This is an old method of preparing turkey intended to be baked in the village or town ovens while the cook went to Sunday services. The beauty of a salt crust was not only that it held in all the juices of the bird, but also that the crust could be sealed and marked and thus protected against tampering. The skin should be discarded before the turkey breast is carved.
If you'd like to try the recipe on a whole bird, a medium-size turkey works best. If the turkey weighs more than 6 pounds, increase the salt mixture accordingly (for a 12-pound turkey, double the salt mixture).
Make Ahead: The turkey breast can be roasted up to 2 days in advance; remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then reheat (in its salt crust) in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
Servings: 6 - 8
- 2 pounds kosher or rock salt (6 to 7 cups)
- 2 pounds flour (6 to 7 cups)
- About 3 cups water, or as needed
- 6 pounds skin-on, bone-in whole turkey breast, fresh or thoroughly defrosted
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
- 1 rosemary sprig
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Combine the salt, flour and water as needed in a large mixing bowl; knead to form a fairly stiff, non-sticky dough.
Lightly flour a work surface; use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4-inch; it must be large enough to encase the turkey breast. Reserve a small pinch of the dough for plugging holes during baking.
Season the turkey breast lightly with the black pepper, if desired. Place the bay leaf and rosemary sprig in the cavity formed by the breast.
Place the turkey breast at the center of the dough; bring up the sides to enclose the turkey, making sure the crust is secure with no holes. (A little water can be used to smooth the dough and patch holes, if needed.)
Transfer the wrapped turkey breast to the prepared sheet or pan and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 160 on an instant-read thermometer (poke a hole through the crust; if the turkey is not fully cooked, use some of the reserved dough to fill the hole made by the thermometer).
(At this point, the turkey breast can remain warm inside the crust for up to 2 hours; its internal temperature will rise by as much as 10 degrees before the cooling begins. Or the encased turkey breast can be cooled for 2 hours and then refrigerated until ready to reheat.)
Break open and discard the top and sides of the crust. Discard the herbs underneath the breast. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before carving. Discard the skin, then carve the turkey breast as desired.
Adapted from a recipe at www.kitchenlink.com by Fritz Sonnenschmidt, national chairman of the American Academy of Chefs.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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