It doesn’t have to be November to be thankful, or to cook up a split turkey breast. Thankfully. The split breast is a great option for a weekend dinner, because it takes a little longer than my preferred week night cooking time. It also provides tender, juicy leftovers for lunch sammiches and salads during the busy week. Beats a chain restaurant sub sandwich any day in my book.
Once again, I found myself with a beautiful variety of fresh herbs.
Cilantro, Dill, Oregano, and Flat Leaf Italian Parsley. I feel like they’re my pals. Am I spending too much time in the kitchen? I really need to get out more.
Herbs are inexpensive and pack a huge flavor punch without packing on the calories. I typically have at least 2 varieties on hand at all times, and I find that no matter how limited one’s diet is- low fat, heart-healthy, low sodium, lactose free, gluten free, vegetarian, even those super strict vegans- herbs and citrus are still safe to incorporate into recipes.
I decided to make an herb butter with which to give my turkey a good rub down.
A blank canvas, just waiting to become a work of edible art.
Into my mini food processor went my herbs, softened butter, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.
Ta dah! Herb butter. I actually reserved half to flavor future dishes, and dipped my little hands right into the other half.
I carefully lifted the skin away from the meat and spread the butter onto the turkey itself. For some reason, that action always feels empowering to me, like I’m opening some secret trap door to Flavortown. Next, I rubbed the herb butter all over the skin and on the under side too. Two tablespoons of butter for the whole bird- not so bad when you think about the amount of butter per bite.
That’s all. Ready for the oven. I let it do its thing…for a while. And I had plenty of time to create some fabulous side dishes to complement our turkey, namely cauliflower au gratin and sauteed spinach. I have a cookbook that celebrates the French Bistros of the world, and one featured restaurant is Nappa Valley’s Bouchon. One of their star dishes, cauliflower au gratin, was included in my book and I was inspired to adapt my own version.
I love the simplicity of few ingredients. And I really like the cooking process of this recipe.
The more I read about cauliflower, the better I understand that this vegetable becomes more tender and flavorful the longer it cooks. This differs from its green look-alike, broccoli, which becomes brown and mushy after more than a few minutes in the pot.
First, I tossed the florets in lemon juice and then blanched them in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
Next, I began sauteing the stems with butter, shallot, and garlic.
I thought the next step was interesting, “Pour in the stock or broth, raise heat to high and cook until the liquid entirely evaporates.”
That happened really quickly, and the stems just soaked up all of the flavor and moisture.
Next, I pureed the stems,
added milk and horseradish, and made a bit of a cauliflower sauce.
Then I tossed the florets in this flavorful mixture and prepared our baking dish. I appreciate the concept of bathing the cauliflower florets in a puree of their own kind. Most au gratins I come across have creamy, cheesy mixtures that provide the moisture. Cooking and processing the stems provides double the cauliflower taste- making for a richer dish with deeper flavor.
We added a layer of cheese. The original recipe called for gruyere, but we used cheddar and parmesan, because that’s what we had in our cheese drawer. A cheese drawer is a beautiful thing!!! We also added homemade breadcrumbs. Come on, why not?
How could it be bad? It couldn’t. It wasn’t.
While the cauliflower was baking, I prepared a super simple accompaniment of sauteed spinach. I figured with the depth of flavor in both the turkey and the cauliflower, leafy green wilted spinach would be just right.
And our turkey was ready to come out of the oven and rest.
We whipped up a quick gravy using the juice leftover from roasting the turkey. Waste not, want not.
The cauliflower was also ready.
And soo pretty. Time to serve it up!
My mouth is watering looking back at this dish. The turkey was tender, juicy, well-seasoned, and herbaceous. The cauliflower was so soft and luscious, yet the florets held their shape. And the horseradish was not overwhelming in the least. The crispiness on top from the cheese and breadcrumbs offered a lovely contrast. The spinach was a perfectly humble pairing, and the gravy tied it all together. Mmm. Delicious.
One of the best parts about learning to cook is realizing that techniques and processes can be adapted to a variety of ingredients. This turkey breast could have been seasoned in a million different ways using the same methodology. The concept of employing cauliflower as the star and as the sauce within the same dish is brilliant and can be applied to a multitude of foods. My simple sauteed spinach could have easily been swiss chard, any greens, or even zucchini.
I hope that you are finding inspiration to play with food in your kitchen and putting your own twists on tried and true methods. If you need help, you know who to call.
I also hope that you are feeling thankful every day for the goodness you have in your life and sharing that with others.
Happy cooking and sharing,