Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Turkey in a blanket

It's October, and even here in sunny Southern California, there's been a nip in the air.  Unfortunately for me, it's more than just the seasonal drop into the low 80s that has me dreaming fondly of fireplaces and hot cocoa.  It's the industrial strength AC in my office at work.  The thing is pumping out arctic air at a pace that goes against every principle of energy conservation I can think of.  I sit at my desk bundled up like the toddler of an overanxious parent on the first snow day, with just my eyes peeking out from under the layers of scarves and sweaters.  On the plus side, we might be able to set up a side business as a meat locker if the company runs low on cash.

When I come home, the rest of the family is in their shorts and t-shirts, sweating and drinking ice water.  I curl up on the couch, shivering uncontrollably.

They look over at me.

My son: Another tough day at the office, Mom?
Me:  Sh-shut up and p-p-p-pass me that b-b-b-blanket.*

Bacon-Wrapped Brined Turkey Breast
Since I was all wrapped up, I figured that dinner should be, too.  Good choice for both of us. This is a delicious and easy way to add both flavor and juiciness to lean cuts of meat, without adding much fat to the final product.  Plus, the house smells crazy good while it's cooking.  Since you are brining the meat, you'll need to start working on this several hours before dinner, or in the morning before you go freeze your a** off at the office.

1/2 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. brown sugar
thin outer rind of 1/2 orange (zest the other half of the orange)
1 tsp. crystalized ginger (optional)
1 tsp. whole peppercorns
1 qt. vegetable stock or water
1 qt. ice cubes

1 large turkey breast, deboned, with skin and visible fat removed
a 2 lb. pork loin roast, trimmed of visible fat

1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, softened
zest of the other 1/2 of that orange
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or herb of your choice)
about 1/2 pkg (8 oz) thick sliced bacon
a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or whatever herb you chose)

In a large saucepan, combine the salt, brown sugar, orange peel, ginger and peppercorns. Add the vegetable stock, and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the heat.  Slowly add the ice cubes, stirring as you do to bring the mixture down from boiling hot to very cool, after all of the ice has melted.  If not cold to the touch, feel free to add a little more ice.

Place the brine into a sealable container or a large plastic bag, and add the turkey or pork roast.  Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a few hours.  Remove the meat from the brine, rinse thoroughly with cool water, and pat dry. Discard the brine and set the meat aside.

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a small bowl, mix the softened butter with the mustard, garlic, orange zest, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves to form a smooth paste.  Set the brined meat into a roasting pan, breast side down, then rub the paste over the meat, turning over and finishing with the breast side up.  Place a few sprigs of thyme on top of the turkey breast.

Lay slices of bacon, cross-wise, on top of that, so that slices are right next to each other and the whole roast is covered.  Gently tuck the bacon under the roast, so the "blanket" of bacon fits it nice and snugly.

Roast for 10 minutes at 375, then lower the oven temperature to 325 and continue to cook, about 15 minutes per pound of your roast.   Every once in a while, baste the roast with some of the sizzling bacon drippings that are filling the pan.  To double check for doneness, use a meat thermometer with guidelines on it, remembering that the roast will continue to cook a little bit as it rests when you take it out of the oven, rising another 5-10 degrees.  When the roast is done, the bacon on the outside will be cooked but may only be crispy on the top of the roast.  Don't fret.  It will have worked its magic on the meat.

Allow the roast to rest in its bacon blanket for 10 minutes.

If you like, take some of the pan drippings, add some white wine, a little Dijon mustard and a splash of orange juice, and cook in a small saucepan on the stove while the roast is resting.  Drop in a pat of butter and stir until smooth.  You get to do this because you won't be eating that bacon.

Remove the bacon from the roast and slice thickly, passing pan sauce alongside.

Click to print this recipe!

* Of course, as I am writing this, we've had our first rainstorm of the season, the temperature outside is truly cold, and everyone in the house is wearing sweatshirts.  There's been also been run on blankets.

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