating in a few places. My goal was to cut it in a way that would keep it all in one piece, and I did manage to pull that off.

Flattening the butterflied breast proved somewhat more complicated. The thicker side just didn't want to flatten out that much, and the other side was quite delicate. Eventually, I just had to call it done, because I'd been hammering holes into the plastic wrap and I thought if I struck that meat any more, it would either fall apart or spontaneously combust. Meanwhile, I pretty much pounded the truss ridges out of it, so that wasn't an issue any more.

At this point, I was pretty sure my turkey breast was going to be a disaster, and the next stage didn't give me much more hope. I laid the stuffing on the meat and started trying to roll it up, but the stuffing was falling out and the meat was disintegrating and I couldn't figure out how to hold the roll together, slap on that sad piece of skin, and wrap it all up in cheesecloth at the same time. Finally, I just forced it all together, shoving stuffing back into the sides. Even though I was hoping for something more like a spiral/jelly roll look, the meat layer was too thick for anything more than a stuffed circle.... Ah well. Then I tied up the cheesecloth package and slathered it with you-can't-believe-how-much butter and stuck it in the oven on a wing and a prayer.

I didn't stress too much because we'd already eaten the black cod, and I knew no one named Marcy would be going home hungry, but I was pretty sure this was going to be a gigantic failure.

My thermometer was behaving a little wonky with this meat. It read strangely low for so long beyond when the turkey was supposed to be done that I pulled out another thermometer, and that one read 155°, so I took it out right away and said another Christmas prayer that I hadn't overcooked it.

Cut to the unveiling (see right): Doesn't look too bad. It slices well and it's actually pretty, sliced, even if it is just one simple circle. And surprise of surprises, it tastes really good and it's cooked perfectly! Wait, how did THAT all happen??

Martha, even under less-than-ideal circumstances, your recipes still pull through!

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Sausage and Sour-Cherry Stuffing (p. 158)

Now, THIS stuffing is right up my alley. Meat and fruit and bread! What could be better!

It's funny - for the Chestnut Stuffing, I was supposed to air dry the bread cubes, and for this recipe, I was supposed to give them a light bake in the oven to dry them out. I ended up doing them backwards, but now I know - both methods work perfectly!

I want to take this opportunity to brag here that my dried sour cherries were homemade. Yup, dried 'em myself. Way back when I made the Sour Cherry Pie, I had leftover sour cherries, so I pitted them, learned how to dry them (pectin wash, long+low heat, then stirring for days) and ended up with the perfect amount for this recipe!

The stuffing is easy and quick to make, and the only thing I feel I should mention is that I needed quite a bit more broth to dampen all the dried bread cubes. Even with the extra broth, it's a very loose stuffing, pre-cooking, i.e. it doesn't hold together. As I mentioned above, it kept falling out of the breast while rolling.

But it all worked out in the end. Given how dense and plain this breast meat is, the assertive flavors of sausage and cherry in this stuffing are particularly welcome here. It's a great pairing and a surprisingly effective dish.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Until we eat again....


  1. Beautiful ! I am once again inspried... to try deboning a turkey breast (gasp!) It looks lovely served in nice slices. What a great alternative to deboning and stuffing the little tiny chicken breasts that I've done so far. I have to stop reading this blog jsut before running out for lunch... I am consistently dissapointed in my take out lunches. Thank you again!

  2. Hey Dawn-
    Thanks! FYI, the turkey breast I bought came deboned, so don't give me any credit there.... As for your take-out lunches, may I recommend making some of the book's recipes that serve 8-10 without inviting anyone? Then you can lunch on the leftovers for days. :-)