Updated: Mar 6
Fall for the herby flavors in this delicious riff on an Italian meat-treat!
For the printable recipe PDF click here.
Funny thing about this recipe:
Turketta was actually intended to be my very first post when I originally launched the blog a few years back (back when there were only four monsters to our family and our site name).
From misplacing, tweaking, and retesting the recipe to taking sub-par photos to holding off on posting till seasonally appropriate, the post just kept getting pushed.
Initially, I was so excited about this concept, thinking I had come up with something rather novel, but since its inception, I have discovered I was far (FAR) from the first to think this was a good idea.
So I guess what I lack in originality I make up for in good company.
Here's where the inspiration for my version came from:
Back in my college days, my school had a partnership with the Italian town of Ariccia, home to an herby, garlicky, crispy, tender, luscious, rich, and let's just call it delicious product called Porchetta.
When the producers of this spectacular pork preparation wanted to test their product on the American market, I was one of the lucky students selected as an ambassador. This meant two things:
1) I got to don a black t-shirt emblazoned with a gold, cursive "P" and pass out Porchetta samples to tailgaters on game days.
2) I got to indulge in some seriously tasty Italian pork and subsequently became somewhat obsessed with it.
In the years since my graduation, Porchetta has risen to foodie prominence in the States, with copycat recipes galore. The tantalizingly rich and flavorful America's Test Kitchen version is a holiday staple in my home--so good!
While we love, love, love to make (and consume) Porchetta, using pork belly or pork shoulder, a while back we started toying with the idea of a slightly less rich version. I was curious how a leaner and quicker-cooking turkey breast would handle the "porchetta" treatment.
Turns out, it's delicious.
We make a quick, herby paste in the food processor; liberally coat the turkey breast with this goodness; let it soak up the flavors for a day or two; and cook!
We use a mixture of dried and fresh herbs for best results. Along with fresh garlic, fresh rosemary and sage add a touch of moisture and bulk to the paste, but we prefer dried thyme for its ease and slightly-less-woody flavor.
As a nod to porchetta's signature crispy bits, we wrap the non-skin side in bacon, enriching the meaty flavor and helping to maintain moisture. If you are keeping kosher, you could omit the bacon. However, there won't be enough turkey skin to cover all of the breasts, so the bacon is super helpful to ensure the whole breast stays moist and delicious. If you're willing to go a little out of the way, you could always ask your butcher for some chicken skin, or save some from another use.
On some occasions we have butterflied the turkey breasts to create an even thickness before coating with the paste of garlic and chopped herbs, but most of the time we find it is not necessary. Still, if it is super important to you that the herby mixture be as evenly distributed as possible, this is an extra measure you could take.
We like to buy up as many day-after-Thanksgiving turkeys as our freezer can hold. After defrosting a whole turkey, we will prep the breasts for turketta, and reserve the dark meat for turkey tinga (basically turkey slow-braised in salsa and then shredded). The tinga makes a fabulous filling for paleo tamales, a great stuffing for a baked potato, or a delicious topper for cauli rice or a giant bowl of roasted veggies.
Shaved or thinly sliced turketta is a great addition to a charcuterie board, while thick slices make a great entrée. Either thick or thin slices would be killer on a turketta sandwich with some oven roasted tomatoes, garlic aioli, and arugula on sweet potato toasts or paleo Irish soda bread. Or take the turketta in a more Thanksgiving-y direction with some delicious homemade cranberry sauce.
Here's what you'll need:
15 medium-sized cloves of garlic
6 fresh sage leaves
2 cups fresh rosemary leaves (about 10 large) sprigs
2 tsp dried fennel seeds
1 T dried thyme leaves
3 T coarse kosher salt (such as Morton)
20 cranks black pepper
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 T freshly grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons) or 5 drops lemon essential oil
¾ cup olive oil (not extra-virgin olive oil)
2 turkey breasts
8 slices thin-cut, paleo-friendly bacon
Here's what you'll do:
Place all ingredients except turkey and bacon in the food processor and process to a semi-smooth paste. Rub the paste all over the turkey breasts.
Transfer turkey to a zip-top bag, squeezing out any excess air. Alternatively, vacuum seal the turkey breasts to preserve greater freshness. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours, or vacuum seal and freeze to cook later.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F., and place a rack in the middle position of the oven.
With the turkey breasts skin-side down, layer 4 slices of bacon over the top of each breast, and tie each one up with butchers' twine into a log shape for even cooking and to keep the bacon in place. Make at least three ties: one in the middle, and then on the ends.
Roast the breasts, skin side up, in a deep roasting pan for 35 min. In a pinch, you could use a shallow roasting pan, rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan, but you will need to be extra cautious transferring the pan in and out of the oven if a lot of fat is rendered. Turn on the broiler and broil 2-4 minutes or until golden brown, watching closely to prevent scorching.
Flip the breasts and cook another 25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 155.
Let rest at least 20 min before carving. Serve thinly sliced as charcuterie, or serve any thickness as a main course.
For the printable recipe PDF click here.