TURKEY BREAST ROULADE WITH SPINACH, MUSHROOM, AND PANCETTA
Turkey is a versatile meat with distinct, rich flavor. The most iconic preparation is of course to roast the whole bird for great family gatherings or holidays—likely because of the size of the bird. With one preparation and cut of meat, it’s easy to make a meal for 12-15 people. The problem is that there are only a few times a year when such a large feast is necessary, and the rest of the year—aside from buying cold cuts from the grocery deli—we seem to neglect the majestic turkey. But what if you love turkey all the time? Or your holiday feast is only for a few guests?Enter the turkey breast.
One turkey breast is enough to feed a small party, and it’s an easy cut of meat to prepare elegantly to impress dinner guests. With just a bit of quick knife work and a simple butcher’s tie, the everyday turkey breast is transformed into a fancy roulade. Roulade is a term that comes from the French word rouler, which means ‘to roll.’ This is a technique used form many different meat cuts, and also some pastries—such as the Swiss Roll cake. (All you Little Debbie fans may be familiar with the Americanized version of this dessert.)
Most roulades are filled with a stuffing of some sort. Bread stuffings made from cornbread or bread crumbs are popular, as are stuffings comprised of greens and bacon, cheeses, and nuts. For this particular roulade, we will be using spinach, mushroom, pancetta, and a bit of ricotta cheese.
It’s important to prepare the filling first so that it has time to cool before being rolled into the turkey breast. Cooking the spinach and mushrooms will remove a good amount of moisture from the vegetables so that it doesn’t leach out while roasting the roulade, making a mess of the inside of the roast.
For the filling
1 T olive oil
4 oz diced pancetta
1 C sliced cremini mushroom caps
6 oz washed baby spinach, destemmed
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 1/2 t fresh Thyme, chopped
1 1/2 t fresh sage, chopped
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
3/4 C ricotta cheese, preferably a little on the dryer side.
(Side note: Most ricotta in stores is not awesome. It might be best to find a specialty store and shell out a little more for a great cheese, or make your own. It’s really not that hard. Follow the recipe from The Food Lab here.)
Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet and add the pancetta. Render the fat in the pancetta until it is nice and crisp and remove from the pan, leaving all of the fat in the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until they have a deep brown caramelization then add the spinach. Let the spinach wilt for about a minute or two, stirring constantly, and then add the herbs and garlic. Stir until it is incorporated and then strain in a fine mesh sieve or colander. Make sure to press on the mixture to push out a good bit of moisture. The filling shouldn’t need to be bone dry, but the drier the better. Place the mixture in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the ricotta cheese and set aside to cool. This can be done a day ahead if necessary. Keep the stuffing refrigerated until ready to use.
For the turkey breast
1 3-pound turkey breast, tenderloin removed
We are going to start with a pretty simple brine.
20 oz water
2 oz salt
2 oz honey
20 oz ice
Bring the water, salt and honey to steeping, making sure all of the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in ice and set aside to cool.
While the brine is cooling, we are going to butterfly the turkey breast. This is going to allow for a greater surface area, a thinner cut of meat, and it will make it much easier to roll.
Lay the breast flat on a cutting board and with a sharp knife, cut into the thick side of the breast towards the thin side. Be careful not to cut all the way through the breast meat. We will now brine for two hours. Remove from the brine and pat the meat dry.
Lay the breast flat on a cutting board and cover it with plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, or the bottom of a small pan, gently pound the breast meat into a uniform 1/2 inch thickness. Be firm but delicate. We don’t want holes in the breast.
Remove the plastic wrap and spread the filling evenly on to the flattened breast meat, leaving about a 1/2 inch to an inch on each side. The filling will spread as we roll up the meat. Start the roll on the shortest side of the breast, gently rolling and tucking until it forms a uniform log. Using butcher’s twine, tie the roll every two inches to secure the shape and ensure that we don’t lose our filling.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
In a large cast iron pan or skillet, heat 2 T oil, and 1 T butter. Place the turkey roll in the hot oil and sear on all sides, turning it carefully as to not disturb the filling. Cook until each side is nice and golden brown, then place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and cook in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165. This could take about thirty minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
For the gravy
2 T butter
4 fresh sage leaves
3 T flour
2 cups turkey or chicken broth and pan drippings, combined
salt and lemon juice to taste
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and cook until it starts to brown slightly. Add the sage leaves and cook until they crisp up, about a minute. Remove the sage and set aside. Add the flour to the brown butter and stir until smooth and homogenous. Cook the roux until it takes on a rich brown color and nutty aroma. This will take a few minutes and require constant attention so as not to burn the roux. Steadily stir in the broth/pan drippings, ensuring that no lumps form. Stir and simmer for a few minutes until the gravy thickens a bit. Season with salt, lemon and a bit of cracked pepper or a dash of hot sauce. Serve on the sliced turkey roulade with the fried sage and enjoy.