Food & Wine (November 2013)
"We overcooked the bird."
Is there any more dreaded Thanksgiving Day statement -- or more predictable one -- than that?
This year, a few of the food magazines had some clever ways to avoid dry, overcooked turkey. Martha Stewart Living has an interesting method in which you wrap the turkey in parchment to help lock in moisture. Over at Bon Appétit, they make the argument for breaking your turkey apart and cooking the breasts and legs separately, since they require different cook times.
We really gravitated toward this Pimentón-Roasted Whole Turkey Breast with Chorizo, from Food & Wine. We were intruiged by the idea of only cooking a boneless breast -- we'd never done that on Thanksgiving before. We swooned over the onion and chorizo stuffing, which promised to impart a bold, smoky flavor that we couldn't wait to try. And focusing just on the breast promised an even, consistent cook time.
But dammit if we didn't overcook the bird!
First, let's talk about the chorizo -- such a great idea! There may be no faster way to build big, zesty flavor that starting by sautéing some chorizo.
Cooking a boneless breast makes for a lot of meat. We doubled this recipe, but it turns out that one turkey fed our whole crowd of 18. Granted, they may have eaten more if it had actually been Thanksgiving dinner. But the point is, six pounds of turkey breast is far different from a six-pound turkey.
Anyway, because we doubled the turkey, it took a while for the meat to cook to the prescribed temperature. The recipe says the meat should be cooked until a thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 160 degrees. It also says that should take abouit 70 minutes. But 70 minutes in, we were only at about 100 degrees.
So we waited. And waited.
Our guests were in the living room chatting and snacking, while we were in the kitchen stewing. Okay, not exactly. But we did keep anxiously checking the temp on the bird, while the minutes dragged on and on.
Finally, we hit 160 degrees after nearly two hours of cooking. We should have expected that with two birds, but we were nonetheless surprised at how much longer it took than the recipe indicates for one bird.
In hindsight, we wish we hadn't waited nearly as long: Much of the meat was overcooked and dried out by the time we carved into it. None of it was bad, and some of it was perfectly fine. But on the whole, we wish we'd taken it out of the oven more around 150 degrees, since it would have continued to come up to temperature while it rested.
What about the flavor? Phenomenal. The chorizo stuffing is wonderful, and the smoked paprika that gets rubbed on the outside of the bird is a delicious accompaniment.
True, when you cook a breast instead of a whole turkey, you miss that glory moment of marching into the dining room with a platter groaning under the weight of a perfectly bronze bird. But we think the taste of this roasted turkey breast (if you err slightly on the less-done side) is plenty stunning to make up for it.
Active time: 45 min | Total time: 3 hrs 30 min
Servings: 12 to 14
NOTES FROM ZACH AND CLAY:
We had trouble sourcing "6-pound boneless skin-on whole turkey breast." You're going to need to call a butcher and have them do this. In the DC area, we found one in Eastern Market.
INGREDIENTS1/2 pound Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 onions, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
One 6-pound boneless skin-on whole turkey breast
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon pimentón de la Vera (sweet smoked Spanish paprika)
In a large skillet, cook the chorizo over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat starts to render, 3 minutes. Add two-thirds of the onion wedges, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and browned, 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the parsley and let cool completely.
Set the turkey breast skin side down on a work surface and season with salt. Spread the onion mixture all over the breast meat and under the tenderloins. Evenly space 5 foot-long pieces of kitchen twine under the breast. Fold the sides of the breast into the center, then tie up the turkey breast with the twine to make a neat roast.
Spread the lemon slices and the remaining onion wedges in the center of a roasting pan. Set the turkey breast skin side up on the onions and lemons and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush the turkey breast with olive oil and season generously with salt. Sprinkle the pimentón all over the top and side. Roast for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, basting occasionally with any pan juices, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 160°; tent the roast with foil if it browns too quickly. Transfer the turkey breast to a carving board and let stand for 20 minutes. Thinly slice crosswise and serve.