Monday, November 19, 2012


On Friday, I promised you that this past weekend I would brine and roast a turkey breast for today.  Well after I put that out there for the world to see I began to have regrets.  What would happen if the turkey didn’t turn out (it can happen to any of us)?  I wouldn’t have a turkey to post, and y’all would know that I failed!  I hate to fail, and I hate for anyone to know that I’ve failed.

I got the idea for this brine from Williams and Sonoma, they have a Buttermilk brine mix for turkey, chicken and pork that sounds fantastic.  Well my job is to create recipes, not open cans and use mixes; so I set out to create my own buttermilk brine.  I’ve never used buttermilk brine for turkey and I’ve only made a turkey breast once before, many years ago.  Surely this is a recipe for disaster!

Even as I’m writing this, I have just remembered that I meant to add citrus to my brine, and I totally spaced on that! 

Well, did it turn out?  Was the turkey flavorful, or was it too salty?  Was the turkey moist, or just mushy, or did it dry out?  Keep reading to find out.

Here’s what you do.

To prepare the Buttermilk Brine add the water, kosher salt, and brown sugar to a small sauce pan.  Along with the mustard seeds, Black peppercorns, and bay leaves.   

Bring to a simmer over medium heat.   

Simmer just until the salt and sugar have dissolved completely.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Pour the brine (liquid) into a container and add the fresh thyme, fresh sage, and garlic cloves (this is where I spaced, if you would like you can also add a couple of pieces of orange rind) and the ice.  Put into the refrigerator to cool completely.

Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl; a batter bowl works great.   Add the cooled brine to the buttermilk and whisk to combine.


A six quart zip top bag works great for turkey breast; set it into a dish; just in case of leaks.
Pour the Buttermilk Brine into the zip top bag. 

See why I like the batter bowl?

Here’s my turkey breast; I had to remove the back, which I kept to make stock for the gravy.

The benefits of using a turkey breast is that it yields the perfect amount to feed a smaller party, I won’t have to eat leftover turkey every night for a week; and it cooks waaay faster, so I don’t have the oven on for the whole day.

Put the turkey in the bag breast down.

Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.  

I brined my turkey for 4 hours.  If the turkey sits in the brine for too long it will become mushy and too salty, so don’t overdo it.  

I used a 7 pound breast which feeds six people perfectly.  If you like left overs, or have 8 people, then buy a 9 pound breast.  There will be enough brine, but you will brine the turkey for 6 to 8 hours.  The cooking time will be increased by 20 to 30 minutes. 

Make a bed for the turkey with the cut onions, carrots and parsnips in the bottom of a shallow roasting pan.  I like to use a rack, but it’s not necessary. 

Remove the turkey from the brine.  Use paper towels to blot off the liquid.

Drizzle olive oil over the skin and rub it in.  There is no need for additional seasonings; the brine already did the seasoning for you.  

Allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. 

 Meanwhile, pre heat the oven; 375 degrees for convection oven, 400 degrees for conventional oven.  I almost always use convection.
When the turkey is in the oven make the stock. 

Add 2 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of water, and any turkey parts such as wings, neck or back. 

If you don’t have any turkey parts then just use 4 cups of chicken stock and omit the water.


When the turkey has roasted for one hour, add a couple of cups of stock to the bottom of the roasting pan.  

Be sure to rotate the pan in the oven for even cooking.

Do you know how to calibrate your instant read thermometer?  

Fill a glass with lots of crushed ice, and top it off with water.  Allow the thermometer to sit in the icy water for about a minute.  

The temperature should read 32 degrees, if it doesn’t, then take into account the difference in temperature.

The turkey will roast for a total of 1 hour, 20 minutes to 1 hour, 40 minutes.   

Remove the turkey from the oven when an instant read thermometer reads 160 degrees.


Cover the turkey with foil and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes.  The turkey will continue to cook (carryover cooking) and be perfect after its resting period.


Pour the turkey drippings into the stock.  

Skim any fat off the top.

Make a roux by melting 2 tablespoons of butter, and whisking in 2 ½ tablespoons of flour. 

Cook while whisking for about 3 minutes. This cooks the flour taste out.

Pour the stock into the roux a little at a time, whisking well each time.   

Use a strainer to keep any bits out of your gravy.  

Bring the gravy to a simmer and simmer for just a couple of minutes while continuing to whisk. 

The gravy is done; just keep it warm until service time.


My rested beauty!


Carve the turkey by removing one half of the breast from the bone.  Then the other.


Carve into slices.  Are you able to see how juicy this bird is?


