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Maple-Brined Turkey Breast with Mushroom Gravy

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Serves 6 to 8

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 143

Brining brings out the best in turkey, making it juicy and adding savory flavor; be sure to allow enough time (at least 4 hours) to brine the breast. The mushroom gravy is rich, thick, and fragrant with fresh tarragon, and it can be made completely ahead.

For the turkey
  • 1-1/2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2-3/8 oz. fine sea salt (1/4 cup if using La Baleine brand)
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 7- to 8-lb. bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, trimmed of excess fat
For the gravy
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 8 oz. mixed fresh mushrooms, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups unsalted turkey or chicken stock
  • 3 Tbs. dry sherry
  • 3 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Brine the turkey

Combine the maple syrup, sugar, soy sauce, salt, garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a 5- to 6-quart pot. Add 3 quarts water and simmer until the sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely. Place the turkey breast in the pot, skin side down (it’s ok if some of the backbone sticks out). Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours and up to 18 hours.

Make the gravy

Heat 2 Tbs. of the butter and the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until soft but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring infrequently, until any liquid they release has evaporated and they are well browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the stock and sherry, and cook over high heat until reduced to about 2-1/2 cups, about 15 minutes; it will be thickened later. (The gravy can be prepared to this point up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerate and reheat gently before proceeding.)

Roast the turkey and finish the gravy

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F. Remove the turkey breast from the brine, rinse it well, and pat dry with paper towels.  Discard the brine. Place the breast skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F in the thickest area of the breast, about 2 hours (begin checking earlier if your bird is on the smaller side). If the skin is overbrowning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil.

Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Just before serving, bring the gravy to a simmer over medium-low heat. Mix the cornstarch with 3 Tbs. water. Stir this mixture into the gravy, a little at a time, until thickened to your liking (you may not need it all). Whisk in the remaining 2 Tbs. butter, the chives, parsley, and tarragon, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Carve the turkey breast, and serve with the gravy.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 680, Fat Calories (kcal): 270, Fat (g): 30, Saturated Fat (g): 10, Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10, Cholesterol (mg): 230, Sodium (mg): 870, Carbohydrates (g): 12, Fiber (g): 0, Sugar (g): 7, Protein (g): 86

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe, coupled with the one for braised dark meat, sounded and LOOKED so appealing in the October issue that I even bought the platter pictured (from Bantam Tile Works) to put the turkey in. Brining the breast overnight yielded a subtle maple sweet flavor and an incredibly juicy result. The skin was brown and crispy - tenting with foil was necessary after about 1.45 hours in the oven using convection setting at 325. Not having to add butter to the skin for this outcome was much appreciated given the amount of same used in other dishes served at the holiday meal! For a party of 9 using 1 oven, not cooking a whole bird was a lifesaver and no one missed the carving ritual. Plenty of meat left over.

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