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Don’t Just Roast Your Thanksgiving Turkey, Roulade It

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Photo: zoryanchik (Shutterstock)

Wrestling a whole turkey body into a roasting pan (or rather, onto a wire rack), isn’t for everyone. Even I, a seasoned professional, have to steel myself for the gory moments of cutting through bone when I spatchcock a bird, and I would be totally OK with never having to smash in a breast bone again. If you have similar feelings about strong-arming poultry, it might be time for you to ditch the whole bird, and join me for a holiday turkey roulade. It’s still got the flavor and goodness of a home-roasted turkey, but it’s juicier, faster to make than cooking a whole bird, and allows you to avoid most of the grim details of deboning poultry. It’s also damn fancy looking.

If you’ve ever been impressed by a Swiss roll or had a slice of a holiday yule log, you’ve already got the concept. The idea is to roll a large, seamless piece of turkey around succulent filling, forming a log shape, and roast it. When youslice individual servings for your family and friends, a beautiful swirl of meat and filling will be revealed. Making turkey this way is an improved experience for the cook, and a delectable one for the guest. Not only is a roulade straightforward to prepare, but it’s also easier to break down into servings than a whole roast turkey.

Start with an entire deboned turkey breast. You can debone it yourself, purchase it that way packaged, or have it done at your butcher. Unlike with a whole bird, when choosing the weight, you won’t need to account for any bones and cartilage, so figure about a half a pound of turkey per person. Whether or not you leave the skin on is up to you. If you do keep it on, I suggest carefully removing it before rolling everything up. Set the skin aside, and then re-wrap the outside of the roulade in it before baking. Otherwise, most of the skin will be wrapped up inside, robbing you of that crispy texture.

What should go inside a turkey roulade?

Making your roulade filling is the fun part. It could be as simple as reserving two or three cups of your homemade stuffing, preparing a buttery herb mixture, or spreading on a layer of roasted garlic and walnuts. You can get creative by gathering other boneless meats to make a turducken roulade, or assembling a filling of sausage and chestnuts. Use your abilities as a set designer to plan a pattern of celery, so when you slice it, the shape of a turkey is unveiled. Whatever your plan, set the mixture aside as you prepare the turkey.

How to prepare the turkey meat for a roulade

Butterfly the meat horizontally, like the equator of the breast, but stop about an inch away from the other side so it stays connected. On a sheet of plastic wrap, open the cut turkey breast like a book, and cover it with another sheet of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet, frying pan, rolling pin, or anything else you can turn into a makeshift club, and gently, but insistently whack at the meat to tenderize it. You need to break down the tissue into an even thickness and make it wide enough to be rolled up. Focus on the thickest areas, and keep pounding until the meat is about ½ – ¾-inch thick all around.

Discard the plastic, and spread up to a half-inch thick layer of your filling evenly across the surface of the meat. Roll it up tightly. Depending on how you want it to look, and the amount of time you have, you can roll from the short end or the long end. For fewer swirls and a quicker cook time, start with the long side. For many swirls, but a longer cook time, start with the short end. Either way, end by placing the seam on the bottom. If you’ve reserved the skin of the turkey, now is the time to wrap it over the top and tuck the ends under. Using kitchen twine, truss the roulade along with the skin.

If trussed well, your roulade will be compact, which makes it excellent for cooking methods like deep-frying or smoking. To roast in the over, place the turkey log on a wire rack over a sheet tray and roast for 30 minutes at 400°F. Reduce the heat to 350°F and cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the centermost area reads 170°F. If you have family members who demand thighs and drumsticks, purchase those pieces separately and roast them on the same wire rack, removing them once their respective temperatures have been reached. If the roulade’s skin hasn’t become crispy by the end of the cooking time, snap on the broil for two or three minutes and watch it like a turkey-hawk. Let the roast rest for 20 minutes or so (this is a great time to warm up the side dishes). Slice and serve.

   

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