If you have a small group for Thanksgiving a great alternative to preparing a whole bird is to stuff a turkey breast or a few turkey thighs. I have even prepared one of each to satisfy the people who prefer the white and dark meat. This is also a nice way to prepare the meat and stuffing a week or two before and then freeze it until you are ready to have your dinner. You can easily make the stuffing with your favourite ingredients to make this a family favourite. I like it for me and Big Pete because when there is just two of us it is a perfect size for dinner and leftovers!
You will need:
- 1 turkey breast- butterflied
- 4 slices good quality bacon or sausages (I would use fresh Italian sausages
- 6 slices good quality white bread (not WonderBread )
- 6-8 button mushrooms
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme- chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary-chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley (preferably flat not curly)
- 1/2 cup cooked chestnuts (approx 6-8 chestnuts)
- 1 onion chopped fine
- olive oil for frying onions
- 3 green onions/scallions- chopped
- 3 cloves garlic chopped fine
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries- chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tbsp dried poultry seasoning
- 1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- pancetta to cover the turkey.
- onions and garlic to form a bed under the turkey
Step 1: Start with a good quality turkey breast. It is expensive but, it goes a long way to feed a crowd or a small gathering will have decent leftovers. Butterfly the turkey to make it as uniform as possible in order to stuff and roll.
Step 2: chop bacon slices and fry until cooked and almost to the crispy stage. No wobbly fat should remain. Chop to smaller pieces.
Step 3: chop cooked chestnuts. I buy them when I see them in the market then I bake them in the oven, peel them and freeze them for when I want them. I have just thawed and chopped.
Step 4: chop onion and fry in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Always season your food at every stage to make it flavourful. Add chopped mushrooms and cook until water has evaporated and mushrooms are starting to brown.
Step 5: chop bread into cubes removing crusts. Do not buy WonderBread. Use a white bread with a bit of substance. I have used Cobbs white Bread, it has no artificial ingredients and has a bit of chew to it. I have toasted it in a 350 degree oven for approx 15 minutes to dry it out. Add the toasted bread and bacon bits to a large bowl.
Step 6: add cooked onions and mushrooms, chopped chestnuts, chopped green onions to bowl.
Step 7: add chopped cranberries, parsley, thyme, rosemary,eggs, apple juice,milk and dried spices. Let liquids absorb into bread 20 minutes. You can also fry a bit to taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Step 8: sprinkle a bit more parsley on the turkey as well as salt and pepper.
Step 9: add the stuffing and get someone to help you roll up and tie the turkey to contain the stuffing. At this stage you can wrap and freeze it or roast it in the oven. I always make the roll a week or two before I serve it so that I have an easy day just preparing the vegetables and dessert.
Step 10: in a roasting pan add some olive oil and a couple of chopped onions, a few cloves of garlic and you can also roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnip or whatever root vegetables you like.
Step 11: I have added some slices of pancetta to the top of the turkey breast to keep it moist while roasting. Pancetta is an un-smoked bacon. I roast the turkey for 2 hours at 375 degrees F. I removed the pancetta after the first hour to let the turkey develop a nice brown top. I also sprinkle the skin with flakes of salt to get nice and crispy. If the pan gets too dry at any point you can add a splash of apple juice to deglaze and prevent burning.
Step 12: once done allow to rest at least 15 minutes before removing twine and slicing.
You can make a nice pan gravy and serve with your favourite veggies to make the perfect dinner!