In real life, retail dictates the start of the seasons, which is why Halloween costumes arrive on the shelves in August, and Santa slides down store chimneys in October. In the mail order catalogs, Thanksgiving arrived two months ago, but I'm old-fashioned and wait until the calendar page flips to November. Now it's officially Thanksgiving season, so I offer the first of two recipes for stuffed turkey breast. I began experimenting with turkey breast in the slow cooker last year, when we hosted a very small holiday gathering of people who, it turned out, weren't huge dark meat fans. This gluten-free stuffing packs in all of the flavors of a New England harvest -- apples, thyme and cranberries -- and the slow cooker keeps the meat moist. If you're not buying directly from a farm, be sure to look for an organic turkey breast that hasn't been impregnated with brining solution or stabbed with a plastic pop-up timer. The butcher at my local supermarket's fantastic meat department happily butterflied the turkey breast for me.
Slow cooker turkey breast stuffed with wild rice and cranberries
1/2 cup wild rice
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaf
1/4 cup diced apple (any tart variety)
4 tsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup died celery
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1 egg (any size)
3-4 lb boneless turkey breast, skin removed, butterflied
1 whole onion, peeled and quartered
12-oz can unsweetened frozen apple juice concentrate, or 12 oz apple cider
In a small sauce pan, bring the rice and 1-1/4 cups water to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to lowest simmer, cover, and cook for 35 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked. Remove from heat and transfer half of the rice to a mixing bowl (save the remaining rice for another use). Stir in the cranberries, thyme, and apple, and set aside.
In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil, and sauté the diced onion and celery for 2-3 minutes. Pour the vegetables into the rice. Mix well, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lightly beat the egg, and add it to the rice. Stir to combine, then set the rice mixture aside to cool completely. (You could even make the rice stuffing a day ahead.)
When the rice mixture is cool, unfold the turkey breast on a board, with the inside facing up, being sure to open all of the flaps. Spread the rice mixture evenly over the turkey. Starting at one end, roll the turkey as best you can (it won't be perfect, but that's okay), and tie with kitchen twine to hold the meat together. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Add the remaining oil to the frying pan, and brown the turkey on all sides. Transfer to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker, along with the quartered onion and all of the apple juice concentrate or cider.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 1-3/4 to 2 hours, or until a thermometer measures 165°F when inserted into the center of the turkey.
Remove the turkey from the slow cooker, and cover with foil. You can strain the liquid and boil it down in a small sauce pan, to make a gravy.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made ahead; let cool, and refrigerate.
More birds of all sizes for the holiday table:
Slow cooker turkey breast stuffed with ricotta, tomato and basil, from The Perfect Pantry
Spiked Cornish game hens, from The Perfect Pantry
Grilled Asian turkey breast with soy, garlic, and chili paste, from The Perfect Pantry
Roast chicken with grapes, from Simply Recipes
Bacon-blanketed, herb roasted turkey, from The Runaway Spoon
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