I go through cooking phases. I’ll get all excited by a new cookbook, or undergo a sudden craving for home-made Thai food or whatever. Lately, I’ve been in turkey mode, seeing what can be done with a fairly bland turkey breast. The recent winner is roast turkey roulade. Turkey breast is relatively inexpensive, and the roulade is easy to make, yet dressed-up enough for a dinner party. It’s good served at room temperature, too, so you can prepare it in advance.
Here’s how to do it. To butterfly the breast, you make an even horizontal cut almost all the way through, so that the breast opens like a book into one flat piece (or have the butcher do it for you). Place the opened breast between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper, and pound it until it’s about a half-inch thick. Spread your stuffing over the breast, roll it up as tightly as you can, and tie it with kitchen twine every couple of inches. Poke any stuffing that’s fallen out back into the ends. (Sometimes turkey breast is sold in a stretchy, string net that you can reuse to hold it together.) Rub the outside with olive oil or melted butter, season, and pop the roulade into a 325-degree oven for about an hour and three quarters or until it reaches 150 degrees in the center. Let it rest under tented foil for about 15 minutes, and then cut it into half-inch slices.
The stuffing can be a simple basil pesto or a lemony gremolata, or something fancier with fruit, nuts, bacon, mushrooms — it’s hard to go wrong. I’ve tried variations on several recipes, including my own Refrigerator Raid stuffing, using sauteed shallots, garlic, celery and whatever likely suspect I find in the fridge, tarted up with fresh herbs, wine, sherry or brandy (a dash of booze never hurts). Wild rice adds a more interesting taste and texture than breadcrumbs. If you want a spicy flavor, try Cajun-style sausage in the stuffing. It really kicks things up a notch or two.
Speaking of Emeril LaGasse, you’ll find several of his roulade stuffing recipes online, including one that’s a mix of bacon, mushrooms, wild and white rice, with herbs. Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, offers one that calls for onions, celery, figs, cranberries and sausage spiked with brandy, although she oddly suggests using Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix. How hard is it to make breadcrumbs?
Turkey breast is low in fat, so the challenge is to cook it through without letting it dry out. Wrapping it in pancetta (before you tie it up) is one delicious way to help keep the meat moist. Last time, I experimented with leaving the skin on. It didn’t look as nice, but that did the trick, too.