Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roast Turkey Breasts with Asian Spice Rub

If I were more into preparation and testing recipes in advance to serving them to guests, October would make an ideal time to try out a few different roast turkey recipes using turkey breasts to see what seasonings you liked best.  I wish I could say that we were that forward-thinking, but the reason we are making turkey right now is because I wanted to get the bone-in turkey breast out of our freezer.  It took up a lot of room!  Earlier this week I found a base recipe for cooking the turkey breast and then considered a variety of different seasonings and spice blends - Asian, Cajun or more traditionally American.  I decided not to brine the turkey this time due to the lack of space in our refrigerator.  I asked Alex which he preferred and of course he picked Asian.  But I guess I am equally at fault for always agreeing when he suggests Asian.  In this instance Asian goes really well with my plans for using the leftover turkey meat - maybe a noodle soup, or a Laotian turkey salad that I have been wanting to make for awhile.  Alex suggested Asian-inspired club sandwiches.  After tasting the turkey I think I am leaning towards the club sandwiches.  And here's why - the turkey was heavily seasoned enough that I think throwing it into a soup (where the seasonings on the turkey breasts would mask any subtle flavors in the stock) or another highly seasoned salad would just be too much.  But if you threw the turkey meat into a sandwich with some nice mayo, lettuce and tomatoes I think it would totally work.  Also, some of our turkey meat was a little dry.  I'm blaming that on the fact that our turkey tipped over (in the rack on the roasting pan) in the oven.  I think that the breast that ended up on the bottom retained a lot more moisture (and was juicy and delicious), but the breast that ended up on top got a little dry.  I had pieces for dinner tonight that were juicy and delicious and other pieces that were nicely seasoned, but dry.  And we went a little heavier on the salt than I am noting in the recipe down below, but I cut it back a bit in the recipe because it was a little too salty for me.  I'm thinking 1 tbsp of kosher salt (instead of the 2 tbsp we used) would be better. 

With a few tweaks, I would totally make this recipe with a whole turkey breast for Thanksgiving.  I think I would cut up the orange that we zested and shove it in the cavity of the turkey along with some scallions and maybe some spices.  And I would pour some chicken stock into the bottom of the roasting pan to help retain moisture.  I would probably also brush the outside of the bird with some melted butter as it roasted.  And then I would make some sort of sherry-flavored gravy to serve with it.  Yum.  We served the turkey with green beans that I blanched in boiling salted water and then tossed simply with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.  It was a really nice pairing - the green beans were mellow and simply flavored, whereas the turkey was more complex and more highly-seasoned.  Nicely done us.

Recipe after the jump!

Roast Turkey Breasts with Asian Spice Rub
1 5-pound bone-in turkey breast
1 (generous) tbsp kosher salt
1tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 whole star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick 
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole cloves
zest of 1 orange, grated

Place turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan.  Coarsely grind salt, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cloves in a spice grinder.  Add orange zest to spiced salt mixture.  Rub spices all over turkey skin and let turkey stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 500 degrees F.  Roast turkey for 25 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees F and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 degrees F–160 degrees F, about 40 minutes longer.  Let turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.


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