Arrange the slices in an attractive manner on a platter.

Well in answer to the previous questions:
Putting the turkey breast in the Buttermilk Brine for just 4 hours gave the turkey the perfect amount of seasoning and tenderized the bird without giving it a mushy texture.

I decided on a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey because the turkey breast feeds 6 people with only a couple of slices left over, I don’t have to eat leftovers every night for a week!  Using a breast instead of doing a whole turkey allowed me to use a higher roasting temperature and a shorter cooking time; which yielded a perfectly juicy product. 

Billy actually preferred this turkey over any he’s ever had before!  So I am relieved to report no failure or disaster in this turkey making experiment; only complete and utter success!  I didn't fail... I didn'ts fail!

So far on this Thanksgiving menu is:
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Buttermilk Brined Roast Turkey Breast with Gravy
Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole
Maple Roasted Acorn Squash
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes

Pumpkin Cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Serves 6
7              lbs.       Whole turkey breast, bone in
1              recipe   Buttermilk brine (recipe follows)
½                         Large onion, large dice
2                          Carrots, about 1 ½ inch pieces
1                          Parsnip, about 1 ½ inch pieces
                            Olive oil
2              cups       Chicken stock
2              cups       Water
                             Turkey parts, such as wings, neck or back   
1.        If the turkey breast has the back attached, remove the back.  Keep any remaining turkey pieces for the stock pot.
2.       Stand a 6 quart zip top bag, or a brining bag in a large dish.  Pour the brine into the bottom of the bag.  Put the turkey, breast side down into the brine and close the bag.  Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours.  Do not over marinate.
3.      When the turkey is finished brining; lay the onions, carrots and parsnip in the bottom of a shallow roasting pan.
4.       Remove the turkey from the brine.  Place the turkey on top of the vegetables.  Pat the turkey dry with some paper towels.
5.       Drizzle and rub olive oil over the skin.  The turkey is completely seasoned from the brine; there is no need for further seasoning.  Allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.
6.       Meanwhile, pre heat the oven to 375 degrees in a convection oven, or 400 degrees in a conventional oven.
7.       Combine the chicken stock, water and turkey parts in a medium sauce pan; bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low.
8.       Roast the turkey for 1 hour.  Add 2 cups of the stock to the bottom of the roasting pan.  Rotate the roasting pan for even cooking.
9.       Roast for 20 to 40 minutes longer, until an instant read thermometer reads 160 degrees.
10.   Remove the turkey from the oven.  Cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest about 20 minutes.
11.   Meanwhile, make the gravy.

*Note:  If you don’t have any turkey parts, then use 4 cups of chicken stock and omit the water.

1              cup      Water
2 ½         Tbsp.     Kosher salt
½             cup      Brown sugar
2                         Bay leaves
1              Tbsp.    Mustard seeds
½             Tbsp.    Black peppercorns
3              cloves   Garlic, peeled and smashed
20           sprigs    Fresh thyme
6              leaves   Fresh sage; these are large leaves, if the leaves are smaller add about 10.
1 ½         cups       Ice cubes
4              cups      Buttermilk

1.            Combine the water, kosher salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, mustard seeds, and black pepper corns in a small sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat, until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
2.            Remove the pan from the heat.  Pour the liquid into a container and add the garlic, thyme, sage, and ice.  Put into the refrigerator to cool completely.
3.            In a large bowl, add the completely cooled brine to the buttermilk.

                          Remaining stock
                          Turkey drippings from the roasting pan.
2              Tbsp.    Butter
2 ½         Tbsp.     Flour
1.        Remove the turkey pieces from the stock.
2.       Pour the turkey drippings into the stock.  (Now referred to as stock.)
3.       Skim any fat from the top of the stock.
4.       In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.
5.       Whisk the flour into the butter to make a roux.  Whisk and cook for about 3 minutes.
6.       Pour a little of the stock at a time through a strainer, into the roux; whisking thoroughly with each addition.
7.       Cook and whisk the gravy until it comes to a simmer.  Continue to whisk and simmer the gravy for 2 to 3 minutes.
8.  Keep warm until ready to serve.

**Note:  These recipes are easily increased to accommodate whole turkeys. 
                The rule of thumb is about 1 cup of brine per pound of turkey and 1 hour of brining time per pound of turkey.  Though I prefer 45 minutes of brining time per pound of turkey, I find it less salty and less mushy.

Check out some more great turkey recipes at:
Taste and Tell Thursdays

1 comment:

  1. This was wonderful - thank you! I also appreciated the tip for calibrating my thermometer!