I really, really love Fall. It’s my favourite. I love the crispness in the air, the changing leaves and the cooler, darker weather with the promise of the holidays and then shortly after, spring. Mostly though, I love cooking in the fall. I love the farm to table inspiration of the harvest, I also love slow cooking where the bulk of the work is done by the oven or a heavy, simmering pot. For me, Fall and Winter are the most ‘traditional’ seasons for cooking, not surprisingly because of the holidays and the ideas of big family meals garnished with tradition and steeped in expectation. Hmmm, there’s good stuff there, but also, a colossal amount of pressure. Shouldn’t cooking be a fun and rewarding activity? I tend to think so. We have to do it, so we may as well make the most of it. If the prospect of a ‘traditional’ family meal centers around a turkey, (not everyone’s traditions are the same, I realize), then I might have just the thing for you: a departure from what Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners of yore may have looked like, but also a nod to the classic turkey and every good feeling that comes from slow roasting meat with herbs and serving it with finesse.
If the idea of handling, stuffing and rolling up a butterflied double turkey breast seems daunting, take heart: it’s not nearly the production you may think it is. Firstly, make friends with your butcher. You don’t need to be on a first name basis with a butcher who is a local artisan who raises his or her own animals for market. That’s great if you can swing it, but when I say make friends with your butcher I mean stick your head behind the deli counter and ask your grocery store’s butcher if he will de-bone and butterfly turkey breasts for you. He should say yes, and he should do it without an additional charge, as this will literally be 5 minutes work. All it involves is slicing the meat from the rib cage and the breast plate (where the wishbone is!) and then strategically cutting it so lays out flat and all the meat is relatively the same thickness. For someone who has done it before, it’s a cinch. If you want to tackle it yourself, watch a quick video tutorial, make sure your knife is very sharp and take your time. Save the bones for stock, or if enough, is enough, discard them and get on with the filling and rolling.
The mushroom duxelle (finely minced and cooked mushrooms) comes together quickly, and is easy to do. If you plan on cooking the rolled turkey breast immediately, the mushrooms only need to partially cool. If you were rolling this up to cook tomorrow or later in the day, make sure those mushrooms are completely cool and that the whole thing gets refrigerated immediately after rolling.
Once it’s rolled, tie it up snugly so it keeps its shape and cooks evenly. Cotton kitchen twine is essential here and is easy to find and comes in handy more often than you’d imagine.
Dress the turkey with rosemary and give it a quick rub down with oil. Anoint it with salt and pepper.
After roasting and resting, it will be a golden work of art. I like to give it a few slices and carve the rest at the table to the oohs, aahs and salivating of guests. Once its delightful meaty pinwheels are served, raise a glass, sit back and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Enjoy!
Rolled Turkey Breast with Sausage and Mushrooms
1 double turkey breast, de-boned and butterflied, skin on (about 4 lbs)
1 lb pork sausage, casings removed
1 cup chopped scallions
1 lb mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp sherry (optional)
3 large sprigs rosemary
salt & pepper
Mince the mushrooms and saute over medium heat in the butter with a little drizzle of olive oil (about a Tbsp, just enough to help the butter not burn). Season with salt and pepper and lay a whole sprig of rosemary in the pan to impart its flavors to the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms are becoming browned and have let off most of their moisture, add the sherry and stir well. Continue cooking until they are deeply browned but not crisp. Set aside and allow to cool partially.
Unroll your turkey breasts onto your counter top, skin-side down; do so on parchment or butcher’s paper if you’re feeling squeamish. It will be a rather irregular shape but roughly rectangular. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Using your hands or the back of a large spoon, spread the sausage meat across the surface of the turkey leaving a 1 inch border (as you roll it up it will squish towards the edges and fill in the gap). Spread the mushrooms evenly over the sausage and sprinkle with the scallions. Along the long sides of the “rectangle” fold in any loose and ragged edges to make it a tidier shape. Then begin to roll from one of the short sides, tucking in the ends of the roll as you go, much like rolling up a burrito or making cinnamon rolls.
Once it’s rolled up, ensure that the seam is on the bottom. Tie it securely with cotton kitchen twine so that the roll stays in tact and can cook evenly. Transfer the stuffed and rolled turkey breast to a roasting pan. Tuck the remaining two rosemary sprigs under the string and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place in a 425° oven for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 165F, about 90 minutes. Remove from the roasting pan and transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil until ready to cut and serve, minimum 30 minutes. Reserve the pan drippings for gravy. To serve, remove the strings and discard with the rosemary sprigs. Slice into ¼”-½” slices.
To make gravy, set the roasting pan on the stove top over medium heat. Add 1 cup of white wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom. In a sealing jar, shake together 1 cup of cold water with 2 Tbsp plain flour to make a slurry the texture of heavy cream. Pour the slurry slowly into the simmering pan, whisking consistently until thickened. Adjust thickness with a bit more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar. The gravy is ready when it coats the back of a spoon and the raw flour taste has been cooked out, about 10 minutes. Pour the gravy through a fine mesh sieve into a pre-warmed pitcher. Serve immediately.