For the next few weeks, as Christmas approaches, our small, quiet New England town will come alive with holiday entertaining.
This year, my husband and I have opted for a small get-together: a simple buffet for 10 at our house.
Cider-Roasted Turkey Breasts will be the centerpiece of the meal. I'll serve the breasts sliced, napped with sauce and garnished with fresh sage and thyme along with apple wedges. Side dishes will include a wild rice pilaf, a bowl of mashed sweet potatoes and turnips, and glistening cranberry chutney.
Cider-Roasted Turkey Breasts
Makes 10 servings
coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried whole sage leaves, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
2 boneless turkey breasts, each about 2 1/2 pounds (with skin left on), rolled into cylinders and tied with string (see note)
5 to 6 tablespoons oil, plus more if needed
2 cups chopped leeks (3 to 4 leeks)
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 -inch dice, plus 2 extra apples, cored, thinly sliced and tossed in juice of half a lemon for garnish, optional
2 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
1 1 / 4 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons flour
bouquet of fresh sage sprigs and thyme branches for garnish, optional
In small bowl, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, dried sage and dried thyme. Pat turkey breasts dry with paper towels. Rub seasonings over all sides of meat.
Heat enough oil to coat bottom of large, heavy flameproof roasting pan set over medium-high heat until very hot. Brown breasts well on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes or longer. Remove breasts from pan and set aside.
Add more oil if needed to lightly coat bottom of pan. Add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add apples and cook and stir 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
Place breasts in pan, spreading leeks and apples around them. Mix cider and wine together and pour 1/2 cup over turkey breasts, leeks and apples. Roast at 375 degrees on center rack, basting turkey, leeks and apples every 20 minutes with 1/2 cup cider mixture. Roast about 1 hour or slightly longer, until meat thermometer registers 180 degrees in thickest part. If leeks and apples start to brown too much, baste with extra cider mixture. When done, remove and transfer breasts to platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
In small bowl, blend together butter and flour. Using strainer, strain apples and leeks from roasting pan into bowl, pressing down with back of spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Pour strained liquid into roasting pan along with remaining cider mixture. (You should have at least 2 cups cider mixture left. If not, add more cider and / or wine.) Also, pour in any juices that have collected from turkey platter. Bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from pan, and cook 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in butter mixture and cook, whisking, until sauce thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and season with 1 teaspoon salt or to taste and with several grinds of black pepper.
Cut off and discard strings from breasts. Slice roasts into 1/2 -inch-thick slices and arrange, overlapping, on warm platter. Nap with some sauce. Garnish with bouquets of fresh sage and thyme and apple slices. Pass extra sauce separately.
Note: If your market doesn't display boned turkey breast roasts, ask butcher to prepare them for you. The turkey breasts called for in this recipe are actually one-half of a whole breast and, when boned, weigh 2 to 2 1/2 pounds. Ask butcher to roll boned breast into cylinder 9 to 10 inches long and to tie it at 1/2 -inch intervals.