When Anne and I decided to have her parents over for a Thanksgiving brunch last weekend, I hummed and hawed over whether to do a small turkey for 4 people in the early day or whether to opt for another fare. In the end, I chose to go with turkey but a more modest cut: the breast (or half the breast as it turned out).
Generally, I crave the dark meat of poultry because it is loaded with flavour and is juicier. So with half a turkey breast in the fridge and company coming, I ruminated over an easy way to roast it that wouldn’t tie me to the kitchen. Roasting was my preferred approach since I was already committed to roasted rutabaga as the side. However, a roasted turkey breast by itself was almost guaranteed to come out dry and bland … unless I did something to add fat, seal in the juices, and inject flavour. Brining the bird was one option, but having returned from Saudi Arabia and still recovering from a week with no pork, I instead thought “Bacon!” And with fall on the brain too, I thought, ” … and Maple” whose sweetness and earthiness would connect the turkey to the roasted rutabaga.
The result is devilishly simple recipe that succeeded on all fronts to produce the juiciest and most flavourful oven-roasted turkey breast I’ve ever eaten.
Cooking tips are simple: produce a smokey, Southwestern-inspired rub, imbue it with the sweetness of maple, and weave a new skin of smokey bacon to cover the turkey and protect it through the cooking. Why this works? As the bacon cooks, it will auto-baste the breast with imbue the breasts with its smokey goodness. How good is that? Therefore, choose your bacon wisely. I chose a maple-smoked entry for a little more maple still. Choose something natural, if possible, not too much sodium, good smoke and flavour, and not too much fat, but not too lean either. In other words, pick the Goldilocks of pork lashes and you’re ready for a treat.
Marinade: 60 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Rest time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes plus 60 for marinade
Maple and Bacon-Smoked Turkey Breast
- 3 lbs (1.35kg) turkey breast, skin-on
- 1/2 lb (250g) maple-bacon________
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- Wash the turkey breast and pat dry with paper towels.
- Prepare the marinade by combining all the spices together in a small bowl and mix. Then mix in the maple syrup to form a wet rub.
- Lightly rub roughly a quarter of the marinade over the skin-side of the turkey.
Place the turkey breast skin-side down in shallow roasting pan, preferably on top of a rack (to prevent skin from sticking and to keep the turkey out of the oil), and rub in the remaining marinade.Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven 30 minutes before cooking and set it 450ºF. Also remove turkey from fridge at this point and use the bacon to weave a ‘blanket’ over the turkey breast. Let turkey rest, now, until oven is preheated.
- Place the turkey in the oven at 450ºF and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 400ºF and continue to roast for another 40-50 minutes. (Note: this would be the right point to add the rutabaga to the oven if also preparing this side). Turkey will be done when a meat thermometer registers 160ºF and the bacon is cooked. If you want the bacon a bit more crispy, broil the roast for a few minutes. Remove.
- Cover the turkey with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Internal temperature of the turkey will rise another 10 degrees and the juices will be reabsorbed into the breast ensuring an optimally juicy breast.
- Carve the turkey. I recommend you remove the bacon and don’t serve. As yummy as the bacon will be, it will overpower the dish and take away from the turkey. Therefore, don’t use but save the bacon and use it for sandwiches or anything else you might want for later.
- Plate the turkey, serve with roasted rutabaga and/or your favourite fall veggies. For an added extra touch, drizzle a little bit of the pan drippings over the veg instead of butter. Enjoy!Serve with roasted rutabaga with fall herbs.