There's Still Time To Brine!

mini Thanksgiving dinner for two
Your turkey, that is.

As you know from my mini Thanksgiving dinner post, I attempted roasting a turkey breast this year. I followed a fantastic recipe from Cook's Illustrated and ended up with some of the best tasting turkey I've ever had. I think I owe it all to the brining. The meat was incredibly moist and juicy. If you've thought about brining before but for some reason or other you've never tried it, try it this year! You won't be disappointed.

Mix 1/2 cup of table salt with 4 quarts of water in a large pot or container. Dunk your turkey in, cover it with plastic wrap, and pop it in the fridge for 3 to 6 hours. Be careful not to brine for longer than that as you may end up with a salty turkey. If you stick to the 3 to 6 hours, your turkey will have a deeper dimension of flavor and stay moist, but it won't taste like sea water.

When you remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it off with cold water and just pat it dry with some paper towels. Then follow whatever recipe you have planned.

I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe for Easy Roast Turkey Breast with Lemon and Thyme, mainly because thyme is one of my favorite herbs, and the Easy Roast Turkey Breast recipe seemed a little too plain (without gravy -- a roasted turkey breast doesn't yield enough pan drippings).

ingredients for lemon and thyme roast turkey breast
The original recipe called for a 6- to 7-pound whole turkey breast, but that would be much too big for just two of us, so we got a 3.5-pound one instead (and we had two nights' worth of leftovers!).

Here's how to make this turkey recipe...

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Mix together 4 tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter; 3/4 teaspoon of salt; 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper; 3 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press; 2 tablespoons of minced fresh thyme; and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Set aside.

herb butter
Separate the turkey skin from the meat by carefully sliding your hand under the skin. I would have to say separating the turkey skin from the meat with my hands was one of the most unpleasant cooking experiences I've ever had, but it's not too difficult once you get started.

Using your hands or a rubber spatula, work the butter under the skin and spread it evenly.

Next, set a roasting rack inside a roasting pan, and spray the rack with nonstick cooking spray. Place the turkey on the rack, and pour 1 cup of water into the roasting pan.

turkey with butter and herbs rubbed under the skin
Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, and then lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Continue roasting for about another hour, until thickest part of the turkey breast registers 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove the turkey from the oven, and -- this is important -- let it rest! The juices will get absorbed back into the turkey while it's resting instead of running all over your cutting board if you cut it right away.

roasted turkey
Let it rest for at least 20 minutes. This will give you time to finish up your other dinner preparations.

To carve the turkey, cut each breast half away from the breastbone.

roasted turkey breast half
Place each half on your cutting board and cut on bias (slightly diagonally).

carving turkey
For some great turkey accompaniments, check out my mini Thanksgiving dinner for two!

mini Thanksgiving dinner
How are you planning to cook your turkey this year?