Insider tip: That apple pie on Page E7 in today’s Food section? OMG. Just great. I got to taste two versions: the original, from pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, who writes about it in the accompanying story, and Bonnie Benwick’s version, which looked and tasted nearly identical. The lesson there is that this pie, while spectacular, is eminently doable by those of us who are not pastry chefs.
That’s just one of the cornucopia of Thanksgiving recipes we bring you today. So check ’em out. Another thing we bring you today is our weekly Free Range chat, which is sure to have a holiday focus. So turn on, tune in, bring your questions, and our posse of Thanksgiving veterans will be there to help. Today’s special guest will be MacIsaac, creator of that pie — which, by the way, you can order if you don’t feel like baking. To find out how to get one — or how to buy takeout turkey, sides and desserts for a stress-free holiday dinner — check out our list.
See you at noon for the chat. Meanwhile, here are two leftover questions from last week’s chat that we didn’t have time to answer:
1. Since we’ll have only a couple people over for Thanksgiving this year, we decided to order a whole turkey breast section, bone-in (4-6 pounds), from the butcher. What is your advice on how to brine and cook this smaller section of the bird?
2. I’m thinking about purchasing a fresh bone-in turkey breast for Thanksgiving this year. However, I’ve never made a turkey breast (always a whole bird with stuffing) and am wondering how one gets the bread stuffing infused (?) with the turkey juices; can they be roasted together in some way?
Turkey breasts are such a great choice for a smaller group. They’re widely available, they usually cook in less than two hours, they’re versatile, they’re manageable.
I’ve brined turkey breasts, and I can’t honestly say it made a huge difference. Then again, I don’t know how the bird would have tasted if it hadn’t been brined. Keep in mind, though, that a breast is less likely to need brining because of the shorter cooking time. Unlike the breast meat on a whole bird, it doesn’t need to hang around in the oven getting overcooked while the dark meat reaches a safe temperature. But folks do love to brine, and I can’t argue with that. You brine it just the way you would the whole bird; see the recipes below for specific instructions.
As for stuffing, you can stuff a breast just as you can a whole bird, but it might not hold as much and you’ll lengthen the cooking time. An alternative method is to split the breastbone and flatten the breast, mound the stuffing in the bottom of your roasting pan and place the flattened bird in the pan over the stuffing, so that its drippings moisten the stuffing nicely. If you don’t want all the fat from the turkey to end up in your stuffing, place a cooling rack or other rack in the roasting pan, cover it with cheesecloth, then place the stuffing on top of that and cover it with the turkey. The drippings will moisten the stuffing but also seep through to the bottom of the pan, so the stuffing won’t be sitting in a pool of liquid, and you’ll have some juices to go into the gravy if you’re making it. (But I make the gravy ahead of time using roasted turkey parts, then consider any roasting liquid a bonus to be added.)
Here are links to some great turkey breast recipes from our Recipe Finder database. They range from fairly simple to a little involved (for one, besides brining the breast, you bone it), and you’d be proud to serve any of them to your guests.
Easy Roast Turkey Breast: A basic, no-frills recipe.
Brined Roasted Turkey Breast With White Wine Pan Sauce: The breast is cut from the bone. The bird is served with optional Semolina and Root Vegetable Dressing, a separate recipe.
Chipotle-Rubbed Turkey Breast: The bird is brined; then a simple rub lends a smoky, spicy flavor.
Salt-Encrusted Turkey Breast: You can make this one ahead of time, then reheat it inside its crust.
Smoked Turkey Breast: It’s brined, then air-dried before it goes into the smoker.
Roasted Maple-Brined Turkey or Turkey Breast: The bird is refrigerated in the salty-sweet brine for at least two days.
Stuffed Turkey Breast With Achiote, Poblano Chili Peppers and Feta Cheese: Latin flair here. Another recipe calling for a boned breast.