Some people might say there’s something missing at our Thanksgiving table. They might say that the conspicuous absence of a large, roasted bird means that it’s not Thanksgiving at all. But my family would disagree. I don’t remember the last time my mom roasted a whole turkey. They’re difficult to carve, easily dry out and everyone fights for the white meat. My mom tried a Turkey Roulade one year, and we haven’t looked back since.
Usually, we make a prosciutto and sage-stuffed turkey breast, wrapped in peppered bacon and basted with pear jam. It’s absolutely delicious. The bacon and jam keep the turkey nice and juicy, and the pepper is a perfect contrast to the sweet jam. My mom’s been doing this turkey for years, and we decided to change it up a little this year. We picked our filling ingredients and I volunteered to make a test turkey.
Instead of prosciutto and sage, I stuffed it with caramelized onions and figs, goat cheese, cranberries and chopped toasted pecans. I still wrapped it in bacon — how could I not wrap it in bacon? — but I did skip the pear jam and I couldn’t find peppered bacon.
The new filling was a definite success. It was rich, tart and sweet without being overpowering. I had skipped the pear jam because I thought the filling would be too sweet, but the sweetness actually mellowed out while the turkey roasted and the bacon didn’t caramelize as well as I’d hoped, so the pear jam will be back on Thanksgiving day. I also missed the spicy kick from the peppered bacon to counteract the rich filling, so I’ll redouble my efforts to find before the big day.
It’s not a traditional turkey, but it’s delicious, easy to slice, easy to serve. I already can’t wait to hit up the leftovers in my fridge!
Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Roulade
For the brine:
1/3 cup salt
6 cups water
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (or 24 red pearl onions, peeled but whole)
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dried figs, chopped
2 tbsp. water or stock
1 whole, boneless turkey breast, butterflied (usually around 4 – 6 pounds)
2 tsp. sea salt
20 slices peppered bacon (like this one)
6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup chopped toasted pecans*
1 1/2 cups pear jam (use apricot jam if you can’t find pear jam)
Butcher’s twine for wrapping
Start by brining the turkey. Mix the salt and water together in a very large bowl or dish. Rinse the turkey and place in the brine for about 1 hour. You can brine while you caramelize the onions and figs. When you’re done brining, remove the turkey, rinse it thoroughly and pat it dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.
Caramelize the onions and figs. Place a skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the onions and shallots. Saute for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and shallots turn translucent. Add the figs and water (or stock) and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, until everything is a golden, caramelized color. Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 325°.
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil, then set aside. Now, lay your bacon out length-wise on your work surface. You want each piece to slightly overlap the piece before it. Place the butterflied turkey breast on top of the bacon, with the butterflied, split portion perpendicular to the bacon. You want the bacon to wrap around the turkey when you roll it up.
Sprinkle the turkey with salt. Layer the caramelized onions and figs, goat cheese, cranberries and pecans on the turkey, making sure to spread the filling out in an even layer, or your turkey will be hard to roll.
Using both hands, start rolling the turkey onto itself like a fruit roll-up, stuffing the filling back in if it escapes. Wrap your butcher’s twine around the turkey breast. Place the turkey on the prepared cookie sheet, seem side down, and spread the pear jam all over the bacon.
Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. It’s done when the bacon is brown and caramelized. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 1 1/2 – inch rounds and place on your serving dish. Drizzle with any drippings and serve immediately.
Makes 6 large servings.
*Toast the pecans by spreading them out on a cookie sheet (whole) and placing in a 325° oven for 20 minutes. Let cool, then chop coarsely.