Thanksgiving will look a lot different this year, with fewer people around the table and fewer dishes to plan for and prepare. If you are doing the cooking, consider buying a fresh turkey from a local farm (but act fast!)—and preparing only the turkey breast and saving the rest for later.
Buying a turkey from a local farm is a Thanksgiving tradition for many here in the Berkshires, and this year is no exception. While Moon In The Pond (one of the farms profiled in the Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook, and shown above; photo credit Rob Bildner) is not selling turkeys other than to its regular customers this year, Square Roots Farm, in Lanesborough, MA (another profiled farm) is. Michael Gallagher, who runs the family farm with wife Ashley Amsden, says there are still about 20 remaining turkeys as of this writing, though the bulk have been sold.
Pick-up day is the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, or November 21, with specific times yet to be determined. “We’ll probably have people sign up ahead of time for a pick-up slot. We’re working out the details as we see what the weather is like and to make sure we’re offering the most COVID-safe scenario possible,” Ashley says.
Pricing is $4.45/pound minus the $30 deposit that’s required when you place your online order. The gals are 17 to 18 pounds, toms are 22 to 24 pounds. “If we had known COVID-19 would still be around, we wouldn’t have pushed them to be so big,” Michael says.
Of course, if you cannot buy directly from a farm, you can always pick up a turkey from either of the Guido’s locations in Great Barrington or Pittsfield); the store sources its birds from Stonewood Farm in Orwell, VT. Theoretically you can order it up to the day before Thanksgiving, but your size options will be more limited.
And don’t forget to visit Berkshire Grown’s Holiday Markets at their new locations on Saturday November 21 (Great Barrington) and Sunday, November 22 (Williamstown) for all the fixings.
Turkey Breast for Scaled-Down Gatherings
Rather than cooking the whole bird, Michael recommends cutting it into parts and cooking just the bone-in breasts, something he and Ashley have been doing even before the pandemic to accommodate a smaller oven. This is especially helpful if you aren’t having a big crowd this year due to the pandemic. An average-size breast (4 to 8 pounds) will serve four to eight people. And then you can put the legs and wings and all the rest in the freezer to cook later. Or you can grind the meat from the rest into sausage. “We used my mom’s Kitchen-Aid attachment, nothing fancy,” Michael says.
When we contacted Franck Tessier and Rachel Portnoy, the husband-and-time team behind Chez Nous Bistro in Lee, MA (profiled in the book) to see if they had any tips for cooking a turkey breast for Thanksgiving, Rachel told us they just so happened to be offering herb-roasted turkey breasts on the restaurant’s Thanksgiving Pick-Up menu this year. (So you can skip the prep work and order Franck’s version along with all the fixings. Be sure to pre-order by 4 pm on Sunday, November 22 for pickup from 2 to 5 pm on Wednesday, November 25.)
Roasting Tips and Techniques
Besides sharing his recipe below, Franck offered a few tips for success:
- Brining the turkey for a full day—or at least overnight—will ensure the juiciest, most flavorful result.
- After brining, use a light hand when salting the turkey breast before it goes into the oven, as the brine contains a large quantity of salt.
- To avoid overcooking, he uses a relatively low oven temperature (325°F) to allow the interior to cook through before the surface dries out.
- He also removes the turkey from the oven once it reaches 155°F and allows it to rest under a tent of foil for 15 minutes, during which time the meat will continue cooking slowly and gently.
- “Happy cooking! Rachel & Franck”
Roasted Brined Turkey Breast with Vegetables
Recipe Courtesy of Franck Tessier
Franck is sourcing 3.5 to 4 pound turkey breasts for the restaurant; if you are cooking a larger (6 to 8 pound on average) breast, you will need to increase the quantity of brine accordingly. Doubling the ingredients is the easiest route and will ensure you have enough to completely cover the meat.
For the brine:
1/2 gallon water
1 cup apple cider, preferably fresh unpasteurized
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Zest of 1 orange
1 branch rosemary
One 3.5 to 4 pound bone-in turkey breast
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1. Bring the brine ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Put the turkey breast in a baking dish or other vessel that will allow the turkey to be completely submerged in the brine (so not too wide or too shallow). Let the brine cool, then pour over the turkey breast, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the turkey from the brine and dry it really well with paper towels. Discard the brine.
3. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a roasting pan, swirling to coat the bottom, and sear the turkey breast to brown on all sides. Remove to plate.
4. Add the vegetables to the roasting pan along with a little more olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened. Add the turkey breast, then rub the butter all over and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 to 160F°F, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the turkey to rest under a tent of foil for 15 to 20 minutes. Slice to serve, with the vegetables alongside.