When I first started cooking with meat several years ago, it was like putting my pinkie toe in the shallow end of the swimming pool. Initially, I could hardly stand to handle raw boneless, skinless chicken breast. (My mother still dislikes this!) Then I had to get over putting both hands into a bowl of ground beef or pork to make meatballs. Just 15 months ago, I was squeamish when I had to help with the prep work on some red chile and pork in Las Cruces.
Within the last year or so, though, a switch has flipped and I’ve been trying to expand my meat repertoire. I’ve done pretty well with brisket, pork shoulder, pork tenderloin, and a few steaks, but I’ve never tried a turkey. I figured it would be a bit excessive to cook a whole turkey for two people, so I decided to try a recipe (Molasses-Glazed Turkey Breast and Acorn Squash from the September 2006 issue of Everyday Food) that called for a larger skin-on, boneless turkey breast.
Except I couldn’t find one.
Central Market had packages of boneless, skinless turkey breast with multiple six- to eight- ounce pieces, but that didn’t fit the bill. The only turkey “breast” to be found was essentially a packaged turkey torso, and the smallest one I could find was a little over four pounds.
I decided to go for it.
I made it on Wednesday night when we didn’t have any plans. I knew I would be doing some guesswork on the cooking time since this “breast” weighed double what the recipe called for, and I didn’t want to have to stress about it.
I started out by combining some chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt to make a spice rub. Then I unwrapped the huge, gleaming white hunk of bird, rubbed it with some olive oil, and then rubbed the spices over and under the skin.
The recipe said to roast a two-pound breast for 25 minutes; with double the weight, I decided to double the time. In the meantime, I cut two acorn squash into one-inch half moons and mixed up a glaze of molasses, oil, and salt. I arranged the squash on a baking sheet and brushed it with some of the glaze; the rest of the glaze would be used for the turkey.
After 50 minutes had passed, I brushed the first round of glaze on the outside of the turkey and put it back in the oven on the bottom rack. The squash went on the top rack. For the next 35 minutes, I roasted the squash and periodically glazed the turkey (about every 8 minutes).
The turkey breast had a timer “button,” but since I’d never used one before, I really didn’t know what it would look like when the meat was done. I used my digital thermometer fork (lifesaver!) to monitor the meat temperature. When the 35 minutes had passed, the meat had reached 165 F – perfect.
I covered the squash with foil to keep it hot and covered the turkey with foil to let it rest before carving. After 10 minutes, I carved the bird and plated it with the squash and some green beans.
Whew! I had to work for this one. All in all, this meal was pretty good, but I would want to practice a few more times before attempting it for company. Despite being one of the least picky eaters on the planet, Dr. O isn’t too hot for acorn squash, so I might try a different vegetable next time. Suggestions?
TIPS: Cutting an acorn squash in half is no easy feat. Get a sharp knife, be prepared to use a decent amount of pressure, and watch those fingers. For carving the turkey (or any large piece of meat), an electric knife just makes things so much easier. It also increases the chances of your meat still being hot when it hits the table. Mine is just an inexpensive Hamilton Beach knife from Target.
Recipe link: Molasses-Glazed Turkey Breast with Acorn Squash