Let’s Talk Turkey By Paul Lindemuth

The phrase “let’s talk turkey” is something that got started in the US and was first recorded in 1824. But it likely goes far further back than that, perhaps to contact between Native Americans and settlers where conversation often centered on the supply of wild turkeys since Indians were said to have inquired whenever they met a colonist, “you come to talk turkey?”.

The meaning of the phrase has changed throughout the years and often refers to speak frankly, discuss hard fact and get down to business.  Given that Thanksgiving centers around turkey (usually not wild ones these days) and so many hard facts swirling around the preparation of said bird for the Thanksgiving feast, let’s get down to business.

Traditions abound in every household where families gather around the table expecting to see their favorite foods that typically only appear all together once a year; mashed potatoes and an ocean of gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pies and more. And at the center of this feast is the succulent roasted turkey with crispy skin.

Growing up I remember my father bringing home a fresh turkey from our local small town butcher shop. Together, he and my mother would start by cooking the giblets, onions and carrots in broth the night before Thanksgiving to turn into gravy. On Thanksgiving Day the bird would get stuffed, doused in butter, seasoned and put into the oven. What seemed like an eternity later it came to the table all brown and beautiful and would be expertly carved by my father. It was picture perfect.

Sadly, what I remember years later was overcooked, dry breast meat (my favorite part….and the favorite of many), rather gummy stuffing from the cavity and a platter of uneaten dark meat that was probably a bit underdone. I know this scenario is mirrored in many homes today. I’ve been asked many times “how do YOU cook your turkey?”. My answer now is I don’t cook a whole turkey. The romantic scenario of that perfect bird being carved table-side is often overshadowed by the reality of the unevenly cooked meat and the messy, cumbersome carving process.

TurkeyBreastMy solution? A perfectly roasted, juicy, crispy skinned turkey breast. I always roast a couple legs as well, separately, to satisfy the dark meat lovers. The result is succulent and easily carved to be presented on a beautifully garnished platter. The quick high temperature roasting is admittedly a bit daunting the first time and yields a spattered oven interior. But the results far outweigh the bit of mess. And once you experience the flavor and texture of this cooking method, I think you will never go back.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Perfect 60-Minute Roast Turkey Breast
Serves 6
  1. one 5 ½ to 6 pound whole turkey breast, thawed if frozen
  2. olive oil
  3. kosher salt
  4. freshly ground black pepper
  1. Position oven rack to the second level from the bottom. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
  2. Place the turkey breast side up on a large rimmed baking sheet. Rub lightly with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Roast the turkey for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and brown and the juices run clear.
  4. Remove the turkey from the oven and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
  5. Using a long carving knife, remove the breast halves from the bones. Carve each breast across the grain into thick slices and serve.
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