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Brined Turkey Breast with Lemon-Parsley Gravy

Soaking a turkey in a salt-and-sugar solution adds moisture to the meat. This is an especially good technique to use with all-white meat, which can become dry when roasted. Soaking the breasts after brining in fresh water prevents the meat from being overly salty, although it will be somewhat saltier than turkey that has not been brined. Keep this in mind when salting the gravy to keep the flavors of the dish in balance.

Ingredients:

For the brine:

  • 6 quarts water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 1⁄2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 bone-in fresh whole turkey breasts, about
     11 lb. total
  • 9 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 yellow onion, unpeeled, quartered
  • 2 large carrots, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 3⁄4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium
     canned chicken broth
  • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
  • 1⁄4 cup peanut or canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

For the gravy:

  • 7 cups turkey stock
  • 1⁄4 cup cornstarch
  • 1⁄3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. minced lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

To make the brine, in a stockpot, combine the water, salt and brown sugar. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, just until the salt and sugar dissolve. Let cool to room temperature.

Rinse the turkey breasts and pat dry. In 1 very large or 2 large glass bowls or other nonaluminum containers, cover the turkey breasts with the brine. Refrigerate, turning the breasts occasionally in the brine, for 24 hours. Drain and discard the brine. Cover the turkey breasts with fresh, cold water and let stand at room temperature, turning once or twice, for 4 hours. Drain and pat dry. Trim excess skin from the turkey breasts.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F.

Spread 1 1/2 Tbs. of the butter over each turkey breast. Place the breasts on a rack in a flameproof roasting pan. Scatter the onion and carrots in the pan around the turkey. Roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the chicken stock, the remaining 6 Tbs. butter, the white wine, oil and lemon juice. Warm over low heat until the butter melts. After 30 minutes of roasting, baste the breasts with some of the stock mixture.

Continue to roast the turkey, basting every 30 minutes with the remaining stock mixture and then with the accumulated pan juices, stirring the vegetables in the pan occasionally, until the breasts are well browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F, about 2 hours.

Transfer the breasts to a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy, place the roasting pan with the vegetables across 2 burners and turn the heat to medium-high. Add 6 3/4 cups of the turkey stock to the pan and bring to a brisk simmer. Stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, about 5 minutes.

Pour the contents of the pan through a sieve set over a large bowl, pressing hard on the vegetables with the back of a large spoon to extract all the liquid; discard the solids. Spoon off as much of the fat as possible from the liquid, or pour the liquid into a fat separator and pour off the liquid. Transfer the liquid to a wide saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and simmer briskly until reduced by one-fourth, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup stock into the cornstarch to make a slurry. Gradually stir the slurry into the saucepan. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook until the gravy clears and thickens, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the turkey breast against the grain, on a slight diagonal, and serve with the gravy. Serves 8 to 10.

Make-Ahead Tips: The turkey must be put into the brine 28 hours before roasting. The stock may be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated, or up to 3 months before and frozen. Or, it may be made while the breasts soak in fresh water before roasting.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Thanksgiving, by Michael McLaughlin (Simon & Schuster, 2001).