Guest Post: Easter Turkey Dinner

Food / Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Today’s recipe comes from a special guest blogger; my older brother, Philip. He writes from Astoria, NY.

Ok, this is my first ever try at food blogging! A few weeks back, I had both my brothers over for Easter. Since I went away for school, and then moved to NYC after school, I haven’t had any immediate family around for Easter in a long time. This year, my two brothers are living just hours away from me – one up in Boston and one down in DC. Both cities are 4 – 5 hours away – practically next door by Midwestern driving standards! So I thought it would be fun to have them join their older brother for Easter weekend.

The only downside to that was it meant I would have to come up with an Easter meal. I do cook – somewhat regularly, even – but it’s usually small and or simple, enough to feed me and my wife, relying heavily on stove-top recipes where I can watch the food cooking and make sure nothing terrible is happening to it.

Fajitas, eggs, stir-fries, or other reliable stove-top standbys didn’t feel like they were quite up to Easter dinner standards, though. No, for Easter dinner, I needed something substantial. Something baked.

I decided to go with turkey breast. My office is in midtown, so after work on Friday I wandered down to the new Trader Joe’s on 22nd street to see what I could find. I was afraid I would be too late to find anything good – the Friday before Easter felt like I was cutting it awfully close for picking up supplies. I was in luck, though, and found a half-turkey breast, organically grown. There were only going to be four of us, so a half-breast felt like it’d be the perfect amount of food, especially once we included sides.

The organic was a nice touch too. When it comes to organic food, I take a mixed approach. For some certain foods, I’ve found it really does make a difference in quality. Our neighborhood supermarket offers organic apples, and I have to admit they are far and away tastier than the regular apples. On other foods, though, I feel the organic label is often more a marketing ploy than anything. The turkey-breast was a good price, though, and felt nice and firmly-springy to the touch, so in this case I didn’t have any qualms with the organic label. Also, when you’re roasting, your meat better be good quality, because while you can ruin a nice cut of meat, you can’t improve a poor one.

For the side I decided to go with mashed potatoes, a favorite of mine, and my wife helped out by making a green-bean casserole.

I don’t have the green bean casserole recipe handy so I’ll skip it, but the mashed potatoes are simplicity itself:

  • Scrub your potatoes under running water
  • Quarter them with a big knife
  • Stick in a pot of water (enough to cover them by about an inch) for 20 – 40 minutes (for five good sized potatoes, it was closer to 40 minutes). You can test for doneness by poking a fork into the thickest part – it should feel soft but have a bit of resistance, like a slightly overripe fruit.
  • Drain. Mash, leaving the skin on! Add a bit of milk, then butter, salt, and pepper to taste.

Mashed potatoes are a personal preference. Our Joy of Cooking recommends using a potato ricer, but I like my potatoes hearty and a bit chunky, so skins and a simple mashing give me the results I like. We have an actual masher now, but I’ve also had good results simply using a large fork.

That was the easy part. The turkey, on the other hand, made me a bit nervous as I very rarely use the oven. This was my first attempt at roasting something. Going back to the reliable Joy of Cooking, the steps were:

  • Preheat the oven to 325
  • Brush the bird with melted butter
  • Stick in the oven

Having done this once, it’s hard to remember what I was so nervous about. It’s not really that much more complicated than making mashed potatoes. It would have been trickier with a full bird, as dark and light meats can cook differently, but for a half-breast, nothing too tricky.

The only hard part was the timing. The bird needs to get to a temperature of 165 to be ready (a cheap meat thermometer from Amazon works fine for checking). The rule of thumb is around 20 minutes per pound . I suspect that our oven runs a bit cool, though, because when I first checked, the bird was nowhere near that temperature. In total, it took nearly another 40 minutes beyond what I was expecting, with my brothers getting hungrier all the time.

The wait was totally worth it, though. The breast came out tender and juicy, honestly some of the best turkey I think I’ve had. There must be something to that organically-grown approach after all. We also had a simple spinach salad, so with the turkey, salad, potatoes, and casserole, it came out to a nicely-rounded meal.

Here are some pictures of the finished product. Unfortunately they don’t show off the food as clearly as I’d hoped, but I think you can get a sense of it.

Preparing the table

One Reply to “Guest Post: Easter Turkey Dinner”

  1. Great post! Phillip, I am the same way with mashed potatoes. Sometimes we get all crazy and add some garlic, cream cheese and sour cream. Mmmmmm!

    Anyways, enjoyed the post, hope to “see you around” again.

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