Ask Evan: If I Only Want to Roast a Turkey Breast for Thanksgiving…How Should I Cook It?

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Every Tuesday I answer a question from a Good Food listener. You can email me a question, leave one on Facebook or add one in the comments section here. This week’s question comes from Christina:

There is only my boyfriend and I for Thanksgiving, and we love to do the traditional turkey-stuffing-gravy routine, but a whole bird has seemed very excessive.  In the past few years, I’ve done just a turkey breast.  Unfortunately, most of the hints and tricks in magazines and TV around this time of year address a whole bird, not just the breast.  How should I approach roasting it?  Cover with wine soaked cheesecloth like some recipes say, or should I just lower the temperature since I don’t have dark meat to cook?  How do I avoid burning the veggies in the bottom of the pan, since there are little to no drippings?  If I put stock down there to keep the veggies from burning, am I now steaming the bird and losing any chance at crisp skin?  And I’m totally confused about wet brine vs dry brine…do any of the preparetory steps change when you’re just dealing with white meat?  Help!

OK.  First of all, don’t worry.  You have an easier job than most.  The key to creating drippings is to have the size of the pan match the size of the meat you’re putting in it. Don’t put a small turkey breast in a huge roasting pan.  Use a smaller pan that just accommodates what you’re roasting.  Always.  And why not throw in a leg/thigh to roast as well.  You’ll get more drippings.  Another idea is to buy a large roasting chicken, about 4 pounds.Or you can do what I did last year and will do this year too.  I cook the breast and leg/thighs separately.  I confit the legs several days before in duck fat.  Then I roast the breasts.

Buy the breast on the bone, you’ll get more flavor and better drippings.  Make a compound butter:  softened butter, minced shallots, garlic, herbs of your choice and infiltrate it between the breast meat and the skin.  Slather the flavored butter over the skin too. Make a bed of aromatic veggies and herbs on the bottom of the pan and set the turkey breast on top. Roast in a 325 degree oven for about 1/12 hrs or until the meat is 165 degrees on instant read thermometer.  Occasionally baste the bird with homemade chicken or turkey broth make with backs and necks.

When roasting a whole turkey I always dry brine. Russ Parsons, food editor of the LA Times has one of the best ever explanations of dry brining – how it works and what you need to do.  It’s very very easy